(Super Nintendo)

Breath of Fire II (Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Breath of Fire II Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Understandably lacking in freshness

The Super NES was home to what are still considered by many to be a some of the finest RPG experiences ever produced. It's a predictable lineup of big names, and Breath of Fire II doesn't often get a mention. If it was overshadowed in the past it perhaps has an early opportunity to earn new fans on the young Wii U Virtual Console, getting in ahead of many of its flashier rivals; apart from EarthBound, naturally.

This title provides an education of sorts, in that case, adopting many of the standard mechanics of the genre's 16-bit days. You have an epic quest and a large world that you navigate with a top-down view, there are quirky characters and baffling moments of mis-direction, turn-based battles and moments of genuine storytelling flair that are packed with good intentions. These are timeless ideas, but unfortunately this experience isn't.

A strength of this title is its storytelling, as we've highlighted in the past, as it offers up a fairly clever overall narrative and a number of small touches to prompt a smile. One thing that hasn't changed, nor would we expect it too, is the localisation that lets it down. Not exactly uncommon in its era, perhaps, but the text and translation is often poor, with dodgy formatting and basic language errors; not game breaking, but in a story-driven experience poor localisation is a problem, as it nags away and demeans what are, in the core story, strong narrative threads. It's rather like watching the greatest movie ever made on a bootleg copy where you can barely see what's happening, in terms of its ability to affect the work.

Beyond that, the title often veers from accessible to confusing in equal measures. By accessible we mean by Super NES RPG standards, where the game does a solid job of educating you and enabling you to understand your tasks and how to proceed. The party system, items, currency and special abilities work intuitively, which is surprising considering their depth. There's some excellent design that makes clear, without any actual instructions, how to shift the order of your party or strategise in tough battles.

It's a challenging experience, which is a strength, though occasionally it can seem unnecessarily cruel or oblique. We have no shame in admitting that we consulted a web guide fairly often, as the subtle signposting that works so well with the mechanics doesn't always work so well in the actual campaign. Characters will drop hints that you may not realise are even hints, so perhaps this was a 'magazine game' back in the day, where confusion would reign until you tracked down some help. Nowadays the Wii U web browser and Miiverse fill the gap very nicely, but nevertheless it seems a pity that this joins some other titles from the era in mistaking confusion with difficulty.

Occasionally wandering off the story's path — because you don't know where to go — can be deadly, too, as overpowered enemies await in dark corners. Levelling up is vital, as expected, but some grinding is certainly required to buff up to a substantial degree, and we're grateful for the save state functionality — in its original form the save points would have left many gamers frustrated after one unfortunate random encounter. They happen a lot, which is the norm and absolutely fine, but occasionally the enemy in question will be much stronger than those immediately before them — and not a boss — which can be exacerbated by the seemingly random moments that you can't run away from a battle. You will die in this game, and sometimes it'll not be difficulty that's the problem, but unfair spikes and sloppy balancing.

With your save state handy and occasional checks online, however, there is some merit to playing through this title while more renowned RPGs rest on the Wii service. It also serves up some thoroughly pleasing 16-bit spritework, while the battle music is a fun loop; unfortunately much of the other music is forgettable and, occasionally, jarring.

Conclusion

We wouldn't let the fact this is a sequel deter you from considering Breath of Fire II, as it's a fairly solid RPG experience from the Super NES era. Strengths such as its storyline and solid mechanics are undermined by shoddy localisation, poor balancing and opaque progression, however. Armed with an online guide and with liberal use of the save state functionality, it can be worth the slog on the Wii U, even if it's an experience defined by compromises rather than refinement.

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User Comments (40)

galetyler

#2

galetyler said:

I can't believe that they didn't simply put the GBA version up, that did fix the localization issues

Snkfiend

#3

Snkfiend said:

Damn I hate reviews this amazing game regardless of the horrible localization doesn't deserve a 6. Breath of Fire series is the reason why I started playing RPG. And like galetyler states why they didn't put the GBA version or better yet the improved BOF2 version that the fan community made for emulation that had way better localization?

ricklongo

#6

ricklongo said:

I'll definitely get this one somewhere down the road, the next time I'm going through a new game drought. I don't think I ever played a SNES JRPG that failed to amused me.

McHaggis

#7

McHaggis said:

I finished BoF I and BoF II when they were re-released on the GameBoy advance. Breath of Fire III (PSX, PSP) will always be my favourite of the series, I'd love to see that game come to a Nintendo console.

Spoony_Tech

#8

Spoony_Tech said:

For some reason I never beat this game. Loved every minute of it though. Totally disagree with the review as it one of the better rpgs on the snes! Easily an 8!

Einherjar

#10

Einherjar said:

BoF still is my favorite game of the series, but i cant really say why.
But to be honest, the SNES versions of both games have aged extremely bad and are pretty unballanced.
Random encounters simply dont give enough money/exp to ensure a natural character progression. You have to grind not only for bosses, but for every new area you visit, since the previous one simply didnt give you enough experience to level up properly. Also, the shoping system simply sucks. Without a guide (and i couldnt find a good equipment guide) you have no way to find out the statistics of new gear offered in stores nor do you see an indicator that this particular peace of gear lowers or raises your stats. This wouldnt be such a big problem if you had enough money. But the series loves "red herrings" when it comes to gear, so prepare for some misspurchases.
The GBA remake is worlds better when it comes to things like this, but suffers in graphics and sound quality. But this is definitly not a 6. I would at least give it an 7-8.

mch

#11

mch said:

One of my favourite SNES games and for me the starter into RPGs.
I am surprised by the low grade. I would also easily give it an 7-8. I encourage people to still try this out. The suboptimal localization had never bothered me much (that was a complete different time back then, it was kind of part of the deal ;) and if you like SNES-RPGs it´s a MUST.

ThomasBW84Admin

#12

ThomasBW84 said:

I appreciate the comments, and accept that this is one that will earn me plenty of disagreements :) It just didn't happen for me, this one, but I can totally understand the other side of the argument; we have a Wii VC review that liked it more, which goes to show how we all see games differently!

MeloMan

#13

MeloMan said:

I had absolutely no problem with BoF2 and loved it. Unfortunately I only read more about the short comings in this article than its genuine strengths. The fusion system alone is worth the play IMO. I agree it's not the best RPG on SNES, but it's without a doubt worth playing. 7 or 8/10... 6 seems a tad harsh despite the short comings.

Spoony_Tech

#14

Spoony_Tech said:

@ThomasBW84 I can understand if this is your first time with the game. Back then we didn't know better and I'm sure its not quite as good as I remember. My how times have changed for the genre!

Grubdog

#15

Grubdog said:

It's just a review score guys, you don't have to "hate reviews" because someone thought BoF 2 was average. 6-7-8 who even cares, it's the same game to be enjoyed.

I'm finding it really generic, I don't know if I can finish it. It's an OK game but I haven't found anything to love and the presentation is really rough, it's like the game doesn't want me to play it. Feels like a waste of time, which is a huge contrast to other SNES RPGs I loved immediately.

FarukoSH

#16

FarukoSH said:

:( It may not be one of the best RPG of the SNES era (there are TON) BoF2 holds a special place in my heart, i dont know why but i love it so much.

Freakazoid

#17

Freakazoid said:

@Einherjar have u not noticed the swch button when in the armory there they show u the stats changes. Also u automatically sell ur old amor/weapon. Which makes them cheaper also.

@topic totally misunderstanded the game. when u dont have a need for leveling why even bother implying a level system? Its a thing i kinda noticed that rpgs lately tend to just progress on their own without effort, this makes levels meaningless. This way u could just use a system like monster hunter where strength comes just from equipment. Ok in some spots its annoying like in Highfort when u didntplay with stan at all.
Also that the fusion isnt mentioned is realy sad since its makes it different.
Well ok this game isnt an easy one but i didnt think its too hard. An 8 would be a good score in my eyes

Ernest_The_Crab

#18

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Freakzoid The thing is though, there are better RPGs out there on the system like Chrono Trigger for example. If the reviewer has come across these games as well he's most likely going to review the game lower than if he hadn't. And quite frankly who HASN'T played Chrono Trigger, it has been everywhere.

The problem is that there were ALOT of really good RPGs on the SNES and as a result anything "decent" would be marked lower if one had been exposed to those better RPGs (due to bias and expectations).

retro_player_22

#20

retro_player_22 said:

This game doesn't deserve this low score (it to me deserve at least an 8 or a 91/2) and bad localisation? I've seen worst localisation in games like Final Fantasy II & III and even with their awful localisation they still manage to retain a higher score. It seems the reviewer just gave this score simply because it's not a big name franchise. The gameplay are fairly balance, grinding are a necessity and they still are even in games like FFII & III, Lufia and many others as well. Also exploration and the task of finding out what to do next are the rewarding factor of RPG like this and they are to challenge the gamer, I just don't get how an RPG could lose point for that (like c'mon you really need someone to tell you where to go next). Also why not mention any of the extra stuff like fishing, side-quest, and character development or even the Township customization? This game isn't Final Fantasy Mystic Quest quality and even that game has a higher score than this game, what is wrong with these reviewers?

ejamer

#21

ejamer said:

It's hard to give a simple score for games like this. It's also hard to compare scores from different reviewers because opinions vary from one person to the next.

Even when first released, games in the Breath of Fire series were unabashedly old-school. To say that it hasn't aged well is kind. While some people will appreciate that, and others will be able to overlook problems due to nostalgia and familiarity, there will definitely be some who find that design issues create a barrier of entry that simply isn't worth breaking through.

I like this game and think it's still fun to play. Not everyone will, and if you don't have experience with retro RPGs you should probably approach with caution.

Snkfiend

#22

Snkfiend said:

@Grubdog I respect that but in my opinion I never go for reviews for a game I give my own review when I either finished or don't. That's the problem in this generation now everybody has to read a review coverage for them to buy any title akin Wonderful 101 which has the most contradicting review I ever seen which was a amazing niche game but guess what nobody bought the title over either the review or playing the demo. But I again respect your opinion and the reviewer on this but I don't agree about his review and isn't going to change I feel about reviewers that give bad scores to good proper games because it hurts the gamers from buying the game.

Rapido

#23

Rapido said:

Time to kill me some GOOs. BOF IV is still the best in the series. and BOF V (Dragon's Quarters) is where it all ends. Not counting the mobile game that is in production.

burninmylight

#24

burninmylight said:

@Einherjar

Thank you for that info. I guess that means I'll be holding off on this game until I really get into a masochistic gaming mood, because modern RPGs have me too spoiled to go back to the 16-bit vault too often. I've only beaten Phantasy Star II and Secret of Mana once each, because some of the things you mentioned just grind my gears! Save states will make it more bearable though.

Zael

#25

Zael said:

I think the game deserves at least 8
yes, it's my opinion
I think that this low score is the reason why many rpg weren't localized in the past. They are complex games that western players don't understand.

SchamMan89

#26

SchamMan89 said:

This score makes sense to me. The game has aged horribly. I've tried pushing through with save states and a GameFAQs guide, but it's just SO grindy. Good for all of you that like this game, but count me in the group that says 6 is totally appropriate.

BJQ1972

#27

BJQ1972 said:

This isn't the PAL version of the game is it? The version released in the EU on Wii U is the US version. You should correct the icon at the top of the review. (I am assuming that you have reviews the Wii U version rather than picking a copy on a UK SNES.)

alrighthearthis

#28

alrighthearthis said:

I'd say this is a fair score. I love the Breath of Fire series but the SNES entries are more of nostalgic playthorughs for me than for entertainment. I can't repeatedly play them in the same way I can Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, or Chrono Trigger.

Einherjar

#29

Einherjar said:

@Freakazoid I noticed the switch command and knew that it would trade in my old gear for the new one, but that it would show me the stat differences is new to me. To be fair, i never dared to use it in the case, that the new stuff will be worse than what i already got. I will definitly try it out now, in that it could really take away some of the frustration ;)
@burninmylight I wouldnt call it masochistic. Its definitly hard but not unfair. The slow leveling really is the biggest problem. You cant just rush to your next objective and be fine on the way. You have to be carefull what new enemy types can dish out on the way and slowly progress to your new destination, at least in the early game until you get a full competent party. On the other hand, almost every early party member knows some kind of healing spell, the hero knows one and even comes with an innate ability that lets him heal himself in a pinch without consuming mana. Also, the money problem can be solved by mastering the fishing and hunting minigames if thats your thing. If your good at them, especially hunting, you can earn more than you need on the way. But theres sadly no way around the level grinding. But like i said, it isnt really masochistic or frustrating, its just harder than your typical JRPG of the time. Think of early dragon quest games if you will.

Subie98

#30

Subie98 said:

I still have my snes copy. This series is great if you stop at the end of bof4. The 5th was horrible. This game isnt as hard as this review paints it. Its just not for people that arent hardcore rpg lovers. People that only play rpgs from time to time will get worked. Dont start with bof2. Start with the original first. The series has a great story. Dont play the 5th. Pretend it ceased there.

Subie98

#31

Subie98 said:

Also I dont know what the reviewer is talking about lack of saving ability. You pray at the church or the dragon statues to save. Its no different then the rest of the series....

theblackdragonAdmin

#32

theblackdragon said:

I remember loving the hell out of this game when i picked it up for Wii VC. It was confusing at first, but I have no qualms consulting GameFAQs for games like this, and the story was more than engaging enough to make up for the occasional roadblock or missed clue here and there. My only disappointment was that I messed up and invited the wrong people to my town so I couldn't get the best equipment iirc... be careful who you're nice to in this game, haha!

To be honest, if you've ever played through Chrono Trigger or one of the SNES FF games, and if you've ever had experience with Konami's mid-90's game translations (Suikoden I and II, I'm looking squarely at you), you'll be more than able to get through this no problem. My only regret was not having played the first BoF game, my husband kept popping up to tell me who all the returning characters were and why they were there, lol — i wished i'd been able to play it for myself beforehand, but it's still a great game even on its own. :3

JustinH

#33

JustinH said:

This is the quintessential SNES RPG. It certainly isn't the best out there — not even in the top five — but if you want to know what it was like to play RPGs on the SNES, this game will give you the experience. Play this and you can skip stuff like Tecmo Secret of the Stars, Paladin's Quest, Lufia and the like.

I do like this game, it has a lot of charming and touching moments, and the gameplay is a lot of fun, but the translation is awful, the progression isn't always clear and the difficulty is an issue. Viewed through the prism of 2013 the review and the score are both very fair.

SneakyStyle

#34

SneakyStyle said:

Honestly i'd give this a 8 / 10. It is way more fun then it has been given credit for in this review.

It's one of my top 10 favorite SNES games. Along with the Lufia games. ^^

CanisWolfred

#35

CanisWolfred said:

@Einherjar I gotta agree with you on all points, and can even add a few more. Translation problems, glitches, and a few other gameplay unbalances definitely hinder the game. That said, I love the hell out of the game, despite my qualms with it.

ogo79

#36

ogo79 said:

@theblackdragon
pretty interesting stuff you said :*
yall should let dragon do some reviews/recaps
dragons reminiscence of super mario rpg was interesting as well.
3 oreos and thats it. classic stuff

Bass_X0

#37

Bass_X0 said:

It just didn't happen for me, this one, but I can totally understand the other side of the argument;

Do you review games on your own personal opinion or do you recognise that a game is good even if its not one you personally enjoyed?

I like to think a good game is a good game regardless of who plays it and should be reviewed as such. I read reviews to find out if a game is good or bad, not one person's personal opinion of it. I don't like GTA5 but if I was a professional reviewer, I wouldn't score it low just because I personally didn't like it, I can still recognise its a good game.

Pod

#38

Pod said:

Man, the colors, the great enemy animations, the characters and the integration of their skills with the overworld gives this game a leg up compared to quite a few of the SNES RPGs if you ask me.

Then things like simplicity and short music loops that drive you insane drag it back down.

yvanjean

#39

yvanjean said:

@mch

It doesn't sound like you've played the WiiU version. Before you give it a score make sure you take time to play it on the WiiU. Sure the game was a 8-9/10 back on the SNES. But now it's being rated in 2013, 6/10 actually sound generous to me.

steamtrain

#40

steamtrain said:

This is probably my favourite rpg. Bit late for comment and I can see why some will find nothing special about it, but for me, the story, characters, humour, visuals etc. makes for a 10 in my book, it trumps any other rpg every time except maybe for A Link to the Past, but I'm not even so sure about that, Zelda may lead adventurewise, but BoF2 definitely wins storywise.

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