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Discuss famous games if you're interested (v2)

 
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msw188




Joined: 02 Jul 2003
Posts: 1041

PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Discuss famous games if you're interested (v2) Reply with quote

Here is a (long) review I wrote for another SNES RPG, Breath of Fire 2. The first one of these I wrote was for Final Fantasy III, which is in my journal as well. Please everyone feel free to comment/complain about any of my opinions; most of us came here because we enjoyed old RPGs, so here is another chance to discuss one of them.

Breath of Fire 2 Review AKA All that is gold does not glitter, but many who wander are lost

Is it wrong to call this game an ugly duckling? The first game in the series was released by Squaresoft in the US, and was given proper polish for its time as one of the first RPGs on the system. This second entry into the series was released by Capcom, and at first glance it appears to be a step down, at least production-wise. But I will contend that beneath all of the superficial flaws there is a gem of a game here. There are some deep flaws as well, but none of these persist throughout the game (in contrast to the few deep flaws of more famous games such as Final Fantasy III - see my review of that game elsewhere), and in the end this was almost certainly the most rewarding RPG I played on the SNES.

I like to begin RPG reviews by discussing the aesthetic qualities because these least affect my enjoyment of the game. Breath of Fire 2 is not very noteworthy in either the graphical or musical department. If anything, the graphics of this game are WORSE than those of the first installment in the series. Its not for any lack of detail, its more a lack of 'beauty'. Everything, from characters to landscapes to battle backgrounds, is drawn and animated competently, but there is not one thing in the game that I would without reservation refer to as beautiful.

That said, there is a fairly impressive variety. All of the main characters (in all of their various incarnations) have detailed animations for their attacks (such as the hero swinging his sword). Enemies have animations as well. Although none of the backgrounds are beautiful, there are many of them, from open fields to riversides to forests to deserts to the inside of a whale. Of course, the background for the inside of the whale doubles as a background for the inside of a fat queen's body, but maybe that's all just part of the joke, eh?

The music shares similar qualities with the graphics. There is little here that sticks out as memorable, which is unfortunate because this is one of the few RPGs I've played that gave access to a soundtrack within the game. Once again, there is little to complain about besides a general lack of inspiration and beauty. Although none of the music is irritating while it plays, listeners will most likely forget about it soon afterwards.

The story of this game is a hard thing to judge. There are some great surprises for players to discover, some small and some big, but the pacing is horrible. The mysteries and hooks that are brought up in the beginning of the game take what seems like ages to be brought back into focus again as the early-to-mid plotline of the game seems to barely hold together at all. What seems at first to be a simple task (to find a thief to clear your friend's name) somehow becomes an odessey across half of the globe and even though the player soon begins to understand what the real task will become, he is still directed towards finding this seemingly random and totally unrelated thief. Of course, this thief is actually more closely related to the central mystery about the hero and the Evil of the world than it at first appears, but this isn't revealed for at least another 20 hours of playing time or so AFTER finally catching the damn girl.

But after all that complaining I can't call the plot flat-out bad. Because when the surprises, whether big like the thief's or small like Nimufu's, are revealed, they really strike me as pretty well thought-out and clever. Some of them are genuinely funny, or just simple fun, and some manage to tie some loose ends very well. But many of these are either incredibly obscure (Sten's history, especially in relation to El, a possible Township citizen) or so disconnected from the original presentation of the mystery (the thief, and most of the characters' backstories, especially Nina and Sten again) that they end up tying ends that have been so loose for so long that they feel somewhat underwhelming in the end. Actually, a second playthrough did wonders for my appreciation of the various stories involved in this game.

And I do mean "various". Just as with the graphics, one thing that shines through despite the somewhat poor presentation of the story is the pure variety and inventiveness involved. Most of it is actually very playful, but not necessarily in a childish sort of way. Actually, the sense of humor in this game is one of its greatest strengths. I wasn't joking about entering a fat queen's body. Some cliches are teased, like trying to help an aging tree keep its memory, or having a beautiful girl kiss a frog to turn it back into a prince ... frog. Other times its just playing through funny scenarios such as a huge burly thing (Rand) being forced by his mother to beat up grass and rocks in his backyard. Finding Nimufu in the bathroom at the Wildcat's was great.

But what is a game without gameplay? This is where I feel Breath of Fire 2 shines brighter than any other SNES RPG I've played. First of all, this game is hard. Dungeons are long and occasionally quite confusing. Random enemies range in difficulty from simple to very difficult. Players on a first playthrough will most likely face several defeats on their journey, and spending time levelling up is a necessity throughout the quest. But one really great thing about all of this is that it is consistent. No dungeon in the game feels rediculously easy or hard; nearly every single area is balanced well so that a first attempt will be almost certain to induce some heavy breathing if no time has been given to preparation. Bosses are not always balanced as well (Trout was a joke after going through the whole Sima Fort fiasco), but most of them are decent challenges. There are certainly some tedious and some frustrating moments, but they are mostly kept short. The only seriously off-putting dungeon for me was the Church of Bando, where the random encounter rate seemed to be blown through the roof and the hall where the player must continuously return to the switch after checking every door is honestly painful and unforgivable for an RPG with otherwise well-balanced dungeons.

Singular battles are okay. There is enough variety to keep things interesting, but nothing particularly noteworthy. There are eight main characters (seven of which can transform) and one hidden character, each with some shared and some unique skills, but most of them are just variations on inflicting or recovering damage, and some (Sten's RIP, for instance) are just plain useless unless you are trying to make the game harder. There are elements and status afflictions in this game, but they do not feel either as varied or as intuitive as in, say, Final Fantasy III. No, Breath of Fire II's battles focus on plain and simple damage and the difficulty of inflicting more pain to the enemies than they do to you; there are very few quirks and/or ways to cheat an enemy who is statistically superior to your forces in this game. This may be what keeps the dungeons so well-balanced, but it does occasionally get a little boring, until you reach the next area where the enemies are strong enough to whoop your ass again.

Interestingly, it is outside of battle where Breath of Fire 2 shows more ideas and variety than most of its competition. To match the variety of the visuals and the story, there is a vast amount of different things that one can do outside of battle. One great thing that the Breath of Fire series was known for was giving each character a unique ability while walking about. The Hero can fish, Bow and Katt can hunt (and are better at hunting different things), Rand can roll around as a giant ball, etc. Most of these are great ideas and add another dimension to choosing who to take on a journey. Fairly early on in the game the player can begin construction of his own town and choose who to invite to live there. There are many people who can live in the player's town, and some are very helpful while some are less so, but none are necessary - every time the game is replayed, a slightly different experience can be realized here. There does seem to be a decent variety of equipment, although the poor translation really makes it difficult to understand what some of it does. Oh, and don't forget the Shaman bonding! Yet another dimension to add to party choosing - if the player plans on taking both Katt and Bow, he can't use both of their best shaman transforms! What really makes all of this shine is that a lot of it is VERY IMPORTANT to the main game. In contrast to the mini-games and side quests that add variety in other RPGs, here a player will truly struggle with the game if he chooses to ignore his town entirely, or Shamans, or even being able to hunt and fish. Furthermore, these things do NOT lose their usefulness as the game wears on, another important aspect. This kind of variety of gameplay outside of battle that does not fade as the main game continues is actually quite rare in RPGs, but Breath of Fire 2 shows us that this need not be the case.

So would I call this my favorite SNES RPG? I'm inclined to say yes, but there is something that prevents me from doing so. I can only call it a lack of immersion. As fun and balanced as the game is, and as clever and funny as the story is, I rarely get the feeling of actually being the explorer in the unknown world, as I do in my favorite Dragon Warrior games. Nor do I get the cinematic magic that occasionally manages to shine through in Square's games. However, I will repeat without reservation that I find this to be the one of the most interesting RPGs that still plays traditionally, and that must certainly count for something.
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msw188




Joined: 02 Jul 2003
Posts: 1041

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I guess either people aren't familiar with BoF 2, or just don't care to discuss old RPGs (or maybe this review just sucked really bad). Anyways, just in case the first scenario is correct, I wanted to ask if there IS a classic RPG which people might be interested in talking about, and maybe I will try to write a review about it similar to these last two (FF3 and BoF2). Here are the RPGs that I've played that I'd feel comfortable reviewing:
Dragon Warrior 2-8 (not 7, probably)
Chrono Trigger
Tales of Phantasia (I'd have to replay, but I've only played it once so it could be interesting)
Final Fantasy 1 (I'd have to replay possibly though, so I'm not thrilled about this one)
Super Mario RPG (same as FF1)
Breath of Fire 1 (same as FF1)
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Moogle1
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't played BoF2.

Tales of Phantasia has one of my favorite VG plots, plus the game itself is pretty interesting. I'd like to discuss that.

SMRPG and CT would also be good choices. CT has the best battles in any traditional RPG, IMO, and SMRPG has a great out-of-battle interface (though the game is eclipsed by the superior M&L Superstar Saga for the GBA).
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msw188




Joined: 02 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder how many people here have even played Tales of Phantasia. I'd be pretty surprised if more people are familiar with that than with Breath of Fire 2. But all the same, if enough people mention, I will try to put it back in and get through it (review spoiler: the battle system is kind of interesting at first, but becomes a chore as the game wears on)

I sort of expected Chrono Trigger to be considered. I don't know if I should have even listed FF1 and SMRPG; I really doubt I will have the motivation to get through either of those two games ever again in my life. But I still would like to hear if anyone else found the FF3 discussion fun, and would want to try one of the other games on that list. Or maybe someone else has some thoughts on a famous game...?
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My first completed OHR game, Tales of the New World:
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Newbie_Power




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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have ToP (GBA version), but I never played through it because the battery kept dying and I couldn't get very far due to my save game constantly getting erased.
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Onlyoneinall
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've played through BoF2 on numerous occasions and ToP for the SNES, but I never beat ToP..
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JSH357
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I detest the BoF series, so that's why I haven't commented. (I've attempted the first 3 games)

ToP is great, but one of the most boring games to replay ever.
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JCBonz1




Joined: 09 Sep 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I made the mistake (?) of passing up BoF2 for the Lord of the Rings SNES game (which I didn't like & ended up selling it back to a store to buy Illusion of Gaia, I think). But I did like BoF1 quite a bit - someday I'll get the 2nd one, although I've heard varying reviews on the game.

CT's always fun to talk about... & Secret of Mana is one of my favorites too.
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msw188




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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, my dissertations are not much help for people who haven't played the game.

Overall I'd recommend it, but it does depend a little on what you want from a game. If you want a dramatic plot-driven walk-along (a la World of Balance FF3), BoF2 really doesn't cut it. Furthermore, if you want a lot of battle options to allow for various ways of avoiding statistical (level-based) disadvantages, (again, like FF3), then you will probably be disappointed once again. I'm pretty sure that a 'low-level game' would be impossible in BoF2 (likewise for the DW games).

If you enjoy quirks in your story, and want a sense of humor over a sense of drama, then this game is for you. If you don't mind random battles, and enjoy the challenge of resource management in a dungeon, then this game is for you. If you enjoy customizing your party via choices of WHO TO USE outweighing choices of WHAT TO USE, then this game is for you.

Welcome to CP by the way (I just noticed the 1 post count).

EDIT: 'outweighing' gets my idea across better, I think
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My first completed OHR game, Tales of the New World:
http://castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=161

This website link is for my funk/rock band, Euphonic Brew:
www.euphonicbrew.com
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