The original Breath of Fire, released in the US 23 years ago this month (August 1994), was fairly well received. Despite the original Japanese release coming in April of 1993, Breath of Fire managed to still stand toe to toe with the big SNES blockbusters released that summer of 1994. The fact that RPGs were a bit sparse in North America definitely helped, as any decent RPG was lauded in that time when the pickings were rather slim. Capcom, no stranger to sequels, followed up on the success with Breath of Fire II. Originally released in Japan December 1994, SNES owners in the west had to wait an entire year for the American translation. Sadly, by December 1995, the SNES was nearing the end of its lifespan and many folks had moved on to the 32-bit war machines. As a result, Breath of Fire II sort of got lost unless you were one of those diehard SNES players who stuck by the system until the very bitter end. Thankfully, as is so often the case, over the years people have had the luxury to go back and right past wrongs. While no Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire II is definitely worth trekking through.
But wait! Not only did Capcom make those of us in the US wait an entire year, but the NA version of Breath of Fire II is notorious for having one of the worst translations of all time. So much so that it prompted “Ryusui” to release a “retranslated” version on April 30, 2009. It’s how I played through Breath of Fire II and how I recommend you do so as well.
MEET THE CAST
THE STORY GOES…
Well… at least the girl didn’t get kidnapped for a change…
Thanks for the painful reminder. But she’s got a point. The world is going to need you, after all…
Dragon? Note to self: avoid the back mountains. Note to self part two: knock before you open the bathroom door next time…
Being an adventurous lad though, you can’t help but explore them back mountains. Not only do you find your wandering little sister and the mammoth dragon, but you’re also greeted by a nasty little critter for your troubles.
Luckily, the Beak is mere cannon fodder. Good thing you were there to save your little sister, Yua.
Dangerous? Not for the likes of me, you see! Your father, Ganer, grants you the respect you crave. He is your idol, after all.
“Sometimes I wish you simply had imaginary friends instead, Yua.”
Look… it’s one of many typos you’ll encounter if the play the North American version. Like I said, the retranslation is the way to go!
Breath of Fire II resumes the original’s classic day-night cycle.
Converse with all the locals. One of the cool things about this game is the inclusion of the “Dragon Tears.” The different colors represent the various emotions that the NPC is currently feeling. Pretty neat stuff.
It’s a small touch, but it adds that extra little bit to the game
Loyalty is his game, Bow is his name. He’s the first ally you’ll meet up with and he’s great at hunting. A most welcomed asset to the team. He’s a bit of a kleptomaniac, though.
Downpour soon comes raining down on our plucky heroes. It’s not quite the same “ooooh, ahhhh” effect as seeing the rain lashing down from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but it gets the job done.
Quick! Take cover in the cave there before you die of pneumonia. Sometimes it pays to steal, as you can see here. And who says video games aren’t educational?
Spooky cave, init? Um, what was that?!
Guessing purple doesn’t stand for warm fuzzy feelings… I mean, I’m just going out on a limb there.
Sadly, our hero is no match for this monstrosity at this early point in the game. We then find out his father (Ganer) and sister (Yua) have gone missing. He dreams a terrible nightmare of a towering monster ripping him limb from limb. In his dreams, a demon also screeches to him, “YOU ARE THE ONE.” What could all this mean? Was this all just a bad dream? Somehow, you know it isn’t…
Seasoned into a hardened warrior over the past 10 years, you’re ready to find out some answers…
Forget eye of the tiger — it’s the eye of the dragon!
Every hero has to start somewhere. And sometimes, heroes are born from very humble beginnings.
Interact with the environment and villagers. Tips may be provided and you can also unearth helpful items.
Sometimes you’ll read silly dialogue but it’s all part of the fun.
Occasionally you’ll see random things pop up on the world map. This includes a traveling circus.
Fishing is also in play as well as a spot of hunting. For the latter, be sure to position Bow in the front.
Breath of Fire II resumes the classic ¾ perspective of the original game.
Enemies can prove to be tough early on. Thank goodness then for this healing fountain. This is a good place to level up
Encountering a new enemy for the first time leads to a “?” for their health. It adds slightly to the drama and tension and I found it to be a nice little touch. Head up this mountain to face Palo, Peach and Puti.
They’re tough, the bastards. Peach and Puti (on the sides) have 40 HP while the middle one, Palo, has 80 HP. I recommend targeting and eliminating Peach and Puti first before tackling Palo.
Battle a family of cockroaches later on. It’s a nice nod to the original.
Speaking of honoring the original Breath of Fire, you can morph into a dragon later on.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Breath of Fire II received pretty solid scores. EGM gave it ratings of 7, 7.5, 7.5 and 8. Super Play rated it 81%. However, the US translation was not so well received. It features some of the worst translated text in all of 16-bit history, making the retranslation almost a necessity. For example, you know things are bad when you talk to the innkeeper and he refers to his inn as a motel, despite having an INN sign hanging nearby. Want to go fishing? Then equip your lod. Ouch. Also, get ready for awkward looking abbreviations. Thankfully, the retranslation fixes these silly errors and provides for a much more authentic experience.
Breath of Fire II is a very strong entry in the stacked SNES RPG library. While it may not quite stack up against the likes of a Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III, it does its job more than reasonably well. The graphics are very colorful and the details on the various sprites are fairly intricate. Some of the music is extremely catchy, though a few are somewhat underwhelming. That final boss theme though! There’s a ton of things to do in this adventure — it took me 50 hours to beat and I didn’t even scratch the surface of the Shaman system. However, not all of those 50 hours is pure bliss. There’s a shit load of random battles (thank God for the auto battle option) that can drag the game down a bit, not to mention artificially inflate its playing time. There’s also some annoying backtracking and the difficulty veers on the cheap side on occasion. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s more than playable.
I enjoyed playing through both Breath of Fire games. They may not be world beaters, but they are very enjoyable if you’re a fan of that JRPG style. The day-night system is a unique feature for its time, even if it comes with its flaws. I think both games are more than good enough to warrant at least one playthrough. Breath of Fire II is the better game, but the original has its merits as well. Just remember to play the retranslated version of Breath of Fire II. Trust me on that one. Or should I say, lust me on that one. Whoa, wait a minute. Something got lost in translation there…
WARNING!!! SPOILERS BELOW!
Breath of Fire II features multiple endings. Here’s the less than good one…