Breath of Death (1)

Genre: RPG
Year: 2010
Developed by: Zeboyd Games
Published by: Zeboyd Games
Platforms: XBOX 360, PC
Feeling Like: Final Phantasy Star

Fuzzy recommended this one to me. I always trust his opinion on gaming; he was into speed runs WAY before it was the thing to do. He enjoyed the Baten Kaitos series as much as I did and he’s one of my best friends. Like many of my comrades, I can chart our friendship’s existence purely through games. We bonded first through Super Smash Bros. Melee, establishing a lifelong rivalry of my Kirby vs. his Jigglypuff.

Our personalities emerged through the screen and identically mirrored how we acted in real life; I was quicker to every emotion, Fuzz tried to look at things as dispassionately as possible. He’s really the only friend that I’ve grinded through entire RPGs with together; that’s what happens when you live together for five years with somebody who shares your procrastination techniques regarding school. We balanced each other out, and made a hell of a team.

Breath of Death (3)
If our Profs were more like this skeleton soldier, maybe we would have attended class more often.

Fuzz didn’t have to convince me, Breath of Death VII was an easy sell. Nearly two decades of trust meant that I knew there would be something in the game that would appeal to me. I was wise to trust my instincts in this regard, and Fuzz.

Breath of Death VII, much like the title, is a pure tongue-in-cheek, modern/retro old school RPG. It knows exactly what it is, and benefits greatly if you’ve had a lifetime playing Final Fantasies, Phantasy Stars, or Dragon Quests. The dialogue is sharp and clever, coming alive with humor when referencing video game memes, or toying with expectations of the player. The fourth wall is broken often, and never failed to get a smile out of me.

While the graphics may appear ugly and old, they’re very clean for this type of art style and you’ll never have a hard time interpreting where to go, or what something is. It may require more imagination than modern games, but it’s hardly a difficult stretch. Seeing a massive visual difference from a character’s in-game model and the portrait when speaking to them is hilarious, and fits nicely with poking fun at RPG standards.

Breath of Death (4)
The NPCs are surly, sarcastic and often amusing.

Combat is another strong point, although it may depend on your tastes. Random battles are frequent, but mercifully each dungeon has a set amount of encounters. There’s an increased satisfaction after each victory as your party gets stronger, and the encounter number decreases. I don’t believe I’ve seen another game do this, but would welcome this feature again in a heartbeat. It’s also a fit for the game as a whole; Breath of Death VII‘s entire existence relies on poking fun at established tropes in the genre, and this spin on random encounters may be the best one.

But that’s not all. Another signature feature of Breath of Death VII is how enemies grow stronger after each round. You give your party commands at the beginning of the turn, watch the “action” (there’s little to no animations in combat, so you will DEFINITELY need some imagination here) and hope it’s enough to win. If not, the enemy’s strength increases. Every turn. It’s a wonderful incentive to ensure you are trying to beat the enemy as SOON as possible. You’ll fully recover health after each fight, but only a minimal amount of MP. Strategy and timing are crucial.

In addition, you can build up a combo count – striking the enemies with a few smaller hits first will mean your bigger moves deal more damage. BUT, if you may recall, enemies get stronger as the round goes on…can you survive one more wave of attacks? Combo attacks with your other party members are also available, further adding to the onslaught of attacks you can perform.

Breath of Death (2)
Sadly, most status effects are still useless against bosses 😦

The more that I reminisce, the less I can find wrong with Breath of Death VII. The campaign is nice and lean. The soundtrack, especially the opening theme, is haunting and memorable. The “cut scenes” may look like something you can whip up in Paint, they’re still nice to look at and give you a different viewpoint of the desolate, undead world. Having some choice over what stats to level up, the low cost of the game (currently $3.29 Canadian) and the joyful nature of it, I can’t recommend it enough to RPG nerds. If you’re not one of those…I’d say it’s a toss up whether you’ll like it or not.

If you’ve paid any attention, you’ll know which camp I (and Fuzz!) land in.

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