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.
Community review by wolfqueen001 (April 30, 2008)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Just Breed review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!