Title: Breath of Fire
Teen (mild animated violence, suggestive themes)
Breath of Fire III is (obviously) the third in the Breath of Fire series. In this one, you play as Ryu, a member of the Brood.
The plot of this game is at times amusingly simple. For the first half of the game (after a bit of aimless wandering), you're trying to get to a certain location, fairly far away. For the second half of the game, you're trying to get to a certain location, even further away. And, because the world hates you, all the usual pathways are blocked, so you have to take the longer way around. This happens a lot. Also, the main path usually gets cleared right after you go the horrifyingly-long dungeon route.
On a slightly related note, one of the rather annoying problems with this game is the areas. See, you do a lot or running through caves and mountains and the like. However, your characters are apparently unable to walk up any slope that is tilted more than 30 degrees. 45 degree slopes make up the 'walls' of the area, and you can't walk up them. These aren't even smooth, long slopes, either. They are short, rocky slopes. It gets rather frustrating when there's a treasure chest right next to you, but Ryu is unable to step up a tiny slope to get to it. So you have to take the other route around, which is usually pointlessly long and full of monsters. This happens consistently throughout the game, from the very first areas to the last.
By the end of the game, I wasn't quite yelling at the characters to jump, but I was close. Very close. I'd say this is the game's big flaw. If the areas had not been set up in such a way, I would have been much less frustrated. I mean, they can't step up six inches. It's very sad.
Aside from height-related irritation, though, the game is rather nice. There are seven playable characters, each with their own (rather small) set of skills. However, if you think the skills they're learning aren't a very good match for the character (Ryu, for example, learns all the healing spells), you can learn other skills from monsters (and Masters) and give them to your characters! See, each character has two skill lists. One is skills you learn via level-up (Ryu reached level 4, Ryu learns 'Purify'), while the other is skills you've learned by 'watching' enemies. For example, if you're in a battle with a MageGoo and it uses the 'Burn' skill, there is a chance of one of your characters learning that skill if they were watching the MageGoo when it used that skill. And if all that running around looking for monsters that have skills to learn is a bit too... tedious for you, then you can just learn them from Masters. Basically, you apprentice to a Master (which has an impact on which stats increase when you level up) and they teach you skills every few level-ups. There are some skills what you can only get from Masters, and there are some you can only get from monsters. Furthermore, you can switch the skills around between characters in camp. All in all, I didn't find the skill system terribly useful, but it certainly was a nice bit of customization.
And then, of course, there are the Dragon Transformations. This is a Breath of Fire staple and is done very well in this game, I think. See, you pick 'Accession' from Ryu's skill list and you get to pick how you transform. Throughout the game you find chunks of chrysm strewn about the landscape, and when you examine them with Ryu you unlock a new Gene. There are several different types of Gene, and some give you elemental attacks, some increase your magic skill, and others do all sorts of weird and unusual things. You get to pick a maximum of three genes at a time, although each gene has a usage cost and a smaller maintenance cost at the end of each turn. For example, if you use the Flame gene and nothing else, you'll get a little baby red dragon, with some fire skills. If you use, say, Flame and Force, you'll get a anthropomorphic Ryu-dragon with fire skills and high attack. If you do, for some reason, pick a transformation that doesn't work (for example, the Shadow+Reverse gene combo), you'll just lose a turn and Ryu won't transform. So don't do that.
Near the end of the game, you get the Infinity gene, which allows you to transform into Kaiser form. However, the Infinity gene carries a whopping 40 AP usage cost, and he's always confused, which means he occasionally attacks allies. If you use Kaiser+Failure (a gene which is worthless in all other cases) you get a powered-down Kaiser form that is controllable. If you use Kaiser+Radiance+Trance, you get a fully powered, fully controllable Kaiser form that takes such a large amount of AP you can probably only hold it for a few turns. It is often times not the best idea to use the most powerful Dragon Transformation, if only because of the massive AP cost.
And the cast of characters is varied, although not as varied as the previous Breath of Fire games. You have Ryu and Nina, of course, and then Teepo, who is a balanced warrior/mage, Rei, who is a very speedy thief with Thunder magic, Momo, who has status magic for the most part, Garr, who is a strong fighter with a few Fire spells, and Peco, who can be the most powerful character in the game, even if he is an onion. Although, managing the characters can be rather irritating. Certain characters have actions (Momo can shoot down walls and use computers, Garr can push blocks, Rei can pick locks, etc) that you need to get through certain dungeons. If, for example, the dungeon you're going through has locked doors, you're gonna have to have Rei in your party to get through. However, you're usually not told this beforehand, and you can get through the first half of the dungeon without him. This is usually a not-very-sneaky way to get the person in your party, because there'll probably be a plot scene involving them at the end of the dungeon.
In conclusion, the game is a nice game to play, even with some irritations. The graphics aren't mind-bogglingly good, but they do the job. The Dragon Transformation system is the best in the series, in my opinion, and there are hundreds of skills you can learn to improve your party's adaptability. It's a good game. You should play it. And then play the others.
Sources: GameFAQS for release dates.