For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.
After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:
I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."
We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvment.
Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
61- Breath of Fire 2:
Year: 1993 (released 1995).
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Breath of Fire recently came to my mind with the news of Breath of Fire 6. Which was released with much chagrin by fans of the series and gaming in general as Capcom went ahead to deface another beloved series into a husk of its former self. However, I realized that BoF was in fact never a strongly followed series. It was both critically and financially lukewarm. In Fact, most Final Fantasy titles sold more individually than the entire BoF series combined.
Hence, it is somewhat confusing to see many fans remember the game fondly. In reviewing BoF2, I understood both facts. I understood why the game is remembered fondly by those who played it, and also why it didn't receive much critical or commercial acclaim.
"Cooperation! I don't think you understand the current situation"
It is true that BoF2 story is about an ancient evil being fought by an ancient tribe, it is true that you (the hero) are a destined child that is going to defeat this evil. BoF main story arc breaks no new ground, and I immediately concluded I was going into a typical RPG tale.
Yet, the story refused to go with the safest path. While it had the subtlety of a jackhammer, and the language of a preschooler, it managed to be interesting, dramatic, and grand. There are no less sophisticated arguments against organized religion in any medium ever.
This story is only as well told as it is because of the unique characters telling it. While they are without a doubt a bunch of cardboard cutouts with laughable dialogue, they manage to be endearing by virtue of both their simplicity and design. From the villains, who are wonderfully evil without any cause, to the playable characters whose unique stories round up the game. Each of the playable characters has their own story, which are all satisfying and add a lot to the overall story. The RPG enthusiast will note many of what we consider cliche today, but this is from an age pre-categorization.
These characters ultimately remain memorable. Those who are weak, but try hard anyway. Those who are wrong, but are loyal to their faults. Those who afraid, but swallow their fear to protect their friends. We can be cynical about these tales, but we would lose a lot of its charms by being so. It is no surprise that many fond memories are of these moments in BoF2.
"There is a bathroom in every house"
I tested the above fact myself, and found that every house designed to be lived in must at least have one room for its sprites to do their business in. This meticulous design aspect lends itself to a number of other areas in the game. Each town and village is unique, and most of the character sprites are well designed. I say most because of the bland design of the hero himself, who dons a boring white cut shirt.
However, all the evil bosses look deliciously evil, while all other sprites in the game convey their personality by their design. The star of the artistic department is surely the white dragon you see in the beginning of the game, whose white scaly skin is dotted with green moss underscoring his ancient stature.
In the other hand, the rest of the game is not as carefully done. With many of the background assets being reused, especially those of the bland dungeons. We can spot the difference between the carefully crafted sprites, and the wavy NES still-shot in the background.
Nonetheless, great care has been given to the area of the game where you spend most of your time; battles. The battle backgrounds are colorful and vibrant, even if they are not impressive. The enemy design and animations are also spot on, with the powerful bosses looking like the menace they are, and the EXP fodder looking as goofy and nonthreatening as they can be.
"Grandma, can the both of us unite with him, he is so handsome"
With turn-based battles, the best innovations come in the form of preparing for those battle outside of combat. BoF answer to that challenge is the Shaman system, where player characters are fused with the female shamans (hence the joke) to get some enhancements. The most basic of those enhancements is rudimentary statues boost, but different Shaman-character combinations get different results. With more effective fusion, the character changes color, and with very effective fusions the character completely transforms into a much powerful version.
Taken by itself, this system could be the best customization system in SNES RPGs, with a caveat. Yes, it shall become apparent that many of BoFs systems are accompanied by caveats.
First, the last shaman who is responsible for the transformation of at least 3 characters is only introduced before the final dungeon.
Second, each character loses their fusion if they die or get to a low HP.
These are frustrating limitations to deal with. Having to go back all the way to your village to fuse again just because you got beat up a little screams of bad game design.
Shaman System: +2.5
"Hey Ryu, I am looking for a home, can I live in your village?"
Speaking of "your village", BoF2 had a citizen recruitment system 3 years before the first Suikoden. At one point in the game, you get control over some village, and you can invite homeless NPCs to your village. These NPCs pay you back by performing a range of services, from the useless job of guarding your town (which is never needed), to selling you the best equipment in the game. Of course, the system comes with its frustrating limitations.
First, you can only recruit 6 out of 27 NPCs, and even then, each set of NPCs are randomly assigned to one of six houses which makes recruiting the best ones a pain.
Second, once you recruit one you can't kick them out of your damn house. You recruited the thieving bastard, well, tough luck.
Again, BoF2 frustrates us with another confounding limitation. What could have been a fun way to liven up your village by getting mostly useless features is now a village filled with the same useful people in most game saves. BoF2 could have started a village building tradition, but instead gave us a half-baked idea.
Your Village: +2.5
"101 in Caveman Design"
If the above two section did not convince you of the prevalence of Caveman design in the BoF2, then the lack of a dash button will. Everything in BoF2 takes more time to do than it should. From navigating the menus, to walking in the street. It takes forever to reach any place, as the encounter rate is through the roof. The game lacks polish in many of its areas. It lacks polish in its hinting and fishing minigames, the droprate of items from enemies is ridiculously low, and there is no monster book to keep track of them anyways.
The backwards design of BoF2 is nearly summed in my final moments of the game. I was with my full transformed party in the last levels of the final dungeon, just before the final boss. There, I encountered a story sequence, and when it finished I was surprised that my party lost their transformed form. It had nothing to do with the story sequence. I had to escape the final dungeon with an Exit spell, reassign the transformation, then slog back all the way down. There was a town in the middle of the dungeon, but I couldn't "wrap" to it because the Wrap spell wraps you just outside the towns, not the towns themselves.
I had to slog through the obnoxious final dungeon twice just to face the final boss with my preferred party. Elsewhere in the game are more evidence of bad design. Direction are misleading and rarely helpful, so you find your destinations with a guide or by trial and error. In one instance, the game flat out mistranslates your destination and you are left to luck and heaven. I counted 35 translation errors by myself.
Ultimately, this is a game plagued by the worst of SNES design. And if I actually played it in the SNES, I would be less favorable towards it. As it stands, playing it with an emulator (Wii U or otherwise) is the sanest thing to do.
Caveman Design: -5 if played in an emulator, -10 in the original version
"There won't by any orchestration of this soundtrack anytime soon"
It can be said that RPGs strongest asset is in their ability to convey emotion, drama, excitement, and adventure with their music. It can also be said that BoF2 music conveys non of those. It is a completely bland and forgettable soundtrack. I can only say that 2 or 3 tracks are noteworthy, including and okay intro theme.
By the time I finished the game, I realized that them music was singularly uninspiring. From the basic town music, to the boring final battle theme. This is one game where the music was just written to check a box. It follows no style or genre, and it flows randomly with little direction.
Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame expanded SNES FFs into a third dimension with his music. BoF2 music only glory is that it didn't drag the rest of the game down with it.
First, let me get other things out of the way. The combat is regular tbb, but the varied characters with their unique skills and attributes make it fresh and unique, however those skills are never explained and you are left to your own devices with only a poor text explanation to aid you.
The many towns and villages are interesting and help underscore the story, it is even easier to go to those towns by their description than by their name, mostly because you don't get the name of anyplace you visit like a normal game should.
As you can see, BoF2 is clearly a flawed gem. It is a great game encased by a thick shell of backwards design. I now understand the fondness fans had for the game, for its characters and story. I also understand why it never had much success, as it must have tested the patience of many who played it. BoF2 could have been another pillar for Crapcom to then deface years after in its current form as Crapcom, but it never was a pillar. BoF6 might be another loss for gaming, but BoF2 not being as great as it could have been was a bigger loss in itself.
"BoF 1 vs. BoF 2"
It is very surprising how different BoF 1 is from 2. While 2 went in a much better storytelling direction, it took a nosedive mechanically for some reason. Bof 1 is the more accessible game, but it is a much weaker story.
I realized that I would want a more comprehensive look at the top 100 games of IGN. Therefore, I decided to revisit the earlier numbers of the list and review titles I would not normally have reviewed. I will therefore start at #100 Fina Fight and see if it deserves opening the list.
For Previous SNES game Reviews: