Today’s topic : Breath of Fire.
The Breath of Fire series was developed by Capcom, produced and published by Squaresoft for the first, then Capcom for the rest. The games started coming out in 1993 and kept going up until 2002 for a number of systems, starting with the NES and ending with the Playstation 2, before moving on to the Game Boy Advance and Playstation Portable for the remakes of the first 3 games. Many mobile spin-offs kept coming out until 2008, but were mostly mini games for cell phones.
The Breath of Fire series focused on the adventures of Ryu, usually one of the last survivors of his clan, the Dragon Clan, that has the power to transform into dragons and access their primevial powers. Ryu is always portrayed as a strong, honest, modest and brave individual, always with blue hair, varying in colour tone in each game. Ryu’s personality is explained solely through his actions, as like in the Ys series up until now[the exception being the drama cds and Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki], the player views the game through Ryu’s eyes and thus, when Ryu speaks and interacts with the other characters, he appears as a mute to the player but not to others. *A noteable exception would be the third Ryu, from Breath of Fire III, who is an actual mute and so far there hasn’t been much indication whether the player sees the world through the eyes of that Ryu or as a third person.* It should be noted that Ryu takes ques from Adol from the Ys and is almost opposite to him; while Ryu is a blue haired hero of destiny[almost avoided by the first Ryu, but his sister passed her role to him, thus starting the tradition] that has to fight gods with immense magic powers and a large party that is kept together by the concept of fate vs religion and gods, Adol on the other hand is a hot-blooded, red-haired brave adventurer, with absolutely nothing out of the ordinary nor supernatural powers or anything, yet due to his luck, he finds himself facing evil during his adventures along with his friends.
Among Ryu’s abilities, Dragon Transformations was his and the series trademark and explanation of the title. Each and every game would spice things up with every title, offering alternatives to the way each transformed to a powerful dragon.
Joining Ryu in every game, is Nina. She is usually a member of a tribe of humans that have wings on their back and are blessed with the ability to fly and turn into a huge bird via magic, to carry other people and at some games, she is the princess of the tribe. Nina is almost always a mage and a possible romantic interest of Ryu, always left with strong implications from both parties.
These are the characters…at least Ryu’s here…
The Breath of Fire series is noted for tackling the religious matters and war against blind religion, something that’s been a subject of debate in Japan and one of the themes of several RPGs, even before this series[again, Ys II would be a good example], but due to it being the first RPG from Japan to reach the coasts of the West, it became famous quickly for this controversy. Another thing the series is famous for is the ambiguous timeline it features, having games being straight up, yet so many hundreds of years apart from each other, with the fifth being a reboot or seperate universe in the series and the fourth being either a prequel or a soft reboot.
Timelines may be confusing, but Ryu’s Dragon Powers sure aren’t.
Apart from Ryu and Nina, almost every other character for each installment either falls into a standard category of a character from a previous game of the series or just an entirely new character for the series. Despite that and the conflicting natures of some characters, there was an honest chemistry between the party and not the kind of rug-tag band of thugs or the connected by fate group, rather the kind of honest group that comes together, a sharp contrast to Ryu and Nina’s destiny in the context of the series. It was one of the small quirks of the series that was hidden quite cleverly, but at the same time fell into a formula that’s used in japanese RPGs.
Years pass and it’s still the same. It’s not bad to have a staple series here and there in each genre.
The designs were among the most eye catching during the time it came out in the west, due to it having an extremely obvious anime feeling via the illustrations, that grew and evolved throughout the ages along with the series and its remakes, into something different almost each time, making it a quirk of the series, compared to Final Fantasy which is just the evolution of a certain art style or with the Falcom series which falls again to that same category, an evolution of an existing style.
Dragons in my anime-styled game? Now that’s grandiose! For its time at least.
Lastly, the gameplay is an excellent indication of the RPG growth in Japan, due to the series reamining extremely formulaic and basic, yet the fun that the game offered really made fans of the series come back for more each time. Comparing to a modern day japanese RPG or even a bad modern Final Fantasy game, the Breath of Fire series is incredibly basic and formulaic, yet its charm does not wane, possibly due to the story taking notes from the Castlevania series’ story proggression, thus the gameplay is affected from the story.
Here’s where things can get confusing…
Fans of the game are still calling out for a sequel and many developers have expressed great interest in making games for the series if Capcom is unwilling to, as of 2009, when Capcom made a very sloppy, if not amateurish statement that “the series is on hiatus / is resting until further notice”, making it incredibly obvious that they don’t want to make another game, but for some reason, they are also unwilling to let other developers make games for the series, developers like Camelot Software Planning, the makers of the masterful Golden Sun series.
Many Breath of Fire games have been released as mobile games, usually mini games, yet the two that stuck in my head, were the two Breath of Fire IV spin-offs because they used Action-RPG gameplay instead of the traditional RPG gameplay that the series has. That presented a great opportunity for good spin-offs for the series, there is good potential there Capcom.
Ryu and Nina are currently resting, yet due to popular demand they still have relevance in the RPG world, making appearances here and there. I hope that either Camelot gets to make Breath of Fire games, one way or another or, I really…sincerely hope that Capcom strikes a good deal with Falcom and gives them full control over the Breath of Fire brand for the main RPG series and have an Action-RPG spin-off series, even if it limited to Japan. I hope this franchise is revived and perhaps remade…remade while softly rebooting the series just to connect the three first games far more closely than before, so that they can continue with the more coherent “lineage storytelling” the Castlevania series uses. Even if the series is remade as Action-RPGs for the protable systems, I wouldn’t complain, the remakes we’ve had were quite good.
GODDAMMIT CAPCOM! GOD – FREAKING – DAMMIT CAPCOM!! So…I guess the series is dead…and the killer is surprisingly the new game that’s going to come out. THE IRONY! THE FUCKING IRONY!!