Breath of Fire (ブレスオブファイア, Buresu obu Faia?) is a console role-playing game series developed by Capcom. It originated on the Super Nintendo in 1993 as Capcom's first foray into the role-playing genre. The series is notable for its recurring characters and ambiguous continuity; though each game is its own self-contained story, the names of the two lead characters are, invariably, Ryu and Nina.
The story commonly involves an adventurer named Ryu who can shapeshift into different types of dragons. Over the course of his journey, he befriends Nina, a girl with wings. At its inception, Breath of Fire took place in a medieval-style fictional world, a frequently-seen setting in western role-playing games. Following the mainstream success of Japanese role-playing games in the 1990s, the series began showing a rise in Asian influences: anime-style characters, post-apocalyptic themes, and an increased emphasis on character development. Despite these changes, the core structure of Breath of Fire remains linear and plot-focused.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Synopsis
- 3 Development
- 4 Reception
- 5 External links
The Breath of Fire series usually puts the player in control of multiple characters in a party, though there are exceptions. The player will build the party's strength by gradually acquiring new abilities and equipment to handle more powerful opponents. As a Japanese role-playing game, a majority of the games involve frequent use of menus to select items, skills and upgrades.
The Battle systems of the Breath of Fire series have varied with the majority being menu-based with variants on turn-based combat, although Breath of Fire 6 uses action-based combat systems. Breath of Fire and Breath of Fire II have instanced battles based on random encounters while roaming the world map and dungeons. Breath of Fire III eschewed random encounters on the world map in favor of allowing the player to enter a randomly-generated "!" field map zone where random encounters can be fought. Breath of Fire III also removed instanced battles, opting to start battles right on the existing field map. Breath of Fire IV employed a similar system for initiating world map random encounters, while transitioning back to instanced battles. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter was the first game in the series to feature free-roaming enemies on the field map. The player can initiate combat with enemies by attacking them or simply bumping into them. Battle commands in the Breath of Fire series typically feature a basic physical attack with the equipped weapon(s), an Ability/Spell or Skill command, and a set of items, although the player may also try to flee from many normal encounters. The characters normally have a HP and AP stat, where HP determines the damage characters can take before they are KO'd while AP determines how many spells or other abilities a character can use. Most games also feature elements and status effects, nuances which can affect the course of a battle, with enemies and allies using them to attack and exploit each other's weaknesses and/or to defend themselves, as well as to prepare for an upcoming encounter.
The Breath of Fire series has mostly featured a more basic, traditional turn-based system that does not rely on time, but the player and the enemy party take turns executing commands.
Outside of turn-based systems, the series has featured a simplified action-based combat system with Breath of Fire 6 in which the skills the characters use are similar to traditional skill sets of attacks, magic spells, special abilities and items, but the rate the characters use these abilities depends on the refresh time, with less reliance on menus.
Character growth determines how player characters learn new abilities and boost their stats. The Breath of Fire games use a level based system where characters raise their level through experience points earned in battle to improve stats and sometimes learn new abilities.
Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter introduced an entirely unique system in which players could pool Party Experience from won battles that could be redistributed to characters upon subsequent playthroughs. This allows players restarting the game to level up their characters considerably in the beginning of the game.
A majority of Breath of Fire games feature characters who have defined roles with pre-determined abilities and spells they can learn by leveling up. Breath of Fire 6 introduced a class system where the Hero character can change classes and earn new abilities and skills.
Throughout the series, main protagonist Ryu eventually discovers the power to transform into a Dragon which often can turn the tide of battle, at the expense of AP, or in the case of Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, an increase in the D-Counter. Thief character Karn from the first Breath of Fire can also unlock the power of Fusion, which allows him to fuse with one or two characters and create a superhuman form with unique abilities in battle and on the field. Breath of Fire II continued this mechanic in the form of the Shaman system which allows a majority of the game's playable characters to fuse with shamans in order to amplify their power and figure.
Breath of Fire IV gave characters Ryu and Fou-Lu the ability to not only transform into a dragon-human hybrid by utilizing a Dragon Gem, but also summon other dragon entities during battle. By using the unique Breath-attack given by a transformation, Ryu will temporarily show the dragon's true form in a cutscene.
In Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, Ryu only has one dragon form, which he can access by using the D-Dive command he gains partway through the story. The dragon is immune to all damage from all non-dragon enemies and his attacks are replaced by three slashing attacks. In addition, Ryu can D-Charge to increase the damage of his next attack, and use his incredibly powerful D-Breath, which does more damage the longer you hold the button down. All of these attacks cause his D-Counter to increase.
Breath of Fire III saw the introduction of the Master System, a special gameplay feature within Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV geared towards ability acquisition. In it, players align their characters with special NPCs and, upon fulfilling specific requirements, gain improved stats and/or skills.
Characters can equip armor, weapons and accessories, where armor provides defensive boosts, weapons determine the strength and type of the attacks used, and accessories provide various supporting abilities or bonuses. Games can deviate from the standard format. Whereas Breath of Fire I through IV and Breath of Fire 6 offer weapon, shield, helmet, armor and two accessory slots, Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter simplifies this to weapon, armor and shield slots.
Outside of battles the player can explore the field for items, dialog with non-player characters, and for trading in zenny for items and gear. In games featuring instanced random encounters, the party will encounter an enemy randomly while exploring dangerous areas (though abilities to reduce the encounter rate can be learned), while games with free-roaming enemies have enemies appear in the dangerous areas for the player to engage or avoid.
The player can explore dungeons where enemies are fought and treasures and items can be found. Enemies tend to be more numerous in dungeons, and there is often a boss at the end. Other areas are safe havens, notably towns, which contain shops for the party to buy new items and equipment, and often an inn to rest at and fully restore HP and AP. Breath of Fire I - III feature a world map used to traverse on foot, although other modes of transportation come into play, such as Gobi's fish transformation for underwater exploration and Nina's bird transformation for air travel in Breath of Fire. Breath of Fire II retains air travel in the form of the Great Bird and Township, while introducing sea-level travel with Grandpa the Whale.
The World maps of Breath of Fire and Breath of Fire II have random encounters and are crossed to reach other points of interest in the world, often with mountains, forests and oceans and other impassable objects placed to ward off areas the player is not meant to visit yet. Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV also feature world maps, but eschew random encounters, opting instead to allow players to enter exclamation-marked fields with randomly-generated loot and random encounters.
The spin-offs' gameplay can deviate a lot from the main series. While spin-offs tend to include gameplay fundamentals, if only in abilities and ability names, many stick to role-playing game elements. All spin-offs have been released on mobile platforms that use simplified forms of typical battle systems.
The Breath of Fire series' settings range from traditional fantasy to dystopian sci-fi fantasy. While each game's world differs greatly in landscape, there are many recurring locations and races. All Breath of Fire games barring Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter feature some form of the kingdom of Wyndia. Additionally, there's a good mix of several different races and groups that co-exist throughout the series, including humans, the Dragon Clan, the winged Fae, the cat-like Woren and the fish-like Manillo, along with recurring enemy species.
The Breath of Fire games are unique in the fact that, while most RPGs are easily recognized as either Eastern or Western inspired (as in Dungeons & Dragons or Japanese Anime inspired), the Breath of Fire series has shown clear elements of both. The many mythological, religious and literal references found in the game come from both Western and Eastern cultures. The earlier games' official localized North American box art was of a decidedly western nature (even retaining a slightly western look, although this is not in the case in the Japanese releases). Over the years, the series has shifted to a more traditional anime look, and some of the newer games even feature full motion anime-style cutscenes found in the opening and ending sequences.
The character designs for the core characters remain fairly constant, with occasional alterations. Main protagonist Ryu almost always has blue hair, wields a sword and fishes with a rod. Nina is a Caucasian-looking blonde female with wings who provides a wide assortment of magic. Deis is (in four of the games) an ageless, enigmatic, powerful magic user resembling a lamia who begins the game in a state of suspended animation.
Each setting features magic as a commonplace ability among many of the races. Breath of Fire III introduced a plot and gameplay-oriented ore known as Chrysm, a rare mineral with magical properties found on the fossilized remains of dragons.
The series' most basic plots revolve around protagonist Ryu and his team fighting a godlike antagonist who aims to destroy or conquer the world while coping with their own personal and familial struggles. The plots have their fair share of light-hearted, whimsical moments, interspersed with very grim and tragic events. A key plot point among a majority of the series involves Ryu's struggle as the last known survivor of the Dragon Clan and coming to terms with the immense and potentially dangerous power he wields.
Although the series does have an anime feel, the morally ambiguous plots owe much more to the cynical early PC RPGs of North America than to traditional Japanese RPGs, which were typically more black and white in their presentation of good versus evil.
Although a timeline for the series has never been explicitly stated, the first three games supposedly occur in a single timeline. If this is true, the original is definitely the earliest of the three, as II and III both refer to its events and/or characters at points. The timing of the second and third games is more ambiguous, but most evidence, including most Wyndians' complete lack of wings in III, points to them having been released in chronological order. Breath of Fire IV s place in the timeline is uncertain because it traces the origins of the two feuding Dragon Clans, some theorize the game to be a prequel, taking place before any of the previous titles. Breath of Fire V is something of a departure from the other games, and Capcom has confirmed that it takes place in a separate universe. Breath of Fire 6 contains many elements from the first three games in the series, but has not been confirmed to be in the same universe. Capcom has not made any official statements regarding further sequels to the franchise or a Western localization of the sixth game.
As in most console RPGs of the era, the main conflict in the Breath of Fire series is the battle between good and evil. Although this theme is extremely common in RPGs, the Breath of Fire series is unique in its treatment of the subject in that the plot tends to be of a decidedly religious nature. In each installment of the series, the main antagonist is a demon or Goddess, often masquerading as a monotheistic deity; the protagonist Ryu, the last surviving member of the messianic dragon clan, must save humanity from its false god. The plot often involves corrupt or misled religious leaders who are eventually revealed to have helped the foe.
Although religion in games is not an uncommon theme today, it was extremely unusual in the 16-bit era when the series first debuted, and the early Breath of Fire games were a pioneer of this trend. While topics of faith had long since been considered fair game in Japan, they were largely ignored by American companies who feared that the subject was too controversial. Typically, when a game which had any religious references in it was ported to an American console, (usually from a Japanese or PC version of the original) all of those references, no matter how small, were edited out (such as the SNES Ultima games). There were even a few cases of games that were denied American releases specifically because they were deemed as being too religious in content.
Finally, where many RPG series tend to re-invent themselves with every game, the Breath of Fire games have retained essentially the same tone and style of gameplay throughout the entire series. Only the fifth and sixth games, Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter and Breath of Fire 6: Guardians of the White Dragon differ greatly from their predecessors. Some changes and additions are introduced with each sequel. For example, Breath of Fire III blends the semi-medieval backdrop of the first two with a degree of science fiction, eventually revealing itself as a post-apocalyptic world. In addition, the more recent games have replaced the traditional world map setup with a more "point and click" based one, similar to those commonly featured in strategy games. Despite these aesthetic changes, the core gameplay remains intact.
In 1984, Capcom Co., Ltd. entered the video game industry by developing games for the arcade, and then for Nintendo Famicom in 1985. In 1986, Enix released its first Dragon Quest game and popularized the RPG genre in Japan (after western games, such as the Wizardry series, introduced them to Japanese audiences). Coupled with Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, Enix's Dragon Quest along with Square's Final Fantasy was one of the defining games of the Famicom system.
Barring psychological horror role-playing video game Sweet Home for Famicom, Breath of Fire is recognized by Capcom as their first traditional role-playing video game, made to compete with JRPG juggernauts Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.
Breath of Fire was developed by Capcom for Super Famicom / Super Nintendo by designer Yoshinori Kawano (credited as Botunori) and producer Tokuro Fujiwara, previously known for his creation of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune was also credited in the staff credits, as Inafking. Capcom added easter eggs into the game in the form of cameo appearances by characters from other company franchises, including Chun-Li from Street Fighter. The game's English release in August 1994 was a joint effort between Capcom USA and Square Soft, who handled most of the title's localization and promotion in North America due to Capcom's lack of experience with text-heavy role-playing games. Square Soft would feature the game in the fourth issue of its North American newsletter, The Ogopogo Examiner, and would advertise the game as being "from the makers of the Final Fantasy series." Breath of Fire's English localization was handled primarily by Ted Woolsey, whose previous works included Final Fantasy Legend III, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and Secret of Mana. Because of space limitations in game's text fields, many items, as well as character and spell names had to be truncated in order to fit, resulting in numerous abbreviations.
Character concept artwork for the first Breath of Fire was initially handled by Keiji Inafune, Capcom's head of development. However, Inafune's supervisor took him off the project and replaced him with Tatsuya Yoshikawa. The latter artist respectfully kept many of Inafune's design features in the new illustrations. Yoshikawa continued to be the lead art director and character designer for all subsequent Breath of Fire games barring Breath of Fire 6. Yoshikawa was also involved in the general design, modeling and animation of Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, additionally being in charge of fine-tuning the entire world's appearance.
The gameplay systems of the Breath of Fire series were originally based on those seen in RPGs released at the time the series was developed. Up until Breath of Fire 6 the series' battle systems remained a turn-based affair, albeit with unique modifications added throughout the series.
The games' stories were largely handled by series veteran Makoto Ikehara, with concepts having drawn inspiration from multiple sources. Breath of Fire II drew much inspiration from authors Kurt Vonnegut and Daniel Keyes and novelist Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez. The Vonnegut inspiration is apparent by characters named "Kilgore" and "Trout" after Vonnegut's own Kilgore Trout character.
The series has had multiple leads. The main designers of the first Breath of Fire were Yoshinori Takenaka, Yoshinori Kawano and Makoto Ikehara. Breath of Fire II's lead designer was Yoshinori Kawano, with Makoto Ikehara as writer. Ikehara would go on to direct Breath of Fire III and would go back to writing and design duties for Breath of Fire IV, before taking on directorial duties for Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter. Ikehara was also involved in scenario scripting and executive production. Ikehara was inspired to create a game with a dystopian setting after reading the alternate history novel Gofungo no Sekai (五分後の世界, lit. The World Five Minutes From Now) written by Ryu Murakami. Writing on Dragon Quarter was handled by Yukio Andoh.
The series has had several producers. The first two Breath of Fire titles were produced by Tokuro Fujiwara. The producer role for Breath of Fire III was handled by both Yoshinori Takenaka and Hironobu Takeshita. Takeshita was sole producer on both Breath of Fire IV and Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter. Breath of Fire 6 was produced by Kazunori Sugiura.
The Breath of Fire series' music is notable for its varied musical palette, having different composers for nearly every game in the series and taking influences from classical / symphonic music, jazz, samba, rock, heavy metal, Eastern folk and techno-electronica.
Each game typically features themes for different locations (or types of locations), story events, characters and battle themes (typically a basic battle theme, boss battle theme, and a final boss theme, as a minimum, with some special bosses having their own battle themes). While not widespread throughout the series, Breath of Fire II shares a recurring theme with its predecessor with the world map track "Starting the Journey ~ Breath of Fire". Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV also share a sailing track.
[musical direction for each game]
Breath of Fire's first soundtrack was composed by members of Capcom's in-house band, Alph Lyla. Yasuaki Fujita (Mega Man 3) served as main composer, with additional contributions coming from Mari Yamaguchi (Mega Man 5, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts), Minae Fujii (Mega Man 4, DuckTales 2), Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts) and Tatsuya Nishimura.
For Breath of Fire III, Akari Kaida (Street Fighter Alpha, Rockman & Forte) served as lead composer, with assistance from Yoshino Aoki (Mega Man Battle Network 2, Luminous Arc 2). The game's music is a big departure from its predecessors, opting for a pop and jazz fusion style atypical of most JRPG soundtracks. Kaida has explained that from the moment she saw initial screenshots of the game, she felt that her musical style would lend itself better to the game than a cliche orchestral soundtrack. Kaida and Aoki would also lend their vocals to the series' first ever vocal tune with the Breath of Fire III credits theme, "Pure Again (Staff Roll)".
Yoshino Aoki returned as the sole composer for Breath of Fire IV, which went back to the series' orchestral roots while also introducing more East-Asian elements in the music. This included the use of instruments like the sitar, shamisen and didgeridoo.
Despite never having been featured in a live orchestra setting, Breath of Fire music has continuously enjoyed fan-created remixes and covers over the years, including remixes done by Overclocked ReMix, The World is Square, The Runaway Six and several YouTube users. Capcom Live producers Shota Nakama (of Video Game Orchestra) and Tommy Tallarico (of Video Games Live) have teased the possibility of performing Breath of Fire music in their live show on the official Capcom Live website.
In March 31, 2006, the Japanese record label Suleputer released an 11-disc box set of music from every title in the Breath of Fire series
The first two titles were developed on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super Famicom in Japan). The games are two-dimensional and used sprites to depict characters, enemies, icons and the environment onscreen. The series is often lauded for its high quality sprite art and animation. Character sprites used on the field were smaller and less detailed than the ones featured during battle.
When transitioning to the 32-bit era, Capcom transitioned the series from Nintendo to Sony, developing both Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV on PlayStation. Both titles continued using 2D sprite art, albeit with far bigger and more detailed art and animation work. Environments and certain effects were rendered in 3D for the first time in the series, with Breath of Fire IV introducing 3D-modeled bosses and dragons. Breath of Fire IV also introduced animated full-motion video and voiced dialogue to the series with its pre-title screen introduction. Both games also featured voicework during gameplay, with several voice actors providing grunts, shouts and other sound effects for the games' cast of characters.
Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter was developed on PlayStation 2. Due to the more advanced technology, it featured fully 3D cel-shaded models and bigger, high-res environments.
Pop culture and legacy
Despite its niche appeal, Breath of Fire had an impact in popular culture, with appearances and references featured in other games, including Undertale.
Breath of Fire would later be featured in Archie Comics' Worlds Unite crossover event as one of several Capcom and Sega guest franchises appearing in the company's Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man titles.