Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire for the Super Nintendo, was the first game in the Breath of Fire series (I'm sure that was fairly obvious). Created by Capcom, it was translated and published in North America by Squaresoft, who did a rather bad translation job. You start this game as Ryu, a member of the Light Dragons. At the start of the game your village is attacked by the Dark Dragons, and your sister Sara is captured. Thus starts your adventure that takes you around the world where you will meet 7 companions, and find the true source of evil. Nothing spectacular, but it's a good game nonetheless.
Breath of fire is your standard 2-D overhead view RPG, nothing new here. In battle it switches to a semi 3-D view, but it's still just 2-D sprites. In towns you wander around and talk to people, in dungeons you wander around fighting monsters, outside you wander around a lot too. Lots of wandering around involved. As you wander around in dungeons or on the world map, you'll sometimes encounter monsters and have to fight them. As with most games, your characters are too near-sighted to be able to see the monsters before they pounce (or perhaps the monsters have just been studying stealth tactics a lot). Nothing particularly new or exciting just your standard RPG.
In combat you see a 3/4 view that's half side-view and half-front view. On the bottom right side is your character(s), on the top left side is the monsters. One thing this game has that is pretty cool is animated monsters, and characters. The monsters even have animations when they are just sitting there. That wasn't very common back in 1994. In combat you can attack, cast a spell, use an item, run away, basically your standard options. You also have the choice of putting the characters under automatic control. Another neat feature is that it shows how many HP the monsters have left. However, for bosses this measure of HP is misleading. Usually bosses will keep fighting for a long time past when it says they have 0 HP. So you never real know how close you are to beating them.
Each character has their own unique spells that they learn as they level up. Once again, nothing particularly new. However different on which character leads your party, you have a different ability that you can use. Ryu can fish, Bo can pass through forests and hunt, Rand can punch trees, and each character has their own unique ability that you'll need to make good use of in order to finish the game. This is probably the best feature of the game. In fact it's about the only thing that keeps it from being the same old RPG.
One of the prominent features of the game is the ability for Ryu to change into a dragon. Although, you can't change into a dragon at the beginning of the game, as you progress through the game, you gain the ability to transform into more and more powerful dragons. Unfortunately there really aren't that many different types of dragons, and none of them are all that special. Still, it's a rather interesting feature.
The game does have some puzzles that you need to solve to progress, but nothing too hard or thought-provoking. There are also some secrets in the game (quite a few in fact), plus you can hunt and fish, although neither of those activities is as advanced as what you see in Breath of Fire II.
Now is probably a good time to mention the awful translation. In most towns there are about 10 or so people, however they all seem to say the same thing. And none of them are capable of speaking more than one sentence. Not to mention the occasional grammar or spelling mistake thrown in. Also, the item names are so badly abbreviated that it can be quite difficult to figure out what this new item that you picked up is. What the heck is a Rang, or a C. Stn? Squaresoft makes some good games, but they really botched this translation.
More or less your standard story. Ryu, and a few other remaining members of the Light Dragon clan, are living in the remote town of Drogen. As the game begins, the Dark Dragons led by Jade, a henchman of Emperor Zog, attack the village. Ryu's sister Sara turns every one to stone to protect them, and faces Jade by herself. But she is no match for him, and ends up getting captured. Once the stone spell wears off, Ryu is off to find Sara, and defeat Zog, leader of the Dark Dragon Clan.
Along the way, you'll meet 7 companions, and learn about Tyr the evil goddess. The story does get more interesting towards the end, but overall it's nothing fancy. There really isn't much character development either. But it could be a lot worse.
None of the random fights are particularly challenging. The bosses are rather easy too. There are a few exceptions, but you shouldn't have too much trouble beating the game without ever dying a single time. A few of the puzzles can be tricky though. One in particular stumped me for a while. The game really didn't give any hints as to what to do. Then again, maybe one of the cryptic one-sentence messages from the villagers was supposed to help.
Breath of Fire has a decent level of replayability, although the combat system, and everything is somewhat bland, which may make you not want to play through again. There are quite a few different secrets to find out, lots of hidden items, and spells. Other than though, not a whole lot of reason to play through again.
I really liked the graphics in this game. I especially liked the fact that the monsters are animated, something not many of the games of that time had. The monster sprites themselves look pretty good too. The world graphics are a bit lacking though, but they aren't too bad. The town and dungeon graphics look nice though. The characters sprites in combat really look good too, in fact some of them look rather funny, especially some of Gobi's combination characters.
There are however, a small number of cutscenes throughout the game. Nothing really fancy or spectacular, but it's something rare for a rather early SNES game (although Phantasy star had them 6 years earlier). I think that adds a bonus point on to the graphics section.
It doesn't necessarily have bad music, but it doesn't have very good music either. The music is the standard midi type music. At least the towns and dungeons have their own music themes, so the music doesn't get too repetitive. The music also seems to fit the mood well, for the portion of the game where the music plays. The sound effects are nothing special, but that is too be expected.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Breath of Fire is a decent start to the series, although I think it's the weakest of all of them. There really isn't much to separate it from the rest of the crowd. Nonetheless, I still think it's worth playing through once (or maybe twice).