Title: Breath of Fire
Publisher: Capcom and Square (SNES), Capcom and Ubi Soft (GBA)
Date Published: August 1994 (SNES), 2001-12-01 (GBA)
Platforms: SNES, Game Boy Advance
Ratings: (For GBA version) ESRB: Everyone; ELSPA: 3+; VET: S
What kind of game are we dealing with here?
Breath of Fire is a fairly cliched, but still very enjoyable console RPG. But who cares about cliches, as long as there are dragons in it. =)
The story and opening setting is fairly simple: Once upon time, this fantasy world was ruled by various tribes (clans) of people - each tribe possessing some special gift - and the world was ruled by the mightiest of them all, the Dragon Tribe (obviously having the ability to transform into dragons). They ruled the lands just fine, until one really nasty goddess showed up and provoked some fighting inside the dragon tribe regarding who gets the chick. Hopeless it was! So, the dragon clan split into Light and Dark side. Then the evil goddess was locked up in some distant cell for good, and keys were scattered around the land.
The peace was restored, and the two tribes remained the mightiest and didn't attack each other too much. But then, shortly before our story starts, some guy called Zog from the Dark side had this evil and completely doomed plan of taking over the world. (All evil plans are doomed to fail.)
After having seen the opening sequence over and over several times, I think it rates up there among the coolest game opening sequences ever. Starts sort of boringly, but the music in the end... just brilliant. Ooo, and dragons and this cute wolf guy. Cool. In fact, I think the game is great just because it does have dragons and furries and stuff like that. Fascinating.
The game is a normal top-down console RPG. You control one character, and the rest of the characters follow you around. You can change the marching order. This is important because some characters in towns want to talk to specific people (For example, only Ryu can enter the dragon training, and people who need healing need to see Nina) and some places are only accessible if specific characters are leading the party (Bo walks through the forests).
"Wake up, Warrior! Disaster has struck!"
As the game begins, the Dark Dragons are attacking the town of Drogen, controlled by the Light Dragons. An old lady pulls the player awake.
The player's own character (known as Ryu, but you can pick the name if that doesn't suit you) is a young warrior of the Light Dragon Tribe. Of course, since nobody more competent is around, and Sara (the most powerful magician in the city) was taken away by Jade, Zog's henchman, it's your task to rise up against this really, really unpleasant fellow.
Ryu Bateson - your average anime youngster with blue hair - is a capable fighter, who is also able to fish. Later in the game, he gets the ability to morph into different dragon forms during combat. (I thought, when I heard this, that he'd become a gigantic monstrous fire-breathing horror. But actually, the dragon is a cute little one. Just as deadly, though. =)
There are others who join the party later on: Soon you meet Nina Winlan, a fae healer with wings and ability to turn into a bird, Bo, a wolf who can hunt and use offensive spells, and even later some other characters like Karn the thief, Ox the giant who can smash objects, Mogu the mole, Gobi the fishy merchant straight from the bottom of the seas, and an archmage called Bleu.
Truly, the rest of the journey is so epic that most people shudder after the sheer amount of Epic Bits the game has, but one thing is sure: The game is good.
What's wrong in SNES version and how they fixed it in GBA version?
The GBA version is a very faithful conversion of the original game, but luckily, the developers have listened to the critique over time and many of the major gripes about the user interface have been fixed. While the original may have been only an average game, these changes make the game more of a classic material - at least running through the swamp of Epic Story Elements is not slowed down by the UI.
There's a new "dash" command: Push down the B button, and you can run instead of sloooowwwlllyyy walking to your destination.
A new "quick save" option is definitely a bonus for a game that's developed for a portable platform. This save command is not as "permanent" as a normal save at the Dragon Shrines; if you die after starting a quick-saved game, you start from the shrine where you last saved the game.
Also, the icon-driven interface is mostly gone and all of the commands are in plain English. I personally found this more logical choice. Also, the combat menus are organized in more logical way, so even when the game still has millions of battles against the vast swarms of insects, I can easily develop the reflex that when there's dozens of 1 XP, 4 GP blobs ahead, I can hit Right and A, and let Ryu deal with them using the Foil. =)
The Majorly Annoying Game Item Management has been made vastly more tolerable. In the original, people needed to wade through gigantic list of items to find the stuff that the character was supposed to equip. Now, in Equip menu, everything is organized much more logically: The game shows the items the character is able to equip and also shows how the stats will change (helpfully red if stats will worsen.) Also, there's a very neat "sort" command that gets all items in neat order, leaving tons of herbs on the top of the inventory. And on top of this, in shops, the game shows which charactes can equip the items, and even has an arrow that shows whether the item will make the character overall better or worse.
And, as usual with the GBA games, I found the music just a little bit better than in the original.
The original translation was pretty good, and apparently there are some little fixes in the translation. Haven't played both versions that extensively though...
As a curious addition, the game supports the Game Link cable for trading items between games!
The GBA version is likely to be available. SNES version is quite likely not. Also, Breath of Fire 2 for GBA has been released.