You general wouldn’t think that a pretty standard RPG would be the type of game to trip you up with its gameplay, but Breath of Fire III managed to find a way. Now, okay, it’s not that bad, it just never really felt good for the most part. Controls aren’t what you’d intuitively expect them to be and movement can be a nightmare in certain areas, but other than that things were fine, mostly.
The good news is that what isn’t a pain is actually really good. Combat if fun, if not a little too frequent, fishing is excellent and there’s some great systems involved in learning and managing abilities under various Masters. My only complaint with these systems, fishing aside, is that they’re horribly under-explained if explained at all. Skill Ink is a mystery without looking up its purpose and even once you know what to do with it it’s far too easy to accidentally waste. Masters would have been missed entirely if not for my following a guide…
Story / Value: 6.8
I sank about 16 hours into Breath of Fire III and I don’t feel like the game respected a single one of them. Our story begins with Ryu, a boy who is also a dragon, escaping from a mine and ending up in the care of a couple of lovable delinquents. A series of unforeseen events separates Ryu from his newfound friends, and he’s got to get them back! This is a perfectly fine set up for any RPG, any game really. The problem is that this is effectively the entire story for the first 12 hours of Breath of Fire III! By the time any real plot begins to develop I’m already too exhausted to care.
What’s more is that the game seems to be unable to convey any sense of weight to the story. There’s a point after that 12 hour mark where 10 years pass by, and Ryu is thought dead by all of his comrades. The result of this decade-long absence is that… nothing’s changed! Nothing’s changed and your friends’ reactions to seeing not-really-dead you after all these years is “Oh hey Ryu, long time no see!”. Come on! Because of this, what should have been a major turning point int he game’s story and character development, just comes off as an excuse to swap a few sprites…
Breath of Fire III manages to take bland 3D environments and lovely 2D sprites and cram them together into a game that ends up looking really good! Characters and enemies are all extremely well animated and fun to watch, while the polygons that make of the game’s zones all come together in a way that looks clean and coherent. A clean and complete UI is the cherry on top.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the game’s soundtrack, and some tunes even pop up in my head from time to time, but there’s nothing really exceptional about the music here either. It works, it fits, it’s fine.
Sound effects are fine for the most part, but the characters’ voice clips were hit or miss in combat. Particularly annoying was young Ryu’s voice, which didn’t get any better after he dropped his dragon eggs… Still not enough to detract from the overall experience.
Fun / Afterthoughts: 7.0
Now, yes, I’m a bit salty about feeling like this game strung me along for 12+ hours before even hinting at a payoff. Even still, I’m having trouble actually disliking the RPG, almost as much trouble as I’m having finding the motivation to finish it. As a kid, I first played Breath of Fire III coming straight off Suikoden I and II, and it’s entirely possible that the memories I have of this game are affected by their proximity to memories of other excellent games, but I don’t know that that’s entirely true. What Breath of Fire III does well it does really well, I just wish the story and, perhaps more importantly the pacing were on point enough to keep me interested in playing it…
Gameplay: 16 Hours