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Just Breed (NES) artwork

Just Breed (NES) review


"Enemies are numerous – they litter the battlefield, plotting your demise, waiting for the right moment to strike. This predicament leads to one of the hardest decisions any general has to make: whether to ask his troops to sacrifice health or life in order to eliminate an enemy force. Proudly direct a choice few into the line of fire, drawing your elusive enemy into a clever trap. With your foe now in range, he’s easy picking for the rest of your party."



Those Japanese always get the best of everything. Best electronics, best anime, best video games… everything’s perfect there. And Just Breed is the reason I partly wish I had lived in Japan, or at least understood the language. Instead, I had to settle for something a bit less authentic.

I didn’t quite know what to expect at first. I had been told this was an Enix strategy, which got my attention, as I love strategy games and thus was looking forward to playing this. After finally getting the translation patch to work and watching with absolute glee as the first lines of English text scrolled across the screen, initiating the first dialogue sequence in the game, I wondered what would surprise me first. What would make this title more interesting and fun than any other NES title I’ve ever played in my life?

Ignore the save-girl, thwart-evil clichéd storyline. Ignore the somewhat linear in-game plot advancement and the easily navigable maps. None of these things matter. At all.

Lovers of strategy rejoice, for you’ll find few better than this. Stride into battle against hordes of monsters, carefully maneuvering your units to minimize damage and maximize special abilities. Archers, fighters, a wizard and a commanding general make up each of four armies, and you must have the brains and skill to know how to use them effectively. Here’s why:

Enemies are numerous – they litter the battlefield, plotting your demise, waiting for the right moment to strike. This predicament leads to one of the hardest decisions any general has to make: whether to ask his troops to sacrifice health or life in order to eliminate an enemy force. Proudly direct a choice few into the line of fire, drawing your elusive enemy into a clever trap. With your foe now in range, he’s easy picking for the rest of your party. Slay him mercilessly; his blood will serve retribution for the injury your noble warriors had to sustain in order to pull off such a brilliant plan.

Suddenly, the battle turns as monsters fearlessly charge from multiple directions, emboldened by numbers as many more spring forth from numerous breeding nests. What do you do? Splitting your forces is risky – one army alone may not be enough for an entire region and losing just one important unit can dramatically affect the outcome of the fight. At the same time, attacking each stronghold as one can lead to an overwhelming proliferation of monsters that just can’t be beat no matter how much you throw at them.

You’ve tried both strategies, yet nothing seems to work. You’ve already lost one hero, his army fleeing with him – the cowards. You’ve lost a wizard, an archer and a fighter. It’s time to beat a hasty retreat, or else succumb to the mass hordes of skeletons that bar your path. You can come back later, enter from the other town. Taking out the nests should be easier from there…

And so it was! The above describes one hell of a tough fight, one whose variation never ceases to amaze me. Every time you retry a battle or enter from a different location, things can turn out differently. Your strategic options are almost infinite. Whether you’ve played a battle once or played it a thousand times, you’ll not have utilized every available option. Maybe next time instead of attacking that huge band of snakes with a group of archers that can’t kill them all as effectively, send in your mighty spearmen to attack from a slight distance. Or even better, have your most powerful mage hurl giant streams of fire at them, roasting them all to charred, crispy bits. Put that pesky falconer to sleep so he doesn’t keep throwing his boomerangs at you. Knock out that heavy-hitting enemy archer with a well-placed ice ball. Or get your melee units close enough so he can’t attack and let him have it!

Further test your mettle with mind-blowing general-only battles. There are quite a few in this game, and it’s these that will determine whether you’re truly deserving of the title “tactician”. With naught but (at most) four heroes, defeat powerful enemies such as the flaming deer, Philoxra, immune to everything but ice attacks. Only one hero can damage him. Use your other heroes as decoys – pull the beast’s mighty attacks away from your caster. Then support any injured with healing magic or items.

With only your generals, losing just one can be disastrous, especially if that one happens to be your main hero. Losing him results in automatic defeat, stolen cash and the difficult task of fighting the battle over again. Employ whatever tactics you see fit in such fights; just be careful – these are true gauntlets of mental prowess, exhausting trials of critical thinking, draining exercises of strategic skill. But it’s this type of challenge, one that pushes me to my limits mentally, that really makes me love a game. And so it has done so here.

This difficulty never seems to decrease, either, even in regular battles. Just a few productive monster nests accompanying newly introduced creatures can significantly challenge your ever-leveling armies. A brilliant tactician is one willing to accept these challenges and explore new ways to defeat them. Ever inquisitive, the curious-minded strategist always asks: “What will this do? How does this work? Ooh, that was effective, will it work here as well?” Always willing to try new things, regardless of consequence. And that’s why this game’s so fun – you actually can here!

But don’t let curiosity interfere with common sense! Always calculate your moves in advance. How much damage will that monster cause? Can that other one reach me next turn? If so, should I heal my injured now or risk the chance the enemy might attack someone else? If I used offensive magic instead of healing, how much would I kill? Would it be worth it? This terrain is slowing everyone down… how far should I move my faster units ahead?

Questions. There are always questions. But every questions has an answer.

And figuring out all these answers, learning everything you need to know, everything you need to do, will literally take hours! It’s absolutely fabulous!

Spending over an hour on a single battle may not appeal to everyone, but to me, it’s like a marathon of strategic thinking, an odyssey that tests your mental capabilities to the limit. There’s literally dozens of different strategies to try, and it’s figuring out what works and what doesn’t that truly makes the game epic.

Rating: 10/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (April 30, 2008)

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zigfried posted April 19, 2009:

After reading Schultz's Kitaro review, this was featured in the "while you're here..." section. I liked the artwork (it looks like Yuzo Takada) so I clicked on it.

And was surprised to see a 10/10 strategy game review! That being said, I totally believe it, because there are a lot of fantastic (but obscure) old strategy games. In fact, I'd daresay they don't make them like they used to. From the screenshots, it looks kind of like the visual style of Shining Force but with a lot more combat options and nuances. And it looks like there's a nice blend of (straightforward) storytelling and different scenarios.

Would you still give this one a 10/10 today? I'm thinking of trying it out. Also, if you have access to a Sega CD, I'd recommend you check out Dark Wizard. The graphics are actually worse, but it sounds like it has a lot of the same aspects you appreciated in this one.

//Zig
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wolfqueen001 posted April 19, 2009:

Thanks. I actually reviewed this for OD's All or Nothing comp, and during that time, this was the first time I'd ever played that game. Truth be told, I haven't really played that many old-school strategy games, but I really did like this one because of how much thought had to go into winning a fight. And the fights really are epic; all of them will take at least half an hour to finish, if you're into that sort of thing. The story is pretty straightforward, and figuring out what you need to do is, too, but the real highlight is the battles. And there are some little quirks and things in that game that you can discover. Some of them are quite amusing. It's actually a fairly adult sort of game for Nintendo in some ways. Haha. It's a lot darker in places, too, compared to other strats / RPGs, too. Which is a plus for me.

I'm not sure I'd give it a 10. I was really thinking, even when I reviewed it, that it'd be a really strong 9. But I gave it a 10 because of that contest. But to be fair, I don't give out tens leniently, even for the sake of contests. So I felt it was good enough to warrant the ten anyway even if I felt more strongly towards the very-high 9 range.

You should check it out. You'd probably like it, too. And if you reviewed it, that'd be awesome, especially since a different perspective is always cool. And you won't need the translation patch like I did. Haha.

And no, I don't have access to the Sega CD, but I'll keep that in mind nonetheless.
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zippdementia posted August 10, 2010:

So how exactly did you get access to this, WQ? Good Emulator reccomendation?
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CoarseDragon posted August 10, 2010:

Zipp, check this site. I got mine here. Fully playable english translation.

http://www.romhacking.net/trans/566/
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zippdementia posted August 10, 2010:

Hey, thanks! I'll check it out. Gotta make sure I can find a good emulator for the mac...
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wolfqueen001 posted August 11, 2010:

Yeah. That site is where I got the translation patch. I think I got the actual game from either coolrom.com or romnation.net, though. The emulator I use is called NesterJ, but I use a PC, so I don't know if it's compatible with yours.
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zippdementia posted August 11, 2010:

Yeah, I don't think so... few emulators have been designed for the Mac, oddly enough.
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Felix_Arabia posted August 11, 2010:

^Not true.
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fleinn posted August 11, 2010:

Mm. Should be a n64 emulator called sixtyforce - haven't tried it myself, but apparently it's very good(even if there's some sort of registration if you want to use the snapshot saves, and so on).. But there's a good visualboyadvance port, and a snes9x and znes port out there - work well. DeSmuMe for the ds, if that's something. And there exists a mostly abandoned pcsx port (comparable plugin performance to software plugins in linux).

I think there's a guy maintaining the pcsx2 emulator for osx as well, but it's intel specific.

Or, you can do like a sleazy friend of mine did: convince the boss to order Wmware at work, and then use the windows-emulators. Heard he wasn't happy about the performance afterwards, though.
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bloomer posted August 12, 2010:

Zophar's has a pretty good list of emulators for Mac:

http://www.zophar.net/macintosh.html

The best Mac emulation page was at http://emulation.victoly.com/ but it closed. It now points to http://emulation.macscene.net/ and says it's just as good, but as far as I can tell, Macscene is really just a forum, albeit one with knowledgable people on it.

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fleinn posted August 12, 2010:

:) zophar's domain is still open? Nice.
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zippdementia posted August 13, 2010:

Hey, thanks for the link Bloomer! I think I've been to Zophar's before... when I got my Mother 3 emulator.

But I'm on a new computer now.

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