GSQ8: A frog’s tale

I’m not going to lie: Breath of Fire III may well be the first game I ever resented. I had somewhat enjoyed the original Breath of Fire (enough to rent it, not quite enough to finish it), and I picked up III at launch, flush with affection for RPGs in the heady days immediately following Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, Final Fantasy VII, SaGa Frontier, and Final Fantasy Tactics, looking forward to another great story amidst challenging combat in a vast world. And it never arrived. I reached the end of the game, some 60-odd hours in, and it just kind of fizzled out. This struck me as a pretty hefty investment of time for no real payoff, and I didn’t appreciate being jerked around like that.

Later that year, I played Xenogears and gained a sense of perspective. But still, for a while, I was pretty miffed at Breath of Fire III.

This effusive retrospective by Philip Armstrong makes me feel pretty guilty about that. I don’t think I’d necessarily enjoy Breath of Fire III any more if I played it again today, but at least now I see what they were angling for with the game. The ability to make me change my mind about an opinion I’ve held for more than a decade? That’s quite the mutant superpower, Mr. Armstrong.

Yes, I know about your secret identity… Loki.

20 thoughts on “GSQ8: A frog’s tale

  1. Ha. Careless minors.

    …anyway. I rented BoF3 a few times; remember enjoying it. I also got right up to the end of the game, had to return it, and accidentally deleted my save file before I could rent it again.

    I keep meaning to give it another playthrough, but games I keep meaning to play is an even longer list than games I keep meaning to finish.

    And I hear 4’s better.

  2. Wow. You make Breath of Fire III sound AMAZING, Philip Armstrong! TOO BAD I ALREADY KNOW THE TRUTH.

    I still want to play it again!

  3. I always thought this was an especially pretty game, and it’s funny how much Teepo’s (albeit brief) battle sprites call to mind those of Fou’s a game later. I would also venture a joke about The Brood vis a vi the X-Men vis a vi Ridley Scott, but the new games journalism police might come get me. Unless they clash with the old game journalism police, which I like to imagine as some sort of Gangs of New York style showdown with Scary Larry and Sushi-X on one side and people with real names on the other.

  4. I played BoF III from start to finish in total isolation while spending the summer at my family’s vacation home, and I could not agree more with Philip’s experience in the desert. At first, I hated it passionately. But somehow the experience grew on me, and moreover, drove home just how desolate the game’s world actually was.

    Had I played the game in a less isolated environment, I think I probably would have given up before that change of heart occurred. Fortunately, not having any other real options for entertainment drove me on to the finish.

    I’m glad it did. While I think BoF 3 is still the worst game in the series, it still felt worth my time. I can’t really blame anyone else for disliking it, though.

    • Yes. There are a handful of things I remember about playing the game, and the desert is the strongest. The memory of the desolate atmosphere is far stronger than the memory that it was irritating to play.

      (Also, I’m from the desert, so the setting resonates with me. Today’s high is 108; it’s hard to escape the feeling of an elemental threat, even in the city.)

      • Still have the cartridge but I haven’t played it since it was new.

        Desert must not have left much of an impression on me; mostly I recall being annoyed by the blind underground maze navigation as the dog. Which is where I quit on my second playthrough.

        I DO remember the SoM desert, though; it’s pretty vast in my recollection though I don’t know if it was in reality.

  5. I absolutely hated Bof III on my first playthrough, but more recently I’ve come to appreciate the things it does well. The first time I was trying to rush through to get to the “good” stuff, but the game actively encourages you to play at a leisurely pace – the encounter rate is halved if you walk everywhere as opposed to running.

    It does a lot of things badly, of course. Especially those mini-games, oh man. There was one in particular where you have to get vinegar out of a well(?), and the instructions are so vague you could just be stuck there forever, like I nearly was. And don’t get my started on the faulty directions for the desert(I think that mistake was in the game itself, not just the Strategy Guide.)

    • “the encounter rate is halved if you walk everywhere as opposed to running.”

      Wha — ?

      Now that’s just awful.

      • Whaaaaaat, seriously? The encounter rate is 75% of my problem with the game!


      • It’s amazing how much an encounter rate can kill enjoyment of a game. I quit Suikoden 5 near the end because it just got too irritating.

        And it was UNNECESSARY. I only saw a Game Over screen twice in that game: once when it made me split into two parties and I’d only leveled enough characters to sustain one, and once in one of those Ogre Battle-lite protect-the-castle segments where I defeated an enemy group and it “retreated” directly onto my fucking castle and won instantly. Other than that the game was trivially easy; ratcheting the encounters down by half might have actually given it a challenge. Sometimes I’m tempted to look for Game Shark codes to see if I could do just that.

        I didn’t remember BoF3 having random encounters; I recalled it having a similar battle design to Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG. I must have just been remembering that battles took place on the field map instead of a separate background. (Er, right? Again, it’s been ages.)

        Unavoidable random battles themselves are one of those things I’m about out of patience for; like save points, they’re a relic of an age of limited resources that has no place in a modern game.

        DQ9 did a great job: its encounters were still random, but you had a chance to try and avoid them on the map rather than being forced into them. All the advantages of random encounters without the frustration.

        Mostly. The areas full of really fast, hard-to-escape monsters were pretty irritating.

      • I don’t know if the encounter rate is really halved. I’ve never seen any documentation that suggests that’s the case.

        And no, battles are random and un-avoidable. They don’t go to a separate battle screen though. Some dungeons are worse than others because when you’re trying to solve a knotty puzzle the last thing you want to do is stumble into a battle every six steps.

  6. I’ve always been a big BoFIII fan. On the other hand, if you’re trying to convince me that IV doesn’t represent a huge downturn for the series, you have your work cut out for you.

  7. bof3 always got shit at the time, and i felt alone in loving it as much as i did. til i read this article in gsq8. perfectly sums up my feelings of the game.

  8. No article will ever appropriately sum up the utter depths of inanity and tedium of the “teach some jerk to enjoy eating fish” portion of the game (which is where I permanently lost any interest in ever finishing it).

  9. Really enjoyed this piece too. Perhaps I’d be less crazy exploring BoF III and IV than revisiting the first two games for my RPG fix.

  10. These Breath of Fire games sound interesting. Maybe I’ll try them someday.

    It’s depressing that so many JRPG series from the nineties and early 2000’s have disappeared. Breath of Fire, Suikoden, Lunar, Grandia, Shadow Hearts, the list goes on. We haven’t had a big, new JRPG series in ages.

    • Loki did an excellent job championing the BoF series, and Bob Mackey as well. Definitely try at least one of them and decide if it’s for you.

      The 3rd and 4th Persona games are worth trying if you want newer JRPGs. They’re very long, but rewarding. The World Ends with You and Radiant Historia are also really innovative takes on the genre. Final Fantasy Four Heros of Light is worth checking out for it’s updated approach to an old-school style of gameplay. Valkyria Chronicles and Yakuza 3 are great games for PS3, and dirt cheap, too.!

      While I also love the same series you mentioned, it’s hard to imagine them continuing in some form today other than as ports. Sad, but it’s hard to stay relevant at the pace the industry moves these days.

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