Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Platforms: Playstation, PSP
Feeling Like: Small Dragon in a Big Pond
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear so far, I love RPGs, particularly ones from Japan. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s always a distinct flavor to them that I’m impossibly drawn to. I cannot help it. Ever since Aaron De C showed me the final battle from Final Fantasy 4 during a birthday party at Kasim and Aslam’s house, I was intrigued. Why were people taking turns? Why am I seeing such a huge variety of attacks? Why was the music so catchy? AND I get to read a lot?
I liked the mix of blissful exploring and death-defying action. I loved how you had a party of personalities, expressing themselves through poorly translated dialogue and visits to the pub. I love how they all attacked differently, and strategically picking my party. The genre’s best feel far more personal than anything else. My favorite two games are old school RPGs. This is not a fad for me, this is a trend.
It’s no wonder the magazine advertisement in GamePro stuck with me. As soon as I opened up the double page print, I knew I had to try Breath of Fire 3. The taglines were so persuasive. The text looked fantastical. The screenshots showcased a modern and sleek world compared to the bulky polygons I was used to. I’d played the first two Breath of Fires and this one looked even better. The N64 was, sadly, bereft of this type of adventure;it always took more effort to try out Playstation games. I would get that chance.
The only place in town that had a copy was Yo Video. They’re (mostly) all gone, but many of us still have a huge affinity for rental stores. I have no reservations about saying it; it wasn’t an amazing place by any means – not to you, anyway. It was small, but had charm. It had a lot of older, lesser known movies. It had Fawlty Towers. It had a video game section, immediately to the right of the entrance. That’s where I hovered, that’s where I found Breath of Fire 3. God bless you, Yo Video.
All the mainstays of RPG tropes are here; a small boy with amnesia, a small boy with amnesia who is fated to save the world, a small boy with amnesia who is fated to save the world AND belongs to a mysterious clan that happens to be able to turn into dragons, town-building, endless random encounters, equipment, magic, fishing mini-games, a cheerful soundtrack and hundreds of enemy types to fight. The game is long, over 40 hours and the longest of the entire franchise. It overstays its welcome, to be sure, but it truly does a good job of making you feel like you’re on a life-altering journey. The variety of locations and character designs are wild. You have a humanoid tiger as a pal, fairies, long-lost civilizations, and boss encounters that are a perfect showcase for the (then) upgraded hardware. The game’s look has held up against the test of time, unlike many from the same era.
The faux jazzy soundtrack always kept my foot tapping. Dragon splicing in combat meant I was rewarded for exploring and experimenting. There are many villages to explore and townsfolk to converse with. All great stuff.
I think what’s holding it back from being higher up is that I’ve played SO many JRPGs, and the higher end ones just do everything better. The story is lacklustre, and I can’t recall many story beats. I loved how you play child AND grown up Ryu, but aside from hunting for God…I can’t remember why Ryu and his friends were together.
Another aspect that’s holding it back from reaching greater heights is the desert level. Anybody who has played this game knows the pain of this TERRIBLE area. You ask anybody, any single person who’s played through Breath of Fire 3, and you ask the worst part of it and they’ll undoubtedly say the desert. Why? Well, for one, you have to walk through an endless repeating screen over and over, with no clear indication that you’re going the right way. It lasts forever. AND if you get too de-hydrated, you have to start all over again. The worst part? There’s a single townsperson in the nearby camp gives you THE WRONG INSTRUCTIONS, with NO INDICATION THAT HE IS LYING. A cardinal rule of JRPGs is that random people know very important information. Why would they lie to you? WHY, CAPCOM?
That challenge does hurt the game’s enjoyment, but not to the point of not recommending it…as long as you know you’re playing a 22 year old game that has too many battles and isn’t for non-RPG fans.
I’m surprised at how much is coming back to me now, like how satisfying it was to burst out of a cage as a tiny kid dragon, or Rei’s dagger attacks, or how Garr looks like Brock Lesnar ate a Rock Biter. It sheds the translation errors of the previous games, interjects a sense of wonder and entertainment and gives you a ton of ways to burn/freeze/stomp enemies as a dragon. Along with callbacks to the previous 2 Breath of Fires, and Nina (naturally), there isn’t much else you could want as a Breath of Fire, or JRPG, fan.