Over the past few years, I’ve been catching up on the Super Nintendo JRPGs that I missed in the 1990’s, which includes pretty all of them since I grew up with a Sega Genesis. In that ongoing quest for pixelated glory, I have completed my 248th video game. Here are some thoughts about Breath of Fire.
I don’t associate Capcom with JRPGs, so I was impressed by how much fun I had with their Breath of Fire.
While it might be unfair to speak about this game in terms of it’s contemporaries, I think the Super Nintendo entries in the Final Fantasy series make for an useful point of comparison. Final Fantasy IV and V were originally released in Japan in 1991 and 1992 respectively. Breath of Fire arrived a few months later in 1993, and a much better looking game than either of the previous Final Fantasy games on the Super Nintendo. I would even say that it has a much better story than Final Fantasy V, though neither are as captivating as Final Fantasy IV. The story content on offer here is a bit shallow, but manages to drive the characters forward from one town to the next.
The menu-based battle mechanics of Breath of Fire will be immediately familiar to JRPG likers, but I have to give a special commendation to the auto battle command. Every JRPG should have this, and I would petition the gaming gods to retroactively put this feature into every classic turn-based JRPG battle system. Praise be!
My only complaint is that in the last third of Breath of Fire I found myself needing to rely on a guide as the game didn’t do a great job of making it clear what I needed to do next. This is a characteristic of JRPGs from this era that can be unpleasant when playing this game for the first time almost 30 years later. If I were 10-years-old and this was the one game that I got for my birthday, I would have been happy to wander around the map until I figured out how to trigger the next story event. I don’t think there’s any shame in following a guide, especially since there are a few mandatory detours in the main quest in Breath of Fire that simply aren’t forecasted at all.
If you’re revisiting the expansive library of SNES JRPGs, I would recommend putting Breath of Fire on your list of games to play… but not until after you finish Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI and Dragon Quest V. I’d strongly recommend using the War of the Goddess patch, which enhances the script and completely annihilates the grind in the game (if you use the doubler patch).
In my ongoing effort to rank every game that I’ve ever finished, Breath of Fire is tentatively ranked 147 out of 248.