Breath of Fire III Review (PS, 1997)

It may not be as flashy and cinematic as other Playstation era RPGs, but Breath of Fire III has a unique charm to it that I haven't found in any other game to date.

No other world map tops this in comfyness

The visuals in this game may overally not strike out too much, but it features some superb spritework nonetheless. Not to mention something about the art direction coupled with the soundtrack emits a nice feeling of comfort. It's an experience I haven't found in too many games. In terms of art and music Breath of Fire III is quite a few steps up from its predecessors. You can tell the generational leap despite the heavy use of 2D sprites.

Story and progression feel similar to Breath II. The main plot takes a back seat to mandatory side quests most of the time, but all in all the game feels very concise. In terms of progression it's still slower than most big JRPG hits of its time, but it's a clear step up from truely archaic NES games. Some people still find it too slow for their taste, but the progression speed of this one never bothered me. The writers also did a good job implementing the cast into the side quests. Comparatively there is not much dialogue in this game, but the characters still shine. To be honest the party characters of Breath III always left a bigger impression on me than the casts of most Final Fantasy games.

Battles offer a lot more options now. The combat system has evolved a lot since the switch to a new console generation. Characters can now learn skills from enemies, and the player is free to reassign these skills to other party members using an exhaustible resource called Skill Ink. Furthermore so called masters can be unlocked and assigned to characters. Masters allow your party to learn additional skills and affect each characters stat growths. There's a variety of battle formations to choose from that also have an affect on stats during combat. To sum it up the battle system in Breath III allows for a lot of customization and different play styles. It follows that this entry to the series comes with a lot more replay value. Furthermore there are dragon genes hidden all over the world that can be used in many different combinations by the main character, resulting in a wide variety of possible dragon transformations. The dragon transformation system in III is easily my favorite of the entire series.

Breath III also features a wide variety of mini games. Some of them play a role during the main quest, some of them not much or not at all. The fishing sub game is worth mentioning because it's actually pretty fun and yields many good rewards when the player makes use of it throughout the game. Additionally there is now a faery village side quest that allows the player to build their own town with lots of unique features - something I really digged when I first played this game as an early teenager.

All in all Breath of Fire III deserves the attention of fans of classic JRPGs. There are no cinematics and not much action here. People that got into RPGs because of later Final Fantasy titles might find this one boring. But for those with a taste for slower paced games Breath III might turn out to be a real gem.