Breath of Fire II - GBA - Review
In 1994, Capcom unleashed the sequel to the hit RPG series, Breath of Fire. At that time, RPGs hadn’t received much recognition from the American gaming community, which mainly consisted of action and fighting game fans. Despite this, Breath of Fire II sold moderately well. Now, almost a decade later, RPGs are extremely popular all around the world, thanks to the great Final Fantasy VII. The demand for high-quality RPGs is higher than ever. Never one to overlook a great opportunity, Capcom decided to give gamers another quality RPG to play this year with a port of Breath of Fire II for the Game Boy Advance.
Incase you haven’t had the pleasure of playing Breath of Fire II before, let me tell you that the gameplay is everything you could want in an RPG. Every battle is turn-based, and they feature some of the best, most easy-to-understand menus that I have ever seen. Everything is pretty straightforward, which might make you think that this game is basic, but believe me, it’s not. There’s quite a bit of challenge in Breath of Fire II, and it doesn’t take long to reveal itself.
The main character, Ryu, is separated from the group early on in the game. To reunite with the rest of the gang (I’d elaborate more on this, but I don’t want to give away the story), Ryu must go on a brief journey all by himself. Not surprisingly, he gets his butt kicked. The enemies are much too strong to defeat them on your own, unless you do some serious strategizing. I died at least four times while trying to pass this part of the game, which his pretty impressive considering how little I’ve died in the first few hours of other most RPGs (i.e., once or twice, tops).
Each character has a unique set of magic attacks, but as with most RPGs, the basic spells can be learned by more than one party member. In addition, each character features a unique Personal Action. Personal Actions are special moves that allow you to do a number of things outside of battle. For example, Bow and Katt can hunt monsters found in bushes on the world map. Killed monsters leave behind rare items, such as Roast, which recovers all of one character’s HP! Ryu’s Personal Action is the skill of fishing, while Nina can fly your party out of pitfalls (if she’s leading the party). There are eight characters in all, but rather than tell you what each of their Personal Actions are, I am going to let you discover them for yourself. I avoided the manual as much as possible, and I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed discovering the Personal Actions on my own.
The story is very intriguing, though not as complex as the latest Final Fantasy games. However, for a game that was released in 1994, Breath of Fire II holds up really well against the competition, both on consoles and on the Game Boy Advance. I’m sure you’re wondering what BoFII is all about. I’d like to tell you, but this is the kind of game that jumps right into the action, meaning that any brief comment could spoil the game for you. I will say this: the overall experience is what makes BoFII great. No one thing stands out much more than the other, but when combined, they create a really outstanding game. Not only will you want to see this one through, but you will truly enjoy the experience. I played it for so long this past week that my desk lamp made my GBA hot! Not warm – hot. My hands felt kind of strange, too. I know this sounds unhealthy, but I am a professional game journalist and I didn’t want to stop playing (kids, please don’t try this at home!). So I continued. Eventually though, I had to stop. It was heartbreaking. I was just about to acquire another character, but my hands could no longer take the heat. (Note: my lamp is perfectly positioned to shine the light on my GBA without any glare. Unfortunately, it’s a very powerful lamp that gets hot very quickly.) After a few hours, I looked at the sun (which was just starting to come up) and said, “Who needs sleep, I’m playing Breath of Fire II!”
Breath of Fire II is as good as 16-bit RPGs come. Its depth, high replay value, story and soundtrack create a memorable experience that you won’t find anywhere else. This was one of the greatest RPGs of the last decade and its quality has not lessened one bit over the years. The translation from the SNES to the GBA was seamless. Although a port, BoFII is a must-buy game for every RPG lover. If you own the SNES version and don’t want to buy another copy of a game you already have, then rent it instead. A rental would not have been good enough for me though. Maybe it’s because I didn’t own the other version, or maybe it’s because a truly great game is great forever. I’ll bet on the latter.
Reviewer's Scoring Details
Anyone who enjoys RPGs will enjoy Breath of Fire II. And for those of you who have never played an RPG before, this is a great game that will suck you into the genre forever.
Breath of Fire II looks just as good on the GBA as it did on the SNES. In some ways it’s even more Impressive, because it’s really amazing to see so much colorful action on one tiny screen.
Breath of Fire II features one of the best, most unique soundtracks ever heard on the Game Boy Advance. The variety in music is unprecedented. The sound effects are pretty good too.
The difficulty goes up and down throughout most of the game. There are times when the challenge is almost overbearing, while other times it’s not quite hard enough. This is a problem (or a plus, depending on how you look at it) in most RPGs because of the leveling system, which makes it possible to beat the entire game fairly easily. That is, assuming you don’t mind leveling up for a few days. Taking the RPG standard into account, Breath of Fire II is a challenging game.
Breath of Fire II doesn’t score many points for being a port. However, it is still one of the greatest RPGs of all time; the new Township feature (which allows you to build your own town) is pretty cool; and the gameplay is console-perfect.
If there was an award for “Best RPG to play while waiting in line for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” Breath of Fire II would surely win. Don’t wait in line for Episode II or any other movie without this game. Nothing will make the time move any faster, but if you’re playing BoFII, you’ll definitely be entertained. Kudos to Capcom for bringing one of the greatest SNES games to the GBA (and with a new town building feature, no less!). For your next port, may I suggest a collection of 1942 and 1943?