Detroit?  D. C.?  Chicago?  Baltimore?  Oakland?

Apparently, B. Orchid makes a cameo in this game.

Guest appearance by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon!

I didn't know where I was without this helpful text.

Clearly writing a country song.

Guest appearance by Bluto!

Well, there goes my weekend...

It seems that we are at least somewhat more comfortable with small changes around the edges, so long as developers don’t stray too far from the plantation.  Take the above mentioned Final Fantasy series.  The first game actually stays remarkably close to its pen and paper roots.  Later entries introduce concepts like interchangeable jobs, materia to enhance abilities, stealing magic from enemies, and collecting and playing ccgs.  It would appear that we do want distinctive gameplay, so long as it doesn’t get away from the comfortable experiences we’ve grown accustomed to.

That being said, it can be difficult for newcomers to specific genres to stand out.  There is little to no familiarity, so those elements that are new had better be done exceptionally well.  It also helps if the game is made by a famous company, such as Capcom.

Apparently, even in Breath of Fire, snitches get stitches, bitches.

BunyanHP +2, Power +2, Defense +1AP -2, Intelligence -3
MygasAP +1, Intelligence +2Power -1, Defense -1
YggdrasilAP +1, Defense +1, Intelligence +2HP -1, Power -2, weak to fire
D'lonzoPower +1, Agility +1, Accuracy upHP -1, AP -2
FahlHP +4, Power +1, Defense +3Agility -3, Intelligense -3

GiottoHP +4, AP +3Power -1, Defense -1, Agility -1, Defense -1
HondaraAP +1, Intelligence +1, Holy upPower -2
EmitaiAP +4, Intelligence +4Power -2, Defense -2
DeisAP +3, Power +1, Agility +1, Intelligence +3HP -3, Defense -3
HachioHP +2, Power +2, Defense +1AP -2, Agility -1, Intelligence -1
BaisPower +1
LangDefense +1
LeeIntelligence +1
WynnHP +1
LadonPower +2, Defense +2, Agility +1, Intelligence +2HP -6, AP -6
MeryleepAgility +2HP -1, Power -1, Defense -1

It's nice to see the Playboy bunnies found new work since they're no longer needed for the magazine.

What do you guess he wants from this screenshot?

Given the perversions we've already seen from Rei and Garr, I was wondering the same thing.

Told ya this whole dragon thing is fun!

Damn it, Garr!  You've been talking to Rei, haven't you?

Not true!  Everyone knows that stabbings are really done out of love!

Holy NSFW, Batman!  For the record, I love Ryu's blushing at the nude woman standing before him.

Ok, so while travelling through the DoD (no, not Department of Defense), you ran out of water, died once and got automatically revived, and you just had to use Disembowel on that enemy.  At this point, your max HP has taken quite a beating.  Time to put that character on the shelf, right?  Nope!  This is a semi-permanent loss, but just as there’s a difference between mostly dead and all dead, there’s a difference between semi-permanent and permanent.  This introduces another fun and characteristic aspect of this game:  camping.  A nearly universal RPG trope is that sleeping is a magical cure all.  “Bill, I know you just got shot in the face, you’re missing an arm and a leg, and I’m holding your lung, but don’t worry.  I made your bed all nice and comfy for you.  Sleep it off and you’ll feel better in the morning.”  In this game, you can camp anywhere you want on the overworld.  This allows you to heal your HP and AP up to full.  Or at least your semi-permanent full.  Camping out in the wilderness is still no substitute for a luxury stay in a hotel, though.  In order to restore your max HP to its real max, you must stay in an inn.  This differentiation adds a lot more than you’d expect!

There was also that time I peed in your sink...

Be sure to heed this guy's vital advice!

This is the only picture in this article without a caption.  Oh wait...

Shut up, Butt-head!  I was not crying!

The title is the first clue just how different this game is.  More word association!  Huzzah!  What do you think of when I say Breath of Fire?  Dragons, of course (although, SNES, Playstation, Ryu, etc. would also have been acceptable)!  Yep.  A hallmark of this series is that the main character has the ability to transform into a dragon.  OK.  We’re off to a good start.  That’s certainly unique and a lot of fun!

I don't know.  Are they GMO-free?

Skills also come from another source:  masters.  There are 17 different masters in the game.  As you gain levels while apprenticing under a master, you receive rewards, most of which are skills.  One quick note (and point of annoyance) about masters:  you must gain an unbroken string of levels under the same master in order to receive these skills.  This may not sound like a problem, but frequently, you are rushed forward in the game with no way to return to your master and claim your shiny, new skills.  Compounding this problem, there is a good chance you will encounter newer masters along the way, but you’ll be unable to start studying under them unless you want to reset your progress with your old master.  Even through the flaws in execution, this is a great idea.

You could just move away from New York.

"Sandstorm" by Darude?

Masters are not only good for teaching you skills, they also alter your stats at level up.  Each character’s gains at level up are predetermined.  For example, Rei is a thief and gains lots of Agility.  But through the use of Masters, you can greatly alter how a character performs.  You could place Rei under Meryleep’s tutelage to gain even more agility if you wish.  Perhaps you’d like to keep him quick, but up his power and defense.  Then Bunyan (think Paul Bunyan, though he’s not a Paul) would be a great master.  You could even opt for more of a mage build by placing him under Emitai or Deis.  Finally, you could completely play against type and give him an agility penalizing master, like Fahl, and force Rei into being the tank of the group.  The strongest RPGs are the ones that allow the player freedom to build the characters while retaining the uniqueness of each character.  The master system is a perfect example of how to do this.  Again, it has its flaws, but the idea is great!  If you’re curious, here is how each master affects character growth.

What happens if you already have ten skills and you come across another you want to add to your arsenal?  There’s an easy solution.  You can record any of your learned skills onto your skill notes list, thus removing it from that character.  Skills may be added from your skill notes list onto specific characters by using consumable Skill Ink items.  They’re moderately difficult to come by, so don’t use them without some foresight.  You can add as many skills from your notes as you like per Skill Ink, so be sure to think through exactly what you want on each character beforehand in order to get the most out of every Skill Ink.

A few other points to note about stat gains at level up.  The stats your characters gain naturally tend to increase for about the first 30 levels or so, then they start to slow down a bit.  Once you hit level 50, stat gains become quite minimal, with some characters gaining literally nothing at level up before the use of masters.  Finally, characters cannot actually lose any points at level up.  Penalties from masters only affect the stats gained.  Let’s say that Momo would normally gain 3 HP at a certain level, but she is apprenticed under Ladon.  Even though Ladon imposes HP -6, she won’t lose 3 HP, she just won’t gain any.

I wouldn't do that if I were you...

Monsanto's been busy!

As you can see, this game really does offer a one-of-a-kind take on a tried-and-true genre.  If you’re had your fill of Final Fantasy and the like, but you still want to whet your RPG whistle, this game does offer a distinct experience that feels instantly familiar, but still does its own thing.  Check it out!  If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll likely have a great time with this one.

FlameAdds fire element (obviously)5 AP
FrostAdds ice element (duh)5 AP
ThunderAdds...  you get it5 AP
ShadowEvil5 AP
RadianceHoly5 AP
ForceGreatly raises Power8 AP
DefenderGreatly raises Defense8 AP
EldritchGreatly raises Intelligence8 AARP
MiracleMakes you huge16 AP
GrossIncreases your stats8 AP
ThornExaggerates your other genes8 AP
ReverseOther genes have opposite effects3 AP
MutantWeird, generally weak forms3 AP
???Can make alternate forms8 AP
TranceImproves most forms

8 AP

FailureWeakens most forms1 AP
FusionFusion dance - Fusion HA!16 AP
InfinityKaiser form40 AP

Next generation, the Sony Playstation emerged as the king of role playing games.  It only makes sense that the next BoF game would appear on that platform.  For better or for worse, this was a time period where the primary company associated with RPGs was Square.  Capcom had to make sure that its own Breath of Fire III would stand out.  Clearly, it did to Taintie on Patreon!  She wants to see Breath of Fire III.  Let’s examine the game based on those aspects that truly set it apart from the rest of the genre.

Notice those AP costs.  You not only have control over what form Ryu will take, but also how much that form will cost.  Take heed that this is not a one-time cost, either.  The total AP of the genes chosen is the cost to actually perform the transformation.  At the end of each turn (other than the one in which you changed), Ryu will lose AP equal to half the cost of the initial transformation.  This means that you actually can use some of Ryu’s AP for his other skills, but you’ll still generally want to limit doing so if you plan to use him primarily for his dragon forms.  It adds to the strategy and manages to be a lot of fun!  It is easily better implemented than in either of the first two games!

Oh no!  Giant enemy crabs!  Attack their weak spots for massive damage!

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This offends me!  How dare you, sir!

UMM...  REI...?

Ryu’s dragon ability (Accession) is only one of many abilities in this game.  Once more, players have a great amount of control of this aspect of the game.  Some abilities are learned naturally by each character, but there’s a special subset, known as skills, which is not.  Each character can have a maximum of 10 skills and no two characters can have the same skill at the same time, although some skills are available as regular abilities to some characters.  This gives you a surprising amount of direction in how your characters perform in combat.  You could, for example, load up Nina, a magic wielding character, with other magic spells for her skill slots.  Alternatively, you could give her some physical skills, defensive skills, or even buffs and debuffs, if you so choose.  She will always learn certain abilities at specific levels, but because you have almost total control over what her 10 skills will be, you can stray from the beaten path as much or as little as you so choose.

Umm...  Rei...?

Guest appearance by Brian Quinn!

Oh, you're no fun anymore!

RIP Edge, Christian, and Gangrel.

As luck would have it, Capcom did just that with the Breath of Fire series.  It started on the SNES.  This was a time when developers could be a bit more experimental in their design choices.  Too often, games’ budgets are so huge today that each title has to sell so many copies to turn a profit that creativity is, unfortunately, frowned upon.  Nevertheless, Capcom managed to turn out two successes in the RPG genre on a system known for having some of the all time greatest.

This fine guard must be Captain Obvious.

Don't look now, but I think this might be commentary.


These guys are smoking, so they're obviously bad guys.

Well...  Yeah...  Sorta...  

Damn!  If only this blasted sign weren't here...

Just because it's a tiger, it has to be Rei?  Nina's a racist!

We’ve spent some time on how your stats increase, but they can actually decrease in a unique way in this game.  Well, one of them can, anyway.  Typically, death and resurrection is handled in one of two ways in RPGs.  Either a character stays dead until you revive her or she comes back at the end of the battle with 1 HP.  This game falls into the 1HP realm, but it certainly adds its own twist to the trope.  If a character is automatically revived after battle, she takes a penalty to her max HP.  Obviously, this is to be avoided at all costs!  There are a few other ways to incur this punishment as well.  One of them is through the use of certain Skills.  AP isn’t always the only price you’ll have to pay…  Is that skill really worth it?  There’s also a late game dungeon, the Desert of Death (shudders), in which you lose max HP if you travel too long without water.

Do they have big thingies?

This robot is speaking my language!

For my life, I can't figure out what this upstanding vendor is selling

We gamers are a curious breed.  We always say we want innovative games that offer new and unique experiences.  Sadly, the data doesn’t seem to bear this out.  What games do we actually buy?  Final Fantasy LXIV, Mega Man 128, and Super Mario 652.  Don’t get me wrong.  Those of you paying attention will have already seen the love I have for Final Fantasy III, and Mega Man X.  And what self-respecting gamer doesn’t enjoy Mario games (I even snuck in a Mario shirt in this video)?  Either way, the market data is clear that we don’t want genuinely new experiences.

Guest appearance by Bernie Sanders!

Yeah.  Gimme somethin' hard.  It's been a rough day.

What's this guy's problem?

Specifically, this game handles the dragon transformations very well.  They’re waaaaaay too OP in BoF1 and not very useful at all in BoF2.  In the first game, transforming is a fairly cheap, one time only cost per transformation.  Oh, and that transformation fully heals Ryu (the main character of the game and series) and greatly expands his stats and abilities.  Any one of these traits would make it good, but wow.  The second time around, each dragon transformation burns up all of your AP (more commonly called MP in this genre) to use.  Worse still, each one is only a single high-power attack.  I know what you’re thinking.  Just use up most of your AP and then it’s nearly free, right?  Well, yes, but the damage of the attack scales in proportion to how much AP you have left when you do it.  This means Ryu is either built to pull off a single dragon attack on bosses OR to use his other spells.

When these gay firefighters aren't posing for beefcake calendars, you can find them standing in this hallway.

Great!  I'll take two of each!  No questions!

Shit happens, kid.  Get over it!

But we’re here to talk about the third game.  I had to briefly mention the first two in order to show you how well this idea is executed in Breath of Fire III.  As you progress through the game, you will collect Dragon Genes.  You must have at least one of these in order for Ryu to transform.  Different genes provide different effects to your transformation and each has its own cost.  You are allowed to choose up to 3 genes from a pool of 18 per transformation.  This allows you great flexibility and customization!  There are 987 different possible outcomes!  Here is each gene and what it does.

So where do all of these skills come from?  One answer to that question is from the enemies!  During battle, each character can examine an enemy.  This costs that character his turn in combat, but if he witnesses an enemy use a skill, there’s a chance (12.5%, usually) he will learn it.  In Final Fantasy terms, this basically means every character in this game is a Blue Mage.  These range from the phenomenal (Triple Blow) to the useless (Bad Back) and from the difficult to learn (Triple Blow, again, at 2%) to easy (Bad Back… 100%).  It can get frustrating at times when your characters repeatedly fail to learn desired skills and they’re not all worth it, but as a rule of thumb, you should stick with it.  With six characters, each of whom has ten skill slots, you’re looking at 60 skills to fill out everyone’s lists.