Breath of Death VII: The Beginning Review
It's very refreshing to come across an RPG that's both self-aware and joyously humorous. Comedy RPGs are a real rarity, so whenever one comes along, it usually provides something different from what most other entries in the genre have to offer. Sure, the underlying plot may deal with destruction and evil creatures, but the dialogue and writing are different from most RPGs and warrant a play-through by gamers. This is especially true for those who want to take a break from the typical turn-based title. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning does just that--it offers a unique RPG experience that's fun, retro, and totally hilarious, even if it is a bit short.
Don't let its name fool you. Breath of Death VII is actually the first (and currently only) game in the series. The game starts out with a nice, old-school cutscene that depicts a brutal war. After a massive weapon destroys the entire planet, a civilization of undead creatures rises and rules peacefully over the land. These friendly monsters create an ideal world and live happily within it--until an evil entity makes its presence felt across the land. That's when Dem, the skeleton knight, rises to the occasion and goes on a quest to save the world from destruction.
If this all sounds a little quirky to you, that's because it is, and the characters are just as strange as the tale itself. For starters, Dem doesn't talk because he believes that a true hero should never speak. How do I know this? Because the narrator immediately turns on the Thoughts-Subtitle-O-Matic, which allows players to read what Dem is thinking. The rest of the cast is just as colorful, and the many characters you meet along the way often have hilarious things to say. The humor in Breath of Death isn't so much about jokes or delivery. Instead, characters make references to other titles like Resident Evil, Castlevania, Pokemon, Earthbound, and Zelda. If you've played a lot of different franchises, you'll instantly get plenty of the references, and they're sure to bring a cheesy grin to your face.
Though Breath of Death VII emulates classic RPGs in terms of its graphics and menu design, the gameplay is actually a lot more forgiving than the punishing titles of old. You must travel to various towns in order to receive your next objective. While in towns, you can purchase upgraded weapons and armor. Along the way, you traverse an overworld map full of random encounters. In between the towns and overworld, you must clear dungeons and increase your party until you have four total members--each bearing his or her own special abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Dungeons are completely maze-like and require plenty of exploration and backtracking. As you explore caves, cities, and sewers, you engage in battles with enemies and collect upgrades and gold. If you want to find everything in the game, you're definitely going to have to do some backtracking. This can be a bit of a hassle, especially in the bigger stages later on, because exploring the large mazes isn't always enjoyable. Now, normally it would be a total pain having to deal with random encounters, because many of the dungeons' paths lead to dead ends, while others lead to weapons and treasure. Thankfully, the random encounters within dungeons are limited. So once you've beaten all of the foes in a dungeon, you don't need to worry about any unwanted surprises, and you can explore the mazes at your own pace.
Battles are also a lot simpler than most retro RPGs. Though the basic turn-based setup remains intact, you have several different attack options at your disposal and a combo system that allows you to perform strong finishing attacks. Tallying up your combo with constant offense allows you to set up a devastating attack that's increasingly powerful based on your combo count. These moves can be used to finish off stronger enemies rather quickly, and they definitely come in useful in boss fights. Breath of Death VII puts a lot of emphasis on quick battles. You won't spend several minutes on these encounters, and don't be surprised if certain sequences take you mere seconds. This will either be welcome by RPG fans or it will be slightly disliked. Personally, I prefer longer, more complicated battles. That said, there's no denying the fun factor in taking out baddies with a couple of high impact moves.
Upon clearing battles, you are rewarded with experience points. Once you level up, you can choose from two different upgrades at a time. Sometimes the game asks you to upgrade either your characters' stats or add a new move to your arsenal. Other times you can choose between upping your defense or adding HP to your party. Depending on how you like playing, and whether you prefer magic or physical offense and defense, the game lets you decide what type of characters you want in your party, which is pretty cool.
One element that Breath of Death VII decided to keep completely old-school was its presentation. The game looks and sounds like a retro RPG through and through. This isn't a bad thing, though, and the game's presentation shines through as remarkably stylistic. That said, the plain black backgrounds during battle sequences are really drab and offer nothing in the way of graphical eye candy. The music, though largely enjoyable, is definitely not as pleasant as that of Cthulhu Saves the World, developer Zeboyd's other comedy RPG.
Breath of Death VII is a fairly short game, especially for an RPG. The main adventure should take you about five hours, which isn't too bad, as the game tends to drag a bit toward the end. There are three difficulty settings, and beating the game gives you access to Score Attack mode, which is a fun addition. Overall, the value is really good, because for just $3 you get Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, which is lengthier and better overall. If you're a fan of old-school RPGs or crazy games with a good sense of humor, you simply can't go wrong with Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Even with its few flaws, it's still a highly enjoyable parody adventure worth plaything through.