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Steven J. Mepham

For many, the Breath of Fire series elicits nostalgia faster than looking at your childhood photos. Spanning across five retro console games and one mobile game, it is a series that is well known but underappreciated. My first voyage into this sublime series came with Breath of Fire III on the PlayStation One.

For a long time, Breath of Fire III and IV stood as my favourite games alongside, Final Fantasy VIII, Vagrant Story, Grandia and Legend of Dragoon.

I think the charm of Breath of Fire III is in its characters and its story. While much of the PlayStation era RPG’s had moved on to the sharp graphics found with Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII, Breath of Fire III held onto the sprite driven graphics of the Super Nintendo, though it has to be said with beautifully crafted Pseudo 3D environments. While the heavy hitting Final Fantasy continued with orchestra classic soundtracks, Breath of fire III turned to Jazz as the basis of its tracklist. the result was a sublime soundtrack with an energetic, refreshing feel.

As with Final Fantasy, there are a number of aspects shared within each Breath of Fire Game. The protagonist, Ryu, is always a blue-haired boy who can transform into a dragon, Nina is usually one of the earliest party members, and is a winged race from Wyndia. Humanoids with animalistic features such as ears and tails are usually present. The narrative of most games revolves around Ryu, who he is or where his power comes from. usually, in seeking the answer to this mystery, the main adversary is revealed. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter breaks from this tradition, with its main focus being getting Nina to the surface while uncovering the mystery of the underground world.

While the graphics of each game, never really challenged their respective consoles, they were exemplary at nuanced storytelling. Ryu often being a silent protagonist, gave breadth for the player to infer the type of person he is, though this freedom is constrained by the limits of the plot and the succession of events. However, because of this, the dialogue can often be clunky, with NPC’s pseudo-addressing the player to disseminate vital information. An example of this is during Breath of Fire III’s opening after Ryu is separated from Rei and Teepo, addressing NPC’s would give the response “Lookin’ for your friends, eh?” While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does grow tiresome after repeated periods of trying to uncover what to do next. While this can drag down the overall gaming experience, the Breath of Fire Series is still one to be cherished and a remastered release of the series would be well received by longtime fans of the series, and an attractive RPG for new players to uncover.

Whether this is possible, would come down to Capcom’s appetite for risk. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter while being a brilliant game and bringing some of the usual elements, was so different from the older games that its reception was tempered by series fans who to this day state its not a Breath of Fire game. I think a lot of this sentiment comes from its action-based combat, lack of explorable towns, limited party members and linear story. The game quite literally takes players down endless corridors similar in design to the ruins found in Megaman 2. Which is a far cry from the sprawling overworld maps and detailed narrative of the previous games.

Capcom’s attempt at reviving the franchise with Breath of Fire 6 was equally disastrous. Being a mobile game, it received heavy criticism from its console heavy fan base, often being seen as little more than a cash grab. While it drew elements from the previous titles, it lacked the substance to draw in a sustainable player pool and inevitably was shut down in 2017.

Despite this, I think Breath of fire as a series has enough charisma and Nostalgia to make a success of being re-released or even remade. While some of the earlier games are less developed than gamers expect of modern games, Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV could easily draw the attention of modern players and with the current trend of releasing remasters, Capcom could easily revive the franchise with a remastered collection or even a full remake. The question, however, is do they have the appetite to try? If Resident Evil 2: Remake is anything to go, they are certainly capable, but its franchise is a completely different beast.

Breath of Fire, while it does hold a fan base, is not as vocal as often found with Final Fantasy Games. Its games while as loved and as endearing, do not hold the same weight and that is enough to make it less attractive as a remaster proposition. In time, hopefully, it will raise its proud head above the parapet to be discovered anew.

Breath of fire Openings
Breath of Fire III opening – Showing the events of Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire IV opening
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter Opening
Breath of fire 6: trailer

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