Breath of Fire 2 is one of the better entries in the series
(www.plasticpals.com) Capcom's Breath of Fire series is one of the unsung Japanese RPG series that, while successful, never approached the popularity of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Better known for their action games rather than RPGs, Capcom didn't even release the original Breath of Fire in the states (allowing Squaresoft to publish it instead). Capcom did release Breath of Fire 2, and it has since been ported to the GameBoy Advance and is now available on the Wii's Virtual Console download service.
Breath of Fire 2's storyline remains true to RPG roots an entertaining yarn that begins with a small boy in a sleepy town and follows him on a worldwide quest. The main characters are well developed, with each party member starring in at least one major scenario in the game.
At this point in its development, the main attraction of the Breath of Fire series was its flashy graphics. Contrary to other RPGs of its day, Capcom's trademark animated characters and enemies added some excitement to the battle scenes. Of course this is commonplace now, but it's still a nice touch. Breath of Fire 2's characters face the camera during battle, which allows you to see their faces, which is a nice improvement over the original.
The two main gimmicks of the original Breath of Fire dragon transformations and character fusion have been improved upon. Players can't rely on Ryu's power too much since one dragon attack completely drains his AP. Characters now fuse with elemental sages to produce more powerful allies (instead of melding party members into hideously ugly monsters).
You can also have up to 4 party members fighting at once, and instead of having a simple battle system with front and back rows, you can arrange your fighters to boost offence or defence with a variety of formations. This system would be improved in the next game.
The game's pacing and difficulty have also been tweaked to be less frustrating than the original, where boss battles often overstayed their welcome. The fishing mini-game is reminiscent of the one in Zelda: Link's Awakening (endearingly simple), and you can invite various NPCs to live in the town you create (though once your villagers have been chosen you can't swap them out).
Originally made for the SNES, Breath of Fire 2 was later ported to GBA and is now available on the Wii's Virtual Console. I played the GBA version on a DS Lite. Primarily, the colour palette has been noticeably lightened to accommodate the original GBA's lack of a back-lit screen and the music isn't quite as sharp. Some minor cosmetic changes aside, the port is very authentic with none of the glitches experienced in other SNES-to-GBA ports.
This is the SNES-era Breath of Fire title to play, if you have the itch that only an old-school RPG can scratch. The storyline is self- contained, it improves on the original's formula and graphics, and is considerably more refined in terms of its difficulty and pacing.
If you're interested in the series but don't know where to start, this is a good candidate. I enjoyed this one more than BoF 3, mainly due to the better cast of characters but also because it is simply more fun with less hang-ups than its PS1 sequel. For 800 Wii Points, and considering the general lack of good RPGs on the Virtual Console, this game is a no-brainer.
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