- Breath of Fire 3 -
-= Overview =-
The third installment of the series from Capcom, Breath of Fire 3 is Breath of Fire 2 on steroids. While the game retains the classic BOF themes of years (and consoles) past, there are several new innovations and improvements in the third title that sets it apart from its SNES brethren. As one would imagine, the graphics and sound are better by default thanks to the platform switch, yet the gameplay and sheer depth have also been upgraded making Breath of Fire 3 an upper echelon RPG, something neither SNES game really was. Lastly, unlike the other Breath of Fire games, Breath of Fire 3 is a game that has something for everyone. It may not be as spectacular as Final Fantasy 7 or Xenogears, but it can certainly hold it's own.
-= Story =-
: Rating :
Any Breath of Fire veteran, or anyone that has played either of the past two games, will instantly recognize the theme of the plot. The game follows the trials and tribulations of a mysterious young boy named Ryu, who is adopted (more like found) by a pair of hooligans who care for him, but eventually, get him into trouble; and so the adventure begins. In most RPGs nowadays, a minor incident leads to one thing, which leads to another, and another, and so on until you have a whole big conflict on your hands involving the fate of the world. Breath of Fire 3 is no exception. To keep things interesting, though, there are many side plots thrown in, and nothing is really ever bland, meaning that you won't be staring at your television screen endlessly to see what happens next, the story flows very smoothly.
The Breath of Fire 3 characters are well thought out. Each has their own unique personality, and there is even some (gasp) complementary character development thrown in to boot. The most entertaining characters are actually the NPCs (Non-playable characters). Ryu meets a lot of quirky, interesting people along the way that also have a hand in keeping the straightforward story interesting. There is a lot of personality in this game, something many RPGs (cough, FF7, cough) tend to leave out.
Overall, very good story. Not perfect, but good enough to keep you interested; especially towards the end.
-= Gameplay =-
: Rating :
Smooth as a baby's behind. Breath of Fire 3's gameplay is very, very solid. It doesn't try to do too much, or venture out of its genre; Capcom obviously knew what they wanted, and executed it very well.
The battle system basics are standard RPG kind of stuff. You can attack, defend, use an item, yadda yadda yadda. The special abilities facet of the game is the real bright spot. It is like a mix of Final Fantasy 8's guardian force system, and SaGa Frontier's ability system. All over the world are masters that you can apprentice to. Each master can teach certain abilities, and gives the apprenticed character certain statistical upgrades consistent with the abilities the master teaches. For example, a master who teaches powerful spells will probably give you increases in magic power and decreases in defense. This whole system is VERY reminiscent of the FF8 Guardian Force system, but is actually a bit deeper strategically wise by including statistical decreases.
As if this weren't enough, much like most races in SaGa Frontier, characters in Breath of Fire 3 can learn abilities by having the ability unleashed on them. This will only happen, however, when the character uses a certain command before that turn which gives them the potential to acquire an ability. This is further expanded by the fact that you can't just use any 'ol ability. You have to get a semi-rare, pen-like item to transfer the ability to the character for use. With literally tons of abilities to find, this system is nearly perfect.
As if that was not enough, Ryu has the ability to turn into (wait for it) a dragon by using chrysm genes which you find along your journey. You can combine genes any which way to make your own dragon to fit your situation in battle. Yet another intuitive feature BOF3 has to offer.
The battles themselves are random and turn based. Action order in battle is determined by an agility statistic, which is pretty much unique to each character; each one is inherently fast or slow. There are no battles on the world map that you cannot avoid, which is another nify feature.
Lastly, as if all that was not enough, there are mini-games spread throughout the game (much like those in Final Fantasy 7) that spruce up the game, and two tremendous mega-mini-games, those being fishing (a BOF staple) and the creation of a fairy village. Fishing is very addictive, much like Pokemon, in that you just have to have all those damned fish. The fairy village is like a very basic Sim City, and with proper management, can open up all kinds of secrets.
All in all, the gameplay is Breath of Fire 3 is excellent. Very few RPGs can match the depth of the battle system, or the amount of pleasure garnered from mini-games. Can't get much better than this.
-= Music & Sound Effects =-
: Rating :
The music in Breath of Fire 3, if anything, is different. It has a jazzy, whimsical kind of feel; not the epic feel of most RPGs. The only comparison I can conjure up in my head are the tunes in Earthbound, which (at times) share the same whimsical characteristics. The jazzy sound is good in some places (the overworld theme, the towns), but elsewhere, the music fails to set the mood. There are actually many dungeons where the music doesn't fit the surroundings at all. As a matter of fact, listening to the Breath of Fire 3 Soundtrack is much more enjoyable than listening to it in game. At least it sticks to the jazzy theme all the way though, which is admirable.
The sound effects are top notch. The battle cries (especially Garr's primal scream) are all well done, and the bangs and booms of battle are crisp and clear. No gripes at all.
Overall, while the whimsical theme fails to set the mood at times, the quality of the songs themselves makes up for it. Not terrible, but not great either.
-= Graphics =-
: Rating :
I wouldn't be surprised if the graphical artist of Xenogears chipped in with Breath of Fire 3. The graphics are very similar in many ways. Breath of Fire 3 employs sweet 3D drawn backgrounds, along with extremely well drawn (for the most part) character sprites. The result is a look very reminiscent of Xenogears; but with some problems. Occasionally, when a character sprite gets too close in the foreground, it will become heavily pixilated, and will frequently obstruct your field of vision. Additionally, the battle graphics could have used a little more bang.
The monster graphics are very well done (especially some of the later bosses), and all the locales are well drawn. Breath of Fire 3 is also FMV free. No additives, no preservatives. Everything is in real time. This is a big departure from other RPGs, but I found that the game was just fine without the added eye-candy.
Overall, the graphics are pretty much par for the course. Nothing groundbreaking, yet nothing utterly disappointing.
-= Fun =-
: Rating :
The game if fun; very fun. So fun that I actually played through it twice. The mini games, involving plot, and deep gameplay all make Breath of Fire 3 one of the most enjoyable RPGs on the PSX. It's lack of graphical and aural flare is made up with extraordinary gameplay, and a very enjoyable storyline that will especially keep BOF veterans interested with a multitude of references to the past titles. Leveling up, learning abilities, exploring, fighting…they are all fun in Breath of Fire 3
-= Last Word =-
Breath of Fire 3 is an excellent example of an RPG executed to near perfection within its limitations. Nothing is overdone, yet nothing is noticeably left out. The underlying complexity of the gameplay and developing seriousness of the plot is wonderfully hidden under the whimsical characters and musical score.
A great (if too straightforward) story, great gameplay, great characters, and a ton of personality results in a wonderfully made game that anyone can enjoy.
Total Score: 88/100
(not an average)