Monday, May 15, 2006

Breath of Fire 3's Plot

With the summer comes a lack of time spent wondering how to spend it whilst sitting in a college computer lab inbetween classes, and thus, I'm gonna cut my rants back to just Mondays for the season. Yes, yes, I'm sure you're all devastated.

Anyways. I've always been a big fan of the Breath of Fire series--bigger than the good-but-not-fantastic series might warrent, even. One thing I've heard from a lot of people who've played some/most/all of the series, though, is that BoF3 is the low point of it. This is simply just not true. (Spoilers ahead, like, of the whole game).

Now, I can understand where this comes from. People I've encountered largely criticize it as seeming pointless, a long adventure without any satisfying aim or conclusion. The reason for this is that Breath of Fire 3 isn't your standard, shallow save-the-world deal. It's not a typical world-spanning quest ending with a climactic showdown with whatever mentally-imbalanced villain with unspeakably destructive powers is threatening the planet/universe for reasons one can only describe as "stupid." In fact, the conclusion of the game has your actions putting the planet's people in more jeopardy than ever, because you choose to kill the goddess who holds a slowly spreading, all-engulfing desert at bay, giving it no obstacle to continue its expansion into the last untouched continent of the planet, where almost all of the world's civilzation is gathered.

The problem is that people don't approach the game with an open mind. They go into the game expecting what they do from almost all RPGs--an eventual happy ending with the world safe and sound and evil banished forever, with several aspects of human nature and interaction having been examined along the way. Well, with Breath of Fire 3, the philosophy IS the plot. The whole quest is just a series of events and characters that all build up to the moment at the end when you confront the goddess who watches over the world, protecting it from the danger of the desert, but stinting its growth and freedom. This moment, in which the main character Ryu must choose whether or not he'll submit to the goddess and allow her to keep coddling the world's people and restricting their advancement, or trust in the determination and strength of the world's people and strike her down to free them to live life as it should be lived--with freedom and choice, even if having those important qualities brings danger, is the defining point of the game, everything it's built up to. It's not MEANT to be a climactic battle showing that Good will overcome Evil. What it's meant to be is a moment showing that despite the dangers and hardships that come with it, people need to have their freedom to live as they wish to, without a parental entity holding them back to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. It's an excellent and thought-provoking message of hope, freedom, and individualism all wrapped into one, but it nonetheless does mean an ending of uncertainty rather than happy security, and that's just not what most people expect from a video game. It's certainly not an inferior method, but if you can't appreciate this original twist on RPG story-telling, then the game will, indeed, seem as empty and disappointing as its detractors claim.


  1. I think to prove a point - When they did Dragon Quarter, they had a standard Good Vs. Evil affair and the game brought the whole series crashing down.

    That beings said, it's gameplay was horrible too. I miss Breath of Fire...

  2. Oh, I don't know about that. BoF5 was a very personalized plot--the question of right and wrong was a more morally-grounded one than BoF3's, I'll grant you, but BoF5's story was of a personal nature more than standard world-saving Good vs. Evil stuff, and honestly, I thought the setting, presentation, purpose, and follow-through of the game was well-done, creative, and memorable. If not for Breath of Fire 4, I'd easily say that BoF5 is the greatest of the series.

    As for its bringing the series crashing down, well, I don't know. I mean, BoF was never more than a mildly popular RPG series to begin with (and even a popular RPG series is usually a lesser sales success than a popular game in another genre); I'm frankly surprised it got to 5 titles in the first place. Yeah, there was some criticism of it by fans (most of which I find to be unfair and nitpicky), but I feel like the series didn't continue mostly just because people were largely unaware of it more than anything else.

  3. You know.. I hate to say this, but reading this article and some of your others (such as Chrono Cross), make you sound a bit like a hypocrite.

    You say that we have to go into BoF3 with an open mind, not always expect a happy ending, and even allow for the game (a sequel) to branch out with new ideas and revelations about previously established characters and canon. This is, in fact, something that could be said of Chrono Cross. I'm not exactly defending the game, but I am saying that BoF3 wasn't a fabulous game for more than just that sort of reasoning.

    Keep in mind, the Breath of Fire games have NEVER really had much in the way of a happy ending. In fact, they're known for having multiple endings and even the "good" ending is usually somewhat of a downer.. albeit probably not as big as BoF4's ending, but that was more of a disappointment.

    What made Breath of Fire 3 a bitter pill to swallow was the fact that it DID take established information and characters, and then go in really unexpected and not entirely necessary directions with them. Did we need to see Dais/Bleu naked in a pyramid prison? If she's the sister of a friggin goddess (and wasn't THAT a bat outta nowhere) how the heck did she get imprisoned unless it was her very sister who did it - mind you, I haven't played the game in over a decade, so parts of the plot are a bit vague in my memory.

    I didn't like that they went and killed off the Dragon Clan, or that the plot relied on the player knowing facts which simply weren't available back in the day. Hell, I had no clue what half of the plot was about, or even the Goddess' sudden appearance and overall significance until years later when I had stuff like fansites, fan translations, and Wikipedia to go to for information.

    I will, on the other hand, concede that BoF3 is not the series low point. I actually enjoyed the game in general when it came out, and after playing BoF4, I looked back on 3 with some fond memories. Or maybe it's because BoF4 was so awful that it made me like BoF3 cause it wasn't nearly that bad. At least the dragons were dragons and not hideous abominations.

    I think what would've made BoF3 a better game is actually better translations of the original 2 games. There's a lot of information and tie-ins that were lost in translation. Also, I didn't care much for the Master system and preferred learning my spells via levels.

    Really, when you think about it, the reason a lot of people didn't care for BoF3 is because it was so radically different from BoF 1 and 2. That in itself isn't a bad thing, but as I've said, this is the same situation other sequels which have a lot of hatred associated with them find themselves in.

    Also, the whole "thought-provoking plot" is also one of the ways people defend CC's plot. Not trying to cause an argument, I'm just saying that it does seem strange to find one confusing storyline to be a thoughtful discussion on life, and the other a pointless debate on the ethics of time-travel. :p

  4. I don't really think I'm being a hypocrite though. My position on CC has been made clear in several rants to be that it DOES suck horribly as a sequel and disappoint on every level for a fan of CT, BUT, more importantly, CC also is a terrible game on its own lack of merit. Its connections to CT are cause for ire, but if you look past them, the plot of CC is still an incomprehensible mess, and the characters are still almost entirely irrelevant and empty. Whether you go into CC expecting a sequel that does Chrono Trigger proud, or if you go into it with an open mind, it's still an extremely lousy game.

  5. The anonymous person above needs to learn to stop bitching about pointless things. So he/she loathed BoF 4? So what? That doesn't mean that it was a bad game. I hate it when people with closed minds criticize certain things such as nudity and the concepts of dragons. Uh hello? Did nudity really ruin things for BoF 3 like you stated? No it didn't. Why not? Because it wasn't overdone and unnecessary. One scene of a naked Deis that lasted for a minute or two... Oh man it's the devil! Stop the media! We have a mild nudity scene in a video game! If you hate nudity so much, don't play JRPGs OR any games with M rated content.

    Why are you (Mr Anonymous above) even bitching about how Deis was captured? Does Capcom need to go into every bit of detail about this part of the game when it wasn't even a big part to be concerned over? A flashback shows a hint about Deis' disagreements with Myria, therefore, Myria's Guardians turned on Deis. Isn't this enough to let someone with half a brain know that maybe this was how Deis was captured? Why are you even whining about the fact that Deis is the sister of Myria? It did not come out of nowhere and it made sense. Deis doesn't seem to age at all, she's lived for thousands of years, and there's an aura surrounding her character that gives hint to players that she may know more than what she's willing to let on about all the events in the first three BoF stories.

    You're also really complaining about the dragons in BoF 4 as well? Wow really? So just because the BoF 4 dragons are not the stereotypical fire-breathing lizards found in Western folklore, you label them as "abominations"? You seriously are closed minded. If you look closely at the culture influence for BoF 4, you would have known that numerous things in the game are based off of Asian themed supernatural creatures and legends. Eastern dragons are not the same as Western dragons. At least Ryu and Fou-Lou actually turn into dragons, unlike many of the dark dragon bosses in BoF 1 who turned into strange creatures that are not even dragons period.