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Breath of Fire III (PlayStation) artwork

Breath of Fire III (PlayStation) review

"This isn't the kind of game akin to an A-class film, but it's not direct-to-video dreck either. This is like the kind of decent film you might see on a rainy Sunday afternoon, one that's entertaining enough to watch, but not enough to rave over. It's modest and fun, but it thinks it's more. It thinks it's out of this world. It just isn't. "

If you purchased Breath of Fire 3 (BOF3) when it was first released, you might've been perplexed at reading the cover art's claim that this was “the classic role playing game.” It seemed to imply that the game had been out before, long before, and that everyone loved and cherished it. It was a rather pretentious claim, and as you get further into this game you find that its pretension is not completely well deserving. It was made to appeal to the few and the fading, those of the people who only liked RPG's that were loaded with constant random battle with the same enemy arrangement, anime-inspire sprites, and a cut and dry battle system. BOF3 was for the folk who like a little nostalgia with their role playing.

In this game, you take the role of Ryu, a young blue-haired protagonist who doesn't say much. He can also transform into a rather non-threatening baby dragon, and later on into powerful ones by crossing dragon genes found through the game. He's woken up in a mine shaft, and after escaping he teams up with Rei and Teepo, a couple forest-dwelling ruffians who get into all kinds of mischief. After his friends are kidnapped, Ryu attempts to rescue them. This storyline is then rudely interrupted by the real storyline of the game in which Ryu wants to discover the truth about his dragon heritage.

The gameplay is what you would expect from a console RPG: an overworld map with dungeons, towns, and various other locations, simple to use turn-based battle system, and random battles galore.

You find out just what classic means right away. You start up the game and see the wonderfully simplistic and colorful sprites and you think, “I'm home.” At the same time you see the pixelated environments of a mine shaft that try to be modern and you think, “But where is home?” The graphics are a mix of 2D and 3D with well designed sprites for characters. Many of the characters in your party, like Garr and Rei, just look awesome. The 3D environments are laid out in an isometric style. They're not always so pretty. So many things look boxy, and others are just loaded with rough textures. The forests look lush and colorful, but the pixels sometimes make the game look a tad sloppy. When juxtaposed with the charming sprites, you feel like 1998 and 1993 had a child. Not one that they would be proud of, but not one they would drown.

It doesn't take long before you find out what's so classic about this game. It derives its gameplay and its storytelling from the games of yore. You know, five years previous. When you step into the forest in the early parts of the game for the first time and fight your first battle, you squeal with glee at the nostalgia of the battle system. Fifteen minutes later, you remember those classic RPG's and their random battles, and particularly how every two or three steps resulted in a battle. After you have Final Fantasy 4 flashbacks, you realize exactly what “classic” connotes. It's then that you want to punch yourself in the testicles.

It gets worse when you get into the volcano about halfway through the game. Not only do battles spring up every five seconds, but there's an abundance of lava on the ground that deals fairly heavy damage. On top of having to survive battles, you must do so with limited health. Health items and healing spells can only help you so much. To top it all off, the dungeon is incredibly long and sports a very tough boss battle at the end.

The constant battle makes the game feel repetitive, especially since you battle the same arrangement of enemies over and over again. This helps at the same time, because it means you can eventually breeze through battles. Just the same, the constant stopping to fight when you want to advance through particularly long dungeons is annoying, but not insufferable. Since the battle system is easy and sometimes quick, many battles can be completed effortlessly. This also reinforces the classic feel of the game, which is one of the game's strongest points. It's a nice feel, but it comes at a price.

The battle system is cut and dry. You have all the classic menu choices (attacking, magic, items, etc.) with the additional option to watch your enemy and possibly learn their skills. By “possibly,” I really mean “almost never.” It seems the only skills that can be learned with ease are the completely worthless ones like feign swing.

You're accompanied by quite the cast of characters. Unlike the ones from games like Lunar or Grandia, these aren't the kind of characters you fall in love with and feel like you're right there along with them on their journey. They're also a far cry from Magna Carta's characters, whom you wouldn't mind seeing running in circles and flailing their arms as they horribly burn to death. Rather, these characters become more like acquaintances. You know them, you care for them ultimately, but you wouldn't invite them over for a beer. But hey, at least they look cool.

Doing what's natural to a classic RPG'er, you might search the game for side quests, hidden characters, or mini-games, and you do find a gracious amount. This is part of what tips the scales more in the favor of the game.

Like the previous BOF games, there is a fishing mini-game that has more interaction to it than the previous ones. This one involves actually controlling your rod properly so that your line doesn't break (please, fellas, innuendos aside), buying the right kind of bait to catch the right kind of fish, and hunting tirelessly for new rods. It's actually a fun and rewarding mini-game. You start off catching trout and bass, but eventually learn to catch marlins and even whales. The more you catch, the more prizes you can receive, and better ones too.

Finding masters is one of the best parts of the game. Masters are NPC's spread throughout the game that will take one of your own into his/her tutelage. Doing so will give your character specific stat gains and deficits, but also train them to be certain kinds of characters. For instance, one master beefs up your attack and defense, as well as teaching you some strong battle-based skills, effectively turning you into a warrior. However, he also gives you deficits in magic, meaning your already piddly heal spell will be even more worthless.

The game has a familiar flow. It's repetitive in its own way, but it tries to call back those days of SNES RPG's. You gain a little story, you run a meager task, you fight enemies along the way, are treated to more story, go out to do a slightly bigger task, and the process keeps going. It's a double-edged sword. Repetition can be a drag, but it's the repetition that helps create them old school feel. If it weren't for the fact that you were constantly being barraged by battles, it would be a perfect execution.

The game feels classic. Not perfectly classic, but classic enough that you feel like you're playing something from the late SNES era with slightly modernized graphics. The feel alone makes the game delightful to play. It's enough to ignore the slight annoyance you get from constant battles. It's enough to ignore the pixelated graphics, because there are still some great character sprites in the game. You still have to remember: it's not a classic RPG, but an ape of the classics. It tries to call back to a time that wasn't that long ago in relation to its own age, but yet still felt like ages ago.

It's a fairly mixed bag, but it's ultimately worth playing for its classic feel, its fun side quests, and the ability to customize your characters through masters.

The game maintains a fairly even pace despite this. The story keeps you playing and wondering, maybe not guessing or thinking about it overmuch on the can like you might with Final Fantasy 7, but it at least holds you. This isn't the kind of game akin to an A-class film, but it's not direct-to-video dreck either. This is like the kind of decent film you might see on a rainy Sunday afternoon, one that's entertaining enough to watch, but not enough to rave over. It's modest and fun, but it thinks it's more. It thinks it's out of this world. It just isn't.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (September 25, 2010)

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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