Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Squaresoft
Platforms: SNES, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 3Ds
Feeling Like: Heartburn
If you read my Top 10 list of 2015 you’ll recall that I put up with a lot of annoying features in Xenoblade Chronicles X because I felt the good stuff warranted it. Over the years, I’ve tinkered with my patience, tampered my expectations and come to a realistic understanding about my favorite genre: it has stories, characters, music and worlds that others don’t…but it’s also plagued with repetition, shallow game play and a whole lot of bullshit.
I can’t highly recommend Breath of Fire, but through no fault of its own. It was one of the very first classic, turn based JRPGs that graced the Super Nintendo, but it hasn’t aged well. Names of characters have to be 4 characters or less, due to memory restrictions. Henr the hero doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Items are designated with names that require a degree in cryptography to understand. What the hell is a C. Stn?
But Breath of Fire had its merits and succeeded enough to spawn a franchise that would become very dear to my heart. Innovations included potions and other replenishing goodies being stackable in the same item slot. Party members were a colorful bunch and did more than just fight enemies: traps could be picked by Karn, Gobi could turn into a giant fish, and Ox could punch down walls. The concept of having versatile friends was new to me. The pressure to pick the right party was heightened, but doubly satisfying when the correct solution on the world map was discovered.
I didn’t mention the dragon bit, did I? If you didn’t guess from the title of Breath of Fire, you indeed gain the ability to breathe fire as various types of dragons. Transforming into a powerhouse blue wyrm while fighting grotesque monsters next to your anthropomorphic crew never gets old and would be a mainstay ability in the sequels.
Like most RPGs, the game was grind heavy. I’m not sure if it counts as a “podcast” game, but the constant influx of random battles did get on my nerves. I never seemed to gain levels quickly enough and fighting every few steps meant I often had music or a movie playing in the background. I’d often find myself using the welcomed “auto battle” function during the more monotonous parts while I gazed out my window of 2nd floor room in Bigelow House.
I don’t recall much of the plot aside from something about Dragon Clans and your sister getting kidnapped, but frequent re-releases indicate that Breath of Fire still stands the test of time. I wonder if they’ve changed the rotating room.
The rotating room?
Oh, that would be the most annoying dungeon in the game. If there’s one thing the Breath of Fire series is famous for, other than dragons, Ryu and Nina, it’s having one particular section that will give you the worst psychological heartburn imaginable.
We’ll get to the desert in Breath of Fire 3 eventually, but the rotating room can go shove it. I spent SO long on this that I pleaded with my friend Matthew, who originally recommended the game, to beat it for me. Thankfully, misery loves company and he too was quickly stuck in the midst of this dizzying maze and endless random encounters. No, it’s not easy to backtrack or exit. Yes, Bleu runs out of AP quickly and I cannot STAND this place. NO. THANK. YOU.
I digress. Capcom’s first RPG was a success, but would be improved upon greatly the following year. This was one of the first instances where I went backward in chronology, stubbornly admitting to myself that I should play every game in the series if I was going to play any game at all. An unwise move, but not a regretful one.