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Breath of Fire II (SNES) artwork

Breath of Fire II (SNES) review

"Thanks, localization."

I'm not sure I can find a single word that encapsulates the Breath of Fire II experience. It's taxing, tiring, beautiful, confusing, scary, heart-pounding, challenging, inadvertently comical, entertaining and jarring. It's a roller coaster ride where demons dwell in pitch black caves and a circus promises to put on a "Salad Toss Show."

You step into the adventure and play through an unsettling introduction that shows the hero Ryu's first encounter with the aforementioned hellspawn. A monstrous eye appears on the screen now and then, reminding you that some infernal beast is watching your every move. The creature lures you into a dark tunnel, where it pulverizes you and your companion. It leaves you with an ill omen that raises the hairs on your neck and stays fresh in your mind while you play the next few scenes.

Dark fantasy provided by Capcom? You can get used to content like this!


Breath of Fire II screenshotBreath of Fire II screenshot

The promising start peters out as translation errors appear around every corner. Odd formatting crops up, along with missing punctuation, partly coded texts, strange spacing and nonsensical line breaks. Missing articles, wrong pronouns (e.g. referring to Nina as "him") and inconsistent names plague the game's script. At one point, you meet a monster called either Aruhameru or Aruhamel, even though it's supposed to be Alzheimer.

Late in the campaign, you must locate a certain winged girl. You receive a clue stating that she went to HomeTown, so you scour that early game burg and fail to find her. As it turns out, she actually went to TownShip. Thanks, localization. When Granny sets up her uniting facility in TownShip, she asks you if you'd like an explanation of the feature. You select "yes" and she takes you to the next screen without a single word. If you select "no," though, she begins a detailed chat on how uniting works. Thanks, localization.

You try to get into this game's examination of religion, but you can't take it seriously because (all sic):

"You looks tougher... and stronger."

"We won't give up--little Nina
'Cause you are cute"

"If you can show them your ring, they will know who is the real!"

"Go now Nina The King--Your father, is waiting."

Thanks, localization.

The experience as a whole calls to mind freeware RPGs with all manner of grammatical and stylistic errors, as if someone didn't bother to copy edit the script.

Breath of Fire II screenshotBreath of Fire II screenshot

Despite its wonky translation, Breath of Fire II manages to deliver a breezy, amusing story that plays out like a series of tall tales.. After you leave the safety of the first town, you enter a fighting tournament and thwart a plot to assassinate a combatant. You accomplish this by beating up her brawny, rugged opponent and posing as him. Later on, you rescue villagers from a turtle-like monster and its "Alien" facehugger-like offspring, defeat a witch to restore a giant frog to its original princely form (which also happens to be a frog), enter a queen's body to battle demons that cause her to gain weight, and purge a cursed statue from whale's gastrointestinal tract.

These are all great scenes for a lighthearted voyage, but remember how this tale began? Demons, doom, gloom, world destruction... Granted, you encounter demonic villains throughout your quest, but they don't carry the same sense of malevolence as the one from the introductory section. They're basically your average RPG lackeys, who die off in short order and are never referred to again. You'll wonder what happened to the dark fantasy elements with every flunky you defeat.

Thankfully, Breath of Fire II still possesses plenty of bite in its non-story content to uplift the campaign. Marvelous 16-bit visuals greet you from the moment you sign onto the quest, including some cutscenes with devious scenery and monstrous foes. Fanged reptiles, giant flies, gruesome zombies and creatures composed entirely of human arms await you. Through slick turn-based combat, you annihilate them with spells and slashes as you would any other RPG. However, this installment isn't a pushover like it's older brother. Foes take sizable chunks of your flesh with each turn, and the wounds they leave add up before long. You need to carefully consider your movements and deal with menaces as quickly as possible, while also maintaining a healthy supply of awkwardly named items.

I mean, they couldn't have come up with a better name for a healing item than HelpBL? Why not potion or salve?

Breath of Fire II screenshotBreath of Fire II screenshot

The only thing deadlier than the game's standard bestiary is its boss lineup, consisting of horrifically detailed creatures from the deepest abyss. One flat-faced beast is a fusion between a tiger and a flower, while another battle pits you opposite a three-headed, anthropomorphic dog with a huge club. An encounter with a beautiful woman in the depths of a forest turns ugly when she reveals herself to be a massive planet creature, accompanied by nymph-like goons. The farther you proceed through the tale, the nastier your adversaries get. Eventually, you face off against the vilest of demons in the final dungeon, and take on a truly hideous main antagonist with more impractical body parts than an Ultraman villain.

But getting there is a trial of your patience as well as your strategic skills. Every few steps you take, you enter a random encounter. After you emerge victorious, you take another few steps and commence fighting again. This process repeats constantly, transforming short dungeons into hair-tearing ordeals. You could always run away, except your escape rate is always very low. In fact, you sustain so much damage attempting to evade combat that you're better off fighting. Granted, you can reduce encounters by utilizing an item called "smoke," but all that does is drop encounter rate to a tolerable level rather than a ridiculous one. Sometimes it seems like the item doesn't even work.

After you slay piles of demons and read mountains of FAQs to discover secrets, you eventually come to the end of your adventure. By that point, you'll throw down your controller as sweat glistens on your brow and utter one word: "Damn!" Breath of Fire II barely cuts above average, and succeeds mostly due to its decent campaign and challenging moments. At the same time, it's so brutal and poorly localized that I wouldn't fault anyone for giving up on it. I think we can all agree on one thing: it hasn't aged well. Where this would've been considered a stellar game circa 1995, it's now simply an acceptable one. You'll find quality content here, but it's buried under a mountain of nonsense that some players (understandably) might not tolerate.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 11, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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sashanan posted July 11, 2018:

That translation really is a mess. I've played a fan-localized version once that was far superior simply by virtue of cleaning up that mess. Never owned a SNES though and I'm through emulating games I don't have.

I believe the game is available on 3DS VC, but that's going to be this localization, leaving me very ambivalent.

Oh, this goes to the Submissions Feedback forum doesn't it. Better give you some: thanks for the piece. Think you got the localization issue down pretty well with some potent examples.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 12, 2018:

Thanks! I'd heard the localization was bad, but I wasn't prepared for this. I'd say give the fan sub a try, because it couldn't be any worse than the original sub.
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overdrive posted July 13, 2018:

When I originally played it, it was on the SNES, so yeah, the translation was dodgy as hell. I fairly recently played it with the fan localization and that was a lot better.

Although, as I wildly guessed in my review, that crappy translation may have worked in its favor. Nintendo wasn't fond of death and religion in their games and this game had an evil religion and a lot of death. But, hey, if half of it is really hard to decipher, does it matter?!?

But still, better than Robotech's translation.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 15, 2018:

^You're probably right about that. Were it not for the crummy translation, it's possible the game would've either been bowdlerized or not released here. Then Breath of Fire III either would've been renamed "Breath of FIre II" or "Breath of Fire: Some Unnecessary Subtitle."

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