Breath of Fire II
|Breath of Fire II|
|Series||Breath of Fire|
|Platform(s)||SNES, Game Boy Advance|
Breath of Fire II (Japanese: ブレス オブ ファイアII 使命の子 Hepburn: Buresu obu Faia Tsū: Shimei no Ko, Breath of Fire II: The Destined Child) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Capcom. First released in 1994, the game was licensed to Laguna for European release in 1996. It is the second entry in the Breath of Fire series. It was later ported to Game Boy Advance and re-released worldwide. The game was released on Wii's Virtual Console in North America on August 27, 2007. Nintendo of Europe's website mistakenly announced it for release on July 27, 2007, but it was in fact released two weeks later, on August 10, 2007.
Unlike later installments in the series, Breath of Fire II is a direct sequel to Breath of Fire. Set 500 years after the original game, the story centers on an orphan named Ryu Bateson, whose family vanished mysteriously long ago. After his friend is falsely accused of a crime, Ryu embarks on a journey to clear his name.
Breath of Fire II is a traditional role-playing video game featuring two-dimensional character sprites and environments. Players view the game from a top-down perspective and move their characters in four directions across various environments including towns and dungeons while interacting with non-player characters and battling enemies to advance the story.
The game features a redesigned, text-based game menu as opposed to the icon-based design of the original Breath of Fire, as well as a new "Monster Meter" that indicates the probability of encountering enemy monsters in a given area. Players are required to venture into dangerous areas throughout the game world as dictated by the story, and randomly encounter enemies every few steps which must be defeated to advance. As the game progresses, new characters, each with their own specific abilities, join the player's party. Like the previous game, only four characters may be in a party at a given time, but now may not be freely switched outside of certain areas. Each character has a unique Personal Action that may be performed outside of combat that allows the player to access certain areas, destroy objects, avoid traps, or move about the game more easily. Breath of Fire II includes a new town-building feature that allows the player to populate their own village with special characters found throughout the game. Each character has their own distinct job, and may be invited to live in houses that the player adds by donating currency to one of three carpenters, each with their own building style. Six special inhabitants known as Shamans may also join the town, each with their own elemental alignment, and up to two at a time may be fused with party members to grant them new forms and abilities. While joined with a shaman, characters become stronger and may gain access to additional abilities while in battle.
Combat in Breath of Fire II is presented using a turn-based approach, where the player inputs commands for each character at the start of each round with the actions taking place by order of each character's and enemy's "agility" rating. A new Formation feature allows the player to organize their party into different positions, allowing certain members an increase in speed, defense, or attack power. Players win battles by defeating every enemy present, dealing damage by using normal attacks along with magic spells and items. When all enemies are defeated, they yield experience points that go toward leveling up characters, making them stronger and giving them access to new spells. Each Characters' health is represented by numerical hit points that indicate their remaining vitality, and are knocked out if the value reaches zero, with the battle ending if each member of a player's party is knocked out. Progress is recorded using the game cartridge's internal battery back-up memory, which can be accessed at dragon statues throughout gameplay.
The characters of Breath of Fire II were designed by Capcom artist Tatsuya Yoshikawa, who also provided artwork for the cast of the previous game. Breath of Fire II features nine playable characters who join the player's party at set points throughout the story, each with their own selection of attacks, magic spells, and personal actions which can be used to pass certain obstacles and solve puzzles.
The main protagonist is a 16-year-old boy named Ryu Bateson, who shares his name with the main character from the original Breath of Fire, who mysteriously finds himself alone in the world one day after his father and sister disappear and all townspeople in his village forget who he is. As a member of the elusive Dragon Clan, Ryu possess the ability to transform into powerful draconic beings with destructive abilities, and makes his way as a "Ranger", a sword-for-hire. He is joined by his friend and fellow Ranger, Bow ("Boche Doggy" in the Japanese version), a thief and member of the Grassrunner clan of dog-people who uses a crossbow and healing spells. Throughout the game, players recruit additional characters at different points in the story, including Katt ("Rinpu Chuan" in the Japanese version), a member of the Woren clan of cat-people who fights at a coliseum; Rand Marks, muscular pangolin-person who fights with his bare hands; Nina Windia, descendant of the original Nina from Breath of Fire and princess of a clan of winged humans who was exiled due to her black wings, a bad omen in her country; Sten Legacy, a former soldier from a kingdom of monkey-people who makes his way as a trickster and performer; Ekkal Hoppa de Pe Jean, or simply Jean ("Tapeta" in the Japanese version), a love-struck prince of a race of frog-people who struggles to regain his kingdom after his throne is usurped; and Spar ("Aspara Gus" in the Japanese version), an emotionless plant man who can commune with nature and is held captive by a traveling sideshow. An optional character in the form of the immortal sorceress Bleu ("Deis" in the Japanese version) from the original Breath of Fire may also be recruited.
Breath of Fire II is set in a fantasy world 500 years after the events of the original game. The story opens on Ryu, age 6, who lives in a village with his sister Yua and father Ganer, a priest for the Church of St. Eva. Years earlier, Ryu's mother was killed by demons who attacked the village from a hole in a mountain on the outskirts of town, which was eventually blocked by a large dragon who sacrificed its life to stop the invasion. One day after visiting the lifeless dragon near the mountainside, Ryu returns to find his family missing and no one in the village remembers who he is, thinking him an orphan and sending him to live at the church with Father Hulk, who has apparently been acting pastor for years. It is there that he meets Bow, a fellow orphan who convinces Ryu to run away with him to a big city and live as thieves. Upon leaving the village, the two seek shelter in a cave during a storm, where they encounter an enormous demon named Barubary who claims that Ryu is the "Destined Child", knocks the two unconscious, and disappears.
Ten years later, Ryu and Bow live together in a small town as people to hire, who are charged with finding the lost pet of Mina, princess of the Kingdom of Windia. The two reluctantly complete the task and upon return Bow is charged with thieving from a local rich man, which Bow claims he was framed by a mysterious "winged thief". Both escape the town the following night, with Bow hiding out while Ryu leaves to find the real thief and clear his name. Making his way to a town with a large coliseum to gather information, he manages to get himself into the arena and battle the star fighter, Katt, defeating her and gaining her trust when he reveals the organizer is possessed by a demon. Ryu and Katt are accompanied by Rand, who works at the Coliseum, to help clear Bow's name, with Rand staying behind with Bow to rebuild his hideout. Ryu and Katt travel back to the scene of the crime where they meet Nina, a young girl studying magic, whom they rescue from a gang leader who is also possessed. When the trio make their way to Windia following the thief's path, they meet Sten, who accompanies them further after Ryu spares him for trying to con them. Upon arrival at a port to another continent, Ryu meets a Shaman, who taps into his latent ability to transform into a dragon, revealing him to be a part of the Dragon Clan thought missing for hundreds of years. After this, Bow's hideaway is rebuilt and Rand rejoins the party.
Arriving at the new continent, the group meets Jean, a frog-prince who they help recover his kingdom by defeating his impostor who is revealed to be a demon in disguise. The group finally catches the real thief, a bat-winged girl named Patty, who they turn over to the man she robbed. Bow re-joins the group, but is worried about Patty despite her actions, and frees her from the man who accused her, who is also possessed by a demon and defeated before he can harm her. Realizing the demon outbreak must be part of a larger problem, the complete team search the world for the Grassman Spar, who is said to be able to communicate with plants and ask the Great Wise Tree what can be done about it. Retrieving Spar from the clutches of a traveling sideshow, the group discover that the Great Wise Tree is losing his memory, so they enter his mind to restore it. In this quest, they discover the underlying reason why the people of Gate had forgotten Ryu: a demon named Aruhameru had used dark magic to erase their memories of him and his family, and he is now doing the same to the Great Wise Tree's memories. Once the group vanquishes Aruhameru, they learn that the demon outbreak is linked to Gate, Ryu's boyhood town where the trouble all started, and that the Church of St. Eva may not be all that it seems. Investigating further, the team joins with a group of rebels who plan to storm the religion's main church located on an inaccessible island. Realizing only a flying method will work, Nina returns to Windia and reveals herself as the long-lost princess of the kingdom who was exiled due to her black wings. After consorting with the spirit of the original Nina from Breath of Fire, Nina plans to undergo a ceremony that will transform her into a bird permanently, but is stopped by her sister Mina who takes her place, sacrificing her humanity.
Traveling on Mina, the group make their way to the main church and sneak inside. It is revealed that the religion is a front for a demon lord who uses the prayers of the people to empower itself, and that Ryu's father Ganer is being held prisoner inside, having been kidnapped by Aruhameru ten years ago. Ryu and his friends escape the church as they destroy it, making their way back to Gate to stop the demons' plot once and for all. In Gate, they meet and do battle with Father Hulk, the pastor who took over the Gate church years ago after Ganer was imprisoned. In order for Father Hulk to open the seal in the mountain, he needs a member of the dragon clan. Ryu and friends are tricked into bringing him the thief Patty, whose membership in the dragon clan reveals her to be Yua, Ryu's sister. Father Hulk reveals himself as the demon Habaruku, founder of the Church of St. Eva and Ryu does battle with him. The dragon at the mountain springs to life, and transforms into the spirit of a woman, revealing herself to be Ryu's mother Valerie, a member of the Dragon Clan who traveled from their hiding place in the mountain years ago and married Ryu's father, later sacrificing herself to save the town. Ryu and his team travel into the cave going deep underground to the demon stronghold, where they meet the last remaining members of the Dragon Clan. After gaining the ultimate dragon power, Ryu battles Barubary, the demon from his past, and his master, Deathevn, leader of the St. Eva religion revealed to be a remnant of Myria, the mad goddess from the previous game. After unleashing his full strength, Ryu defeats Deathevn and returns home with two possible endings based on whether the player rescued his father from the St. Eva Church - either sacrificing himself like his mother by transforming into a dragon to prevent further demon encroachment, or by having Ganer pilot a floating landmass on top of the mountain and seal it off for good.
Breath of Fire II was developed by many of the same Capcom employees who worked on the previous game, including producer Tokuro Fujiwara and lead designer Yoshinori Kawano. While the character designs for the original Breath of Fire were conceived by company head of development Keiji Inafune, the cast of Breath of Fire II was created entirely by artist Tatsuya Yoshikawa, who had previously only provided promotional art for the game's predecessor. Unlike the original Breath of Fire, which was licensed to Square Soft for its North American release, the English version of Breath of Fire II was localized and published entirely by Capcom USA. The game was released in North America one year after the Japanese version in December 1995, and would later become the first Breath of Fire title to become available in Europe in April 1996.
Three days before the release of the original Breath of Fire on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance in July 2001, Capcom announced that they would similarly port Breath of Fire II to the handheld, with an initial release date some time in 2002. Like the re-release of its predecessor, the handheld version features re-drawn character portraits in menu screens, new still images used in cutscenes throughout the game, and a re-designed battle interface similar to Breath of Fire IV. New features include a dash button that allows players to move through the game faster, as well as an item-sharing system where two players may link together using the Game Boy Advance link cable to exchange items between game cartridges. To celebrate the game's release in December 2001, Capcom of Japan held an art contest for fans to submit artwork featuring characters from the first two Breath of Fire games, with the winner chosen by the Game Boy Advance version's staff. In January 2002, Capcom USA announced that an English version of Breath of Fire II would be heading to North America the following April. A European version would also be released in July 2002, published by Ubisoft.
While the background music for the original Breath of Fire was composed by four members of Capcom's sound team Alph Lyla, the score for Breath of Fire II was written entirely by series newcomer Yuko Takehara. In January 1995, the Breath of Fire II: Shimei no Ko Original Soundtrack was released in Japan by Sony Records, and featured 28 selected themes from the game on a single disc. A complete musical selection from the title would not be made commercially available until 2006, with the release of the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box, which contained all music from the first five games of the series. In order to promote the game, Capcom hired J-pop singer Mio Watanabe to record a theme song that played during the game's television commercial in Japan called "Owaranai Ai" (終わらない愛, lit. Unending Love), which was released as a single in December 1994 by Alfa Records.
Breath of Fire II was released the same week as Sony's PlayStation console in Japan, and debuted on Japanese software charts as the seventh highest-selling game of its first week with 89,700 copies. It was given an 8 out of 10 in two separate Reader Cross Reviews printed by Famicom Tsūshin, and it would go on to sell a total of 350,000 copies in the region by the end of 1995. The game became popular enough to be re-released in the region for the Nintendo Power flash RAM peripheral in September 1997 at a reduced price.
Reviews in North America were mixed to positive. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly generally found the game worth getting for its high quality sound and lengthy quest. Though Mark Lefebvre felt the graphics were below average and that the game overall "could have been a little better", the other three reviewers were more enthusiastic, praising the graphics and the shaman mechanic. GamePro's Major Mike was also impressed with the sheer length of the RPG. While remarking that there are very few cinematic scenes compared to the first Breath of Fire, he was pleased with the complexity of both the main story and most of the side quests. He also complimented the graphics and the change to different musical themes halfway through the game, and summarized, "This long, absorbing game offers plenty of story turns, intense battles, and intriguing characters." A reviewer for Next Generation said that the game "is larger and more involved than its predecessor, but unfortunately also much less interesting. While some parts are very clever (you are able to build your home town, populating it with stray homeless folks you run across), it suffers from too little direction, a purely mechanical storyline, and the clunkiest dialogue since Night Trap."
Similar to the original Super Nintendo Entertainment System release, the Game Boy Advance version met with mostly positive reception from critics, with the Japanese version receiving a 29 out of 40 score from Weekly Famitsu magazine. GameSpot compared the game to the previous version, calling it a "faithful translation of the SNES game" and praised the title's new save feature allowing players to record their progress at any time, but found that its music "leans toward the bland side of things" and "lack[s] personality". IGN found the game to be a step up from the first game's Game Boy Advance port, stating that "The storyline and characters make Breath of Fire II a much better game than the first adventure in the series...even though the game hasn't changed a whole lot." The website additionally felt that the game's lack of spaces in text fields and shoddy translation hurt the overall presentation, and the graphics were not up to par with games designed initially for the handheld such as Camelot's Golden Sun. GamePro awarded the Game Boy version a perfect score as well as an Editor's Choice Award, stating that the only flaw was the game's low difficulty, declaring that "In the realm of today’s high-powered next-gen role-players, BOFII is an excellent time-killer". The game would later be nominated for "Best Port of a 16-bit Classic" and "Best Role-Playing Game on Game Boy Advance" in GameSpot's Best and Worst of 2002 Awards. The Game Boy Advance version holds a 75% review average on GameRankings, as well as an 81% average on Metacritic.
Breath of Fire II's Virtual Console release in 2007 met with mixed response. GameSpot called attention to the title's "pleasing visual presentation" and breadth of content, but found the game's localization to be "terrible" along with unpolished gameplay mechanics that made it appear to be a "hasty, careless effort". The game's pacing was also said to be poor, with too many "mundane tasks" laden throughout the story, recommending it to players who could look past its "rough edges". IGN called the game's translation "average at best" with the lack of adequate spacing in text fields still present, yet ultimately calling it a "solid, enjoyable RPG experience...though not a role-playing masterpiece on the level of Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger". Eurogamer called attention to the game's high rate of random battles, but nonetheless called the game "a beautifully crafted and impeccably produced adventure".
In 2006, Nintendo Power would rank the game 171st in its list of the top 200 games released across all Nintendo consoles, ten places behind the original Breath of Fire. Breath of Fire II maintains a 79% average score on aggregate review website GameRankings.
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