Reviews: Breath Of Fire II

The ideal turn-based game

Warning: There's a strong possibility of nostalgia bias here. Played GBA version as a kid.

Back in the 90s before Capcom became the troll playground it is now, they put out a fun if unintuitive little gem called Breath of Fire. That game was a modest hit, hence this one was to follow. And follow it did.

The first thing to note about this game, especially in comparison to its predecessor and other turn-based games of the time is that it achieves balance in a way that few ever do. Every party member has some kind of clear strategic use, since all have unique spell sets (though some are similar), personal actions, and (excepting Ryu and Bleu) shaman transformations. Even the seemingly useless Jean can become a powerhouse if you fuse him with a late-game shaman (though granted, if you've been neglecting him up to that point, you'd probably avoid him anyway so as not to have to grind. Not to mention that the shaman in question is critical for two other characters as well). Because of this, you have a lot more options than most other turn-based games.

Presentation-wise, it's what you might expect out of an SNES RPG in terms of graphics. Music, on the other hand, while usually decent, often tends toward "amazing".

In terms of plot, the game lies at the nexus of really good story and really bad translation with interesting results. You'll get the gist of what's going on most of the time, and sometimes it's even worded well enough to be vaguely moving, but usually, the broken English and serious punctuation problems are distracting. Even still, I was able to understand it as a kid, and I still think it holds up today despite the translation problems. The plot touches on the theme of religious fanaticism and gives it due weight. There's definite structure, with each party member (excepting Bleu) recieving their own arc in linear fashion. Interestingly, within their respective arcs, the characters usually aren't developed so much as they are examined, with a few exceptions. It isn't quite Shin Megami Tensei, but it was more than enough to get me invested.

There are plenty of secrets and sidequests with useful rewards, and none ever overstay their welcome.

All in all, a great title from beginning to end. Play it if you can.