[BREATH OF FIRE 2 LOGO]


[BATTLE TIME!]
Console: Super NES 

Company: Capcom

Release Date: October 1995

Genre: RPG

Number of Players: 1

Save Feature? Yes



In terms of intrigue and overall playability, Breath of Fire 2 is a delightful experience! Although it lacks the meat of a Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire 2 is still a worthy addition to the Super NES library of RPGs and remains one of the most underrated games out there. Although the staple of Capcom has always been their timeless Mega Man series, they really came through in the RPG realm as well. If you want something new, this is a great place to start!

Overview: Breath of Fire 2 has the feel of a typical Super NES RPG. However, for some odd reason, I find it difficult to compare it to other games in its genre. It doesn't quite have the same feel as a Dragon Warrior adventure, it lacks the grandeur of a Final Fantasy game, and it certainly doesn't have the intricate plot twists or polished dialouge like in the Chrono series. It really is its own game. By the other token, that is not to say that BOF2 is an incredibly original game. Many aspects of the game seem to have been directly influenced by other RPGs. The overworld and especially the towns seem to feel a little bit like Final Fantasy III. Some of the sound effects even sound the same! Like in most RPGs, you have item shops, inns, houses to search, and a wide variety of locales to search.

However, there are just enough new features in BOF2 to attract even the most experienced RPG players. Although the battle system is a typical turn-based endeavor, the perspective is a unique combination of both 2D and 3D elements. It is similar to the FF3 battle scheme yet it remains somewhat unique. I like the fact that each character has a distinct special attack in battle and a unique action in the overworld. It gives the game a lot of replay value and just makes it a more enjoyable experience overall. The fishing and hunting mini-games that can be randomly found throughout the overworld are a nice touch as well. I can spend a lot of time just playing these games! Another neat feature in BOF2 is that you actually get the chance to create your own town! I had a great time inviting people to my town (called "Township") and seeing what tasks they did. The results can really vary; it all depends on who you invite. Some people set up shop and sell rare items, others might allow you to listen to a sound test or see certain statistics such as game time, and still more might actually turn out to be worthless bums! Since you only have a limited amount of space to work with and countless characters who want to live in Township, it is very important to choose your neighbors wisely. You might lose out on having a productive character in your town if you rashly choose a bum (like I did).

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Breath of Fire 2 has to be Granny's Unity Room (located in Township). It is here that you can unite your characters with one or two of the six possible shamans that can be found throughout the game. What makes uniting so much fun is simply experimenting and seeing your results! Depending on which character(s) you combine with which shaman(s), the results can vary immensely! Sometimes, a character might simply learn a new power or change into a different color if you combine him/her with his/her "innate" element (e.g. Rand with the Earth shaman or Nina with the Wind shaman). However, if you're really successful, your character will actually transform into a new being!! Sometimes it only takes one shaman to cause this effect but the best combinations involve two shamans. In addition to providing your character with a cool "new look," you will notice an astounding increase in that character's statistics. Attributes such as strength, defense, vigor, and wisdom can all be increased during the transformation depending on which shamans you choose. Not only does this feature give the game a ton of replay value but it makes your characters so much better!

Breath of Fire 2 is worth buying because of this feature alone. It is just so much fun to figure out the different combinations and to see your characters transform into dragons, fierce warriors, and even vegetables! This is such an innovative aspect as well; I can't believe that other RPGs have been unable to come up with a great idea like this. Kudos to Capcom for trying something new with successful results!

In addition to the goodies above, I was also impressed with the very likeable cast of characters found in Breath of Fire 2. Most of the characters are animals or mysterious creatures but they clearly exhibit humanlike characteristics. Just think of "Frog" from Chrono Trigger and you have a good idea of what to expect. Some of the characters include the fierce Katt (not surprisingly a feline), the beautiful Nina (has angel wings), the mysterious Spar (plantlike man), the humorous Jean (frog), and the hero's best friend, Bow (resembles a dog). What impressed me was not just the characters themselves but the different personalities. Even though the dialouge is pretty rough at times (stupid translators), you really get to know and understand how each character feels as the game progresses. Some characters have dark pasts, others are simply loners, and still more are just plain silly. Personally, I really like the interaction between characters and the hilarity that ensues on multiple occasions. I will talk a little bit more about the humor that is so prevalent in BOF2 later in this review.

Graphics: Although the graphics are nothing to sing praises about, they do a very nice job of bringing the world to life. They contain vibrant colors, detailed backgrounds, and exceptional animation. The graphics are somewhat similar to the graphics found in Final Fantasy III. This is especially true of the various towns/locales located throughout the game. The only difference is the lighter atmosphere of BOF2 in contrast to the darker FF3. The graphics in Breath of Fire 2 give the game that same bright and cheery feel that was so prominent throughout Secret of Mana. Even when the future looks bleak, you can still see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What really gives the game originality in this area is the impressive character animation. This refers mainly to the battle graphics although there are some exceptions. In any given battle, the characters in your party as well as your many enemies have unique movements ranging from a simple tail wagging to hovering in mid air! Enemies might pump their fists or move around as they prepare to attack. Although not all of the characters in the game have this feature, it is a nice bonus and it really brings the battles to life!

Overall, I have to say that I was pleased with the game's graphics. The towns look nice, the battle graphics are great (there is a large array of background graphics), and the fact that the game has a day/night feature in the overworld is a nice touch. You could be picky and say that Chrono Trigger (which was released around the same time) has far better graphics but I am still pleased with what we got.

Music: The Breath of Fire 2 soundtrack can be summed up in three words: lighthearted, easy, and repetitive. For some reason, I kept thinking of Secret of Mana's soundtrack as I played through BOF2. Like Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire 2 contains a lot of good music but most tracks are rather short and don't really develop like I would have liked. Nothing really carries you away like the dynamic opera piece in FF3 or the wonderful ending theme in Chrono Trigger.

Although nothing really sticks out as being truly outstanding, I feel that there is a lot of memorable music throughout the game. "The Wonder" which plays in mountainous regions as well as other mysterious locales just might be my favorite track. It is very short but it contains a beautiful melody and is deliciously mysterious. All of the overworld tracks are excellent as well. They seem to create a feeling of heroism and impending battle. The best town/castle theme in the game has to be "A Long Time Ago" (Windia's theme). That track is very nice and gives me a "nostalgic" feel for some reason. "Destined child" is a pretty cool title theme, the battle themes are decent, and the "Fly Pudding" and "The Kingdom" tracks are cute and friendly.

Even though Breath of Fire 2 has a lot of good music, every barrel has its bad apples I'm afraid. To be perfectly honest, I felt that Capcom took a chance by having mostly short, repetitive music throughout the game. While repetitive music is okay if it is pleasing to the ears, it can have truly horrific results should the music end up being stupid and annoying. Unfortunately, there are a few tunes that qualify for this unhonorable reward. My main gripe has to be with the track entitled "What is it?" I still wonder what the it is and what Capcom was thinking when they wrote this track. It has to be one of the most monotonous dungeon themes in recent memory. It isn't nearly as atrocious as Rygar's four note castle theme from hell (the rest of that game had awesome music btw) but it is still pretty annoying. My main gripe is the fact that it is found everywhere! Virtually every dungeon or area with enemies (excludes the overworld of course) has this music in the background! Although that's the black mark in Breath of Fire 2's soundtrack, there are a few other tunes that are just too darn repetitive (some town/castle themes get to me after a while) or even too cutesy (whale track...augh!!) for my taste.

Sarcasm aside, I still enjoyed the music in Breath of Fire 2 overall. Although a few tracks are very annoying and don't really create any atmosphere, the good far outweighs the bad. Please don't think that the soundtrack is one of the worst ever because it's not. The music is very good as long as you don't expect another Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy masterpiece. Beware of the dungeons though! :)

Play Control: Unlike the music category, I have no qualms whatsoever with the game's play control. It is pretty much standard RPG fare and just about anyone can pick it up without any problems. The "interactive" games (hunting and fishing) have pretty good controls in addition to the fluid battle controls. I really like the "Auto" feature that allows your characters to attack automatically. You can get through some of the easier battles more quickly this way. If you are at all familiar with Final Fantasy II or III, you will have no problems learning the controls in BOF2.

Challenge: Breath of Fire 2 more than makes up for its friendly atmosphere with a pretty tough game pak! Although it is nothing that an intermediate RPG player can't handle, BOF2 is certainly no pushover in terms of difficulty. You really have to think clearly in battle and devise a smart strategy. One bad decision can really cost you later in the game when you fight some of the big boys. For some reason, building experience seems to be more important (and time consuming) in this game than in most other RPGs. Although it wasn't extreme, I sometimes felt that I was playing another Dragon Warrior 2 (I spent eons building my levels in that monster!)

Ironically enough, I feel that some of the greatest challenges can be found towards the beginning of the game. It can be tricky because money is in short supply during this time and some of the more valuable items (e.g. LifeP1, APFruit) are just too expensive. Also, the hero journeys on his own at the beginning which can make some battles more tough than normal to win.

Overall, I have to say that Capcom made the game about as tough as it should have been. It isn't a pushover yet it doesn't discourage the player. That's not to say that I never got frustrated or annoyed with the game because believe me, I did at times! However, I like how the game challenges you to make the most out of your characters and acquired items/equipment. You also learn of the importance of money in this game. You really need to use it wisely because, for some reason, I found myself constantly getting broke! :)

Storyline: Breath of Fire 2 has to receive the reward for sheer craziness in terms of some of the game's story. One reason for this is that you really don't know what your main objective is until late in the game! For the longest time, you just kind of go from place to place, see what events transpire, and work on fixing any problems. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it's just kind of weird I guess. I think that what I am trying to say is that Breath of Fire 2 might be the only game in recent memory that seems to focus more on the game's subplots than the main plot. Of course, this changes dramatically late in the game as the truth becomes known but for the longest time, your objectives range from finding a batwoman (don't hold your breath because it takes forever to catch her) to searching for a golden fly and a huge cockroach for Jean's feast. Let's just say that Breath of Fire 2 has to be the first (and only) video game in history where you do all of the following tasks within the same game: 1. Venture inside of a whale's stomach. 2. Explore inside of a tree's mind. 3. Fight evil "fatties" inside of a very overweight princess. 4. Search inside of a toilet (yes, a toilet!) for a royal ring. A picture of BOF2 should appear in the dictionary next to the word "bizarre."

However, that is not to bash the game because the main story is actually very good. It all begins when a young man from a dragon village falls asleep next to a mysterious dragon skeleton. When he comes to, none of the other villagers seem to recognize him and his father and sister are nowhere to be found. He later ends up in what appears to be another world! Oblivious to what has occurred, the hero happily grows up in Hometown and becomes good friends with another ranger named Bow. The two eventually decide to embark on a journey. As the game progresses, the hero begins to learn of his mysterious past all while sensing the evil that is beginning to spread in the world. Demons are possessing people more than normal, there is talk of a dragon clan that once existed, and you have to consider the place where it all started, the mysterious Gate. An epic adventure awaits our young hero for sure!

Funfactor: Even though Breath of Fire 2 isn't "the perfect RPG," it still features excellent gameplay and is darn near impossible to put down once you get into it. This game has a really neat feel that seems to be missing in some of the newer RPGs and the cast of characters is truly delightful. Breath of Fire 2 can also be a very funny game with lots of hilarious dialogue (sometimes due to the pitiful translation) and events that can only be termed "wacky." Some of the scenes at Jean's castle are to die for! Who could forget the part where the hero has to test Jean's fly and roach dishes?

I found the hunting and fishing mini-games to be very enjoyable as well. There's just something thrilling about successfully catching a bear or snagging a treasure chest. Breath of Fire 2 is also a very big game with lots of areas to visit and loads of secrets to uncover. There are secret shamans hidden throughout the world (You can combine with them at Granny's to learn new powers or even transform into a new being!), hidden areas that only certain characters can uncover, and even unknown islands that you can visit! There is even a secret character hidden somewhere in the world for those who have the perseverance to find her. I really like the fact that the game branches off at a certain point and becomes nonlinear for adventurous game players such as myself. This nonlinear aspect is lacking in many of the Super NES RPGs.

Overall, Breath of Fire 2 really is a gem of a game and features some outstanding gameplay. Delving into this game for the first time (I'm still playing it as I write this review actually.) has brought back some good memories of the NES/Super NES days. There is just a really neat old school feel that reminds me of the glory days of video gaming. In terms of role playing games for the Super NES, Breath of Fire 2 is probably surpassed by only Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger in terms of overall playability. I would put BOF2 on the same level as Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy II in terms of quality and fun. If you want to breath some new life into your dusty old Super NES, this game would be an excellent place to start!

Negatives: "What is it?" It is frustrating to hear a beautiful track such as "The Wonder" and then have to turn down the volume after entering a cave and hearing the "What is it?" monotony. There was other music in the game that was average as well. Regarding the storyline, some of the subplots were just too weird for my tastes. Going into a princess' body and fighting evil fatties? C'mon!! Even though the main story was pretty cool, I didn't find it to be terribly engrossing or at that exciting. The character interaction was where the game really shined in terms of the story.

[WHERE IT ALL BEGAN]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.2 Music: 3.9 Play Control: 4.3 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.0 Funfactor: 4.5 Overall Score: 25.4 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo

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Last Updated: May 21, 2006
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