I have a strange, uneven relationship with the already pretty strange and uneven Capcom RPG franchise known as Breath of Fire.
First, for the introductory title and its sequel in the series, games found originally on the SNES, I only got to play them much later in life when I learned all about emulating ROMs on the computer, and even then I never got far with either. They were just something I tried out to see if the tech could actually work. During my PlayStation 1 heydays, I picked up a copy of Breath of Fire III, played a decent bit of it, and then traded it in like an idiot, which should be obvious considering the name of this post. Missed out on Breath of Fire IV completely, and later picked up Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the PS2, which for all intents and purposes in basically the fifth game in the series. That one probably deserves its own post, but let me just say that it is a confusing game, one that encourages death and replaying the same areas over and over again, and one that I’ve tried a good number of times to figure out without much luck.
Nonetheless, each game in the series is sort of the same interchangeable story: a boy named Ryu can turn into a dragon and goes on adventures. A girl named Nina also appears frequently, as well as characters from other games in the franchise. Battles are turn-based, and fusing into different kinds of dragons is often the key to victory. Fishing and bright colors, too.
Well, how dragon Ryu (before becoming a boy) enters the world in Breath of Fire III is probably my favorite part of the game, and a really strong contender to a classic first hour. Here’s an animated GIF, but I’ll use words below it, too:
(EDIT: Okay, I guess I can’t host animated gifs on Grinding Down. Boo. So go here instead to see.)
That open sequence and probably the hour or so after it are probably the reasons why I like this game the most from the whole franchise. It’s endearing and nicely paced, as well as quite colorful. As you can see above, the graphics for the first Breath of Fire on the PlayStation 1 were a mix of hand-drawn sprites and polygons–and dang it, I love the mixture.
Anyways, it all starts with a pair of miners–Gary and Mogu–as they search through a mine, pontificating on the nature of the magical creatures and the valuable ore called chrysm. The two miners find a giant chrysm with a preserved baby dragon locked inside it. They plan to blow the crystal apart with TNT, and when they do, the preserved dragon, to no one’s surprise but the miners’, turns out to be alive, and it attacks them. Just like that, we’re thrown into the game’s first battle, and we’re totally in control of the dragon, not the humans. With ease and shock, we turn the miners to ash. Farewell, Gary and Mogu–we hardly knew ya. The young dragon is not a ruthless monster though, attacking back against miners only when they strike first. It is, in actuality, an innocent boy, and this is conveyed strongly as miners beg for their lives and are let go.
Eventually, a bunch of miners knock the dragon out with a crane, cage it, and put it on a train headed for a bad place. Luckily, Ryu the dragon wakes up during the journey and is able to knock its cage off the train and down a ravine. We then cut to a scene involving a cat-like man stalking a wild boar in the woods. The falling cage ruins his plans, and the man is somewhat surprised to see a naked little boy inside the cave. So is whoever is playing the game, as we last saw a fire-breathing dragon in there. Despite living in complete hunger, the cat-like man decides to bring the boy home, meaning another mouth to feed, and welcomes him into his surrogate family. What follows after that is that Rei, the cat-like man, and another orphan named Teepo teach Ryu how to be a thief as a means of surviving. This character-building and -bonding is important, as the trio eventually gets separated, and a large part of the game involves finding friends and rebuilding homes and generally growing up.
And that’s all I can recall. There’s a big white space after the intro and whatever happened next. Though I do remember getting far enough into Breath of Fire III to unlock the Faerie Village, which allows the player to rebuild an entire village for magical flying critters. Doing so unlocks special benefits like rare weapons for sale, mini-games, and a sound test mode. Can’t really recall how far into this element I got, but it stands out as a charming way to spend time. Another aspect that stands out as pretty neat and something that was also later found in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was being able to study under a Master, earning different skills and benefits this way.
I dunno. Games like this and other PS1 classics now long gone do have me seriously considering picking up a VITA–it just recently got announced that the Sony handheld would be receiving PS1 compatibility—one day. Well, them and that updated version of Persona 4. Yeah, I know; I’m losing my mind.
GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.