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Breath of Fire

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Release year: 1993 | Players: 1 player | Developed by Capcom

Capcom developed Breath of Fire (AKA ブレスオブファイア – Buresu obu Faia in Japan) originally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and it became their first traditional role-playing game (RPG). When it was released in 1993, it received mostly positive reactions being the first one of its kind. It was followed by Breath of Fire II in 1994.

It follows the journey of Ryu, a boy who could transform himself into a mighty dragon (hence the title), as he embarks to search for his sister. Along the way, he meets other warriors and comes into conflict with the main antagonist – a militaristic empire called Dark Dragon Clan who seeks to rule the world.

Breath of Fire Cover Box

On the surface, the game is consistent with what you call RPG during the 90’s – featuring two-dimensional characters and a top-down perspective where you can move the characters in four directions and through different environments such as towns and dungeons.

What’s great about Breath of Fire, however, is that it lets a single player control several characters at once. Here, Ryu meets other characters who each possess certain abilities, and three of them can join his battle at a time. This active group then advances through the game by defeating enemy creatures, allowing each of them to gain experience points for leveling up.

On to the gameplay, the characters here are bright and colorful, and their unique abilities and backstories quite interesting – too bad that despite their diversity, their capabilities can be underutilized. Breath of Fire is only fairly challenging and combat is somewhat dull.

Also, there’s an overuse of icons in Breath of Fire, replacing actual texts (e.g. satchel icon representing items, magic staff icon representing special moves) and making its menu really confusing. Worse, names of certain items and equipment are awkwardly abbreviated that they can be very challenging to read – or decode? Examples are C.Stn and Antdts. Go figure.

In terms of graphics, the game is a bit short on animation but has a rich and vibrant color palette and backgrounds that are filled with small details. So, it is basically good-looking. Its music and sound effects, on the other hand, are not as remarkable. Controls are just okay.

It has been ported to SNES (this version), Sony PlayStation, GBA, PS2, and PSP.