Thursday, 6 August 2020

Breath of Fire II (SNES)

Breath of Fire II title screen SNES
Developer:Capcom|Release Date:JP: 1994, NA: 1995, EU: 1996|Systems:SNES, GBA

This week on Super Adventures, I'm playing Brerth of Fireo! Uh, Breath of Fire II!

I played the original Breath of Fire just over a year ago, so it's not really fresh in my memory, but I think I thought it was 'okay'. Not all that interesting, but okay. Nice graphics though.

I've already spotted one massive improvement that Breath of Fire II has over the first game, which is that is was actually made it to Europe fast enough to get released for the system it was created for. We didn't get to play first game over here until the Game Boy Advance port, which came out five and a half years after its own sequel. And it does seem to be a proper sequel this time, unlike the other games in the series, as Wikipedia tells me it takes place 500 years after the events of the original game.

I'm planning to at least go through the first few hours of the game, so there will be SPOILERS below this point, but not many. I just felt like I should give you fair warning, seeing as JRPGs have a lot of story in them. Here's my first spoiler: if you leave the title screen on for a while all you get is gameplay demos. I thought it might give me an secret intro, like the first game, but it did not.

Right, I'm going to press SJARJ and see what this is like.

First thing I did was pick a save slot and enter my hero's name. Fortunately I already know that he's called Ryu (again) so that saved me having to spend half an hour thinking of something. It's the same name as the protagonist of the first game, but he's apparently a different guy. It's like how Cids keep showing up in Final Fantasy games.

Then I got to this options screen, which is a lot simpler than the one in the first game as it's not asking me to map things to the joypad buttons myself. It is letting me turn the music off though, which is a bloody weird option to put at the start of a JRPG. The soundtrack's often great in these games and who wants to go 40 hours without music?

Though it'll be handy later when I'm sick of hearing the battle theme for the 400th time and feel like listening to a podcast instead.

Uh? An image started to fade in but then it got stuck like this. Did it crash maybe? The music's still playing but nothing I press is getting me to the intro.


Oh it was an eye!

The creature's finally awake, but it doesn't have much strength right now, so it'd really appreciate it if whoever it's talking to right now would give themselves to God. Praying to God, praising God, becoming God's strength, all of this would be appreciated. (I get the feeling that the 'God' it's referring to is itself).

Then the game cuts to a church maybe? That's the impression I'm getting from the music.

I don't know why it's black and white, but I'm assuming it's because it's a flashback to when Ryu was a kid and slept in a very ornate bed. The game didn't actually start off with him waking up in it though, so they've dodged that cliché. I'm curious to see if I can get through the prologue without his village burning down as well.

I've been trying to search the furniture in here for more TreePoles and other treasures, but a guy called Ganer keeps interrupting me with a message box saying "Ryu, come here for a minute." and it's driving me mad, so I'm going to give in and go downstairs.

I kind of figured this would be a 'but thou must' choice. Didn't expect to get punched by a magical fist though.

Okay, nothing to do in here, I guess I'll run outside and look for my lost sister then. Oh hang on, there's still no run button. I'll walk outside then.

Thanks for that bit of trivia! I wonder what that gem means at the side of the message box. It seems to change colour sometimes but I've no idea why.

I went around the whole town looking for Ryu's sister but I didn't have any luck. It's not letting me leave either, so I'm trapped here with nothing to do but chat to all the NPCs.

After a bit of socialising I discovered that there's a dragon sleeping in the 'back mountains', and "Lately, there have been kids acting like orphans and getting into churches... and they steal." I guess I'll have to watch out for that; I don't want someone nicking all my spare TreePoles.

Someone also mentioned that Ryu's sister likes to play around at the back mountain, so I went searching for a way to get there and discovered that a bit of grass blocking the exit had mysteriously vanished. So now I know that chatting with certain generic NPCs can secretly unlock barriers. That's just... great.

I was expecting to walk straight into a cutscene when I left town, but now I've got to walk around these paths trying every exit until I get the right one and find his sister. At least there's no random encounters interrupting me. No treasure either.

If you're wondering why Ryu's stripy, it's because the game's gone a bit high resolution for a moment to make his sprite appear darker when it's in shadow. The effect doesn't work on a sharp monitor screen though.

Hey I've found colour! Also Ryu's sister and a dragon! Plus one of those Beak enemies from the first game just jumped out to ambush me!

I'm still confused about why it's in colour now though. I was sure the black and white was going to last the whole prologue. Speaking of a surprising amount of colour, here's what the same scene looks like in the Game Boy Advance port:

Sorry, I should've warned you to put some sunglasses on first. They've given it much more brightness and saturation in an attempt to make it visible on a GBA screen without a backlight.

Anyway I've been ambushed by a Beak so that means it's fighting time.

Hey they've replaced the cryptic icons from the original game with actual words! Well, they're almost words. It likely works a lot better in the original Japanese, which can fit a lot more meaning into just four letters.

I love Ryu's attack animation as he tries to deal damage with that twig. And fails.

Here's what the GBA version of the battle screen looks like. It's the interface from the GBA port of the first Breath of Fire except tinted red instead of blue!

Anyway I got my ass handed to me (in both versions), but thankfully Ganer showed up with a lightning spell at the last moment to save the day. I even got to have the xp and money for the victory!

Ryu's sister explained to Ganer that she likes to come here and nap next to the sleeping dragon because it lets her see her dead mother in her dreams. They carried on talking a bit about the attack on the village that cost her mother's life, and how Ganer and the dragon were the ones who saved everyone, then they both walked home and left me here.

So now I have to decide whether I want to try napping here myself. I think I know this game well enough now to know that I don't have a choice.

Well I saw the creepy eye for a second and the music stopped, but other than that nothing happened, so I went back home to the church. Turns out that the Hulk's dad works here too! Talking to people in churches is typically a good way to get healing or save the game in RPGs, so I had a chat and he told me to think of the place as my own home and rest. So that's nice of him.

I mean I already was considering it to be my home, seeing as I started the game in the bedroom, and my dad and sister apparently live here, but it's nice to know that we're all on the same page.

Oh damn, the creepy NPC who warned me about the thieving orphans was telling the truth! This puppy-man I'm sharing my room with just swiped my candle. Plus he seems to think that I'm an orphan as well and I don't have any dialogue options to tell him otherwise.

Though I could at least reply to his suggestion that we should go to another town in the middle of the night and raid another church. I said 'no'. Because I live here, it's the middle of the night, and I'm not a thief.

But the game wouldn't let me go back to bed so all I could do was go downstairs and join him.

He hasn't appeared in my party though, which is weird.

Look at all those words by the way. Some of them even have five letters! Much better than icons in my opinion. It's even telling me where I am right now, which is handy I suppose... for when I need to check a walkthrough.

It's a weird looking BathRm though. It took me a while to figure out if that was meant to be the toilet or the sink, but I guess the toilet roll is the clue. Unless that's the towel. Either way I don't think I'd want to live in ye olde fantasy times, as there's no lock on the door. In fact there's no door.

See, this is why you don't run away from home in the middle of the night. We're really lucky there's no random encounters, seeing as I can't even defeat a spiky blue ball with a beak. Seems like there's only one place for us to go out here and that's the creepy cave leading under the mountains. Luckily my doggy friend stole a candle so we'll at least see certain death coming.

In fact, he spots it pretty fast and then tells me to follow it, yelling at me whenever I try to explore one of the branching passages instead. So I guess now I'm chasing what looks like a snake's tail around in the dark.

Yes, it turned out that following the monster's tail led us straight to a monster. Big fucking surprise.

It smacked my idiot friend away with one flick of its tail, dramatically increasing my chances of survival, and then it started talking to me. Unfortunately this is one of those RPG conversations where one person is entirely silent but the other person can still hear them, so I have to deduce my half of the conversation from the creature's responses.

I think Ryu's telling it that he's the chosen one, the child for the mission, which is probably true, though I'm not sure where he's getting his information from. The creature gives him a chance to prove it, in battle!

And Ryu's knocked out in one hit.

Capcom has a lot of characters called Ryu and I think I'd have more luck playing as literally any of the other ones right now.

Though my Ryu survives, as apparently it was all just a dream? Maybe?

The scrolling text here does mention a dream in which he got his heart ripped apart by a demon, but perhaps it was a different demon. It also mentions that Ryu's father and sister have disappeared and no one recognises him now, which is a strange thing for me to be learning in the post-prologue interlude.

The thing is though, I was actually supposed to learn this much earlier. I replayed the prologue on the GBA port and this time I spoke to the NPCs again after coming back from the sleeping dragon; none of them remembered Ryu or his family and they told me that Father Hulk was taking in orphans at the church (which is why he told me to feel at home).

So the designers just assumed that players would want to talk to all the NPCs twice I guess. Am I weird for only wanting to talk to people that I have a reason to talk to?

Ten years have passed since the prologue. Now Ryu and his buddy Bow are all grown up and are busy doing their first job for the Rangers Guild: finding a lost pet. I'm a bit surprised that Bow survived getting smacked across that cave, but I suppose that bit might have been a dream as well. I have no idea what's actually real in this game right now!

Unfortunately the pet's owner never told us where the pet went missing, or even what kind of animal it is, so all I can do is look everywhere and talk to everyone (again). Actually screw that, I'm going shopping!

A SaladBwl? Well, it'll get me +1 defence and I don't have to see either of them wearing it, so why not? I just need to find 55 more Z and it can be mine.

The shop menu's not as efficient as it could be, as there's plenty on space on screen right now for it to show me the item's stats, if it's better than what a character's wearing, and whether a character can equip it at all. But I won't complain, as it doesn't take too many button presses to get to the most important info: how equipping it will affect my stats.

Breath of Fire II menu game boy advance
Here's what menu screens look like in the GBA port. I've got more money here because this version gives three times the cash per battle and twice the experience. It's a bit worrying that they felt they needed to change that so drastically. The GBA version also has a new 'SAVE' option, that makes a temporary save and shuts the game off, which is pretty much essential for a portable RPG.

One change I don't get though is the portraits. There was nothing wrong with the old portraits, they looked fine! I mean the new portraits look decent enough, but it seems like a change just for the sake of changing something.

Here, have a picture of what the building interiors look like in colour so you can see just how good the SNES version of the game looks. It doesn't necessarily make any sense for the shadows to be where they are, but they do help make the room look more 3D than some other 16-bit RPGs. Plus I like the duck shopkeeper.

Though even though the pixel art is obviously great, something about it is making the game feel dated compared to other SNES RPGs like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. I think it might be because the walls are only 32 pixels tall: two tiles.

Final Fantasy VIChrono Trigger
The walls in these two screenshots are four tiles tall (which I've indicated by sticking blue Post-it notes all over them). Pulling the camera in a bit like this let the artists add more detail, which means the games don't look so much like a beautifully updated port of an old NES RPG. Just try to ignore the fact that the FF6 characters aren't tall enough to look over the top of tables.

Okay, nothing else to do in town, I guess I'll head out into the wilderness and look for this lost pet then.

Actually, scratch that, I'm going to hang around here for a bit getting into random encounters to earn some money to buy a SaladBwl. Or maybe something better. I can't even visit the carnival yet because they're asking for 30 Z so I clearly need to improve my funds.

Fortunately finding fights won't be a problem, as I found it hard to get a good shot of us walking across the overworld without the battle transition effect creeping in at the sides of the screen. The place must be swarming with monsters today as every few steps I'm in another fight. I remember the first Breath of Fire being a bit enthusiastic with its encounter rate, but I'm sure it wasn't this bad.

I could also go fishing for a bit, as it turns out that the TreePole I took from my chest of drawers is actually a fishing rod! Or a fishing lod according to this menu.

Oh hang on, I don't have any bait. Never mind then, back to the battles.


Eight random encounters in eight minutes doesn't sound so bad, however I'm still only level three so those fights took me an average of 50 seconds each, and I also spent a while just watching the clouds go by to see if the sky goes dark over time (it does!)

Though despite the game breaking my journey up into tiny 2-5 second micro-hikes, I've still managed to cover more ground than I expected to be allowed to. I figured I would've ran into into a blocked path by now. I'm starting to worry that this is like Dragon Warrior and the bridges lead to more dangerous zones that I'm too low level to survive in.

But I'm level 3 now and Bow's unlocked a cure spell, so I'm feeling pretty good about our chances.

Okay maybe that was a bridge too far. These flies annihilated us in just two hits each!

At least now I know that when the party's wiped out, they appear at the last save point with all their levels intact but a lighter wallet - so basically the same as in the first game. And just like the first game, the save points are found in towns, so you've got a lot of distance to cover if you screw up.

Damn, all that and I still can't afford that SaladBwl! Back to looking for that pet then.

I found a patch of long grass on the overworld and walked inside to find myself here. It doesn't seem likely that the pet I'm looking for is a deer, but I've been given no information at all so I should probably try to catch it anyway.

The first game had animals roaming on the overworld occassionally and I think I had to get a certain character in my party before I could hunt them. Seems like this is the same kind of situation as I'm getting absolutely nothing done here. I'm just going to leave and get back to pet hunting.

Hey I've found a cave hidden in the mountains! There's a pool of full-heal water here like in the dungeons in the first game, so I feel like I must be on the right path now.

Though every time I take a few steps away from the healing pool I get beat up or poisoned and have to go running back. Well, walking back. So it takes me 2 seconds to hike back to the pool, then I have to wait 8 seconds to get my health back, then 2 seconds later I'm back in another random battle getting poisoned again.

Maybe I'll hang around here for a bit and level up a bit, at least until I'm strong enough to make it to the end of the passageway without burning through all of Bow's mana. I still haven't bought any healing herbs or antidotes yet because I lost my cash, so I'm relying on him for all my healing.

I could go back to the shop with the money I've made here in this cave, but then I'd have to fight enemies all the way there and back and I'm a bit bored with fighting them now to be honest. There's no strategy needed or even possible, besides casting a heal spell when necessary. I just switch on 'auto battle' and let my two heroes hit things for 40 seconds while I'm checking things on the internet.


Oh damn. I realise now that I've made a terrible mistake.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I must have known I was fighting my way up to a boss fight, but I didn't bother to hike back to town for supplies and now here I am with just one herb to last the whole battle. Which I inevitably lost.

I did come close to beating them though, especially when they all hit each other for a round because they were literally fighting over me. I suppose it's a good thing they're not keen on eating dog, as it means the pet I'm looking for might still be alive, but Ryu couldn't really defend himself against three beautifully pixelled harpies every round and soon it was just Bow fighting a losing battle on his own.

In retrospect I should've tried having Bow cast his 'defence up' spell on him at the start.

At least I respawned back in town with enough money left to stock up on herbs this time. Sorry guys, I'll have to buy you the SaladBwl next time, I just can't spare the cash right now. Though I can choose how many of an item I want to buy, which is a definite upgrade from the first game.

Okay, I'm going back to that mountain, I'm going back through that cave, I'm going to defeat those harpies, and I'm going to rescue that pet. I'm turning the game straight off after that's done, but I am determined to achieve this one thing before I'm done with it.


Oh good, another branching passageway. If I stroll down a bit to see which leads to the exit and which leads to treasure I'll end up in a fight, and then another fight on the way back. Excessive random encounters really discourage exploration, as I'm punished for walking the extra steps and after the battle I can't always remember which way I was going.

I beat the harpies by the way, but that's not a shock seeing how overlevelled I am now. I'm like, two levels overlevelled. If I had more than the starting equipment on me I'd be really dangerous.

Oh shit, I found a SaladBwl in a chest! The game has taken pity on me. Now I just need to replace my BoyDR, RistBand and Bum'sCL. Well, I don't need to, but I want to.

You know what I do need though? A pet. I just assumed I'd find it in a room after defeating the harpies, but after exploring the rest of the caves all I found was a guy called Azusa. So I walked over to him to have a chat, hoping that he had my next clue, but all he said was:
"My name is Azuza, and I'm a hunter. I was hunting an animal and ended up here."
You and me both mate.

I'm not looking for the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail here, I just want to find a lost pet and every road I take is a dead end! Though hang on, there's another path here that leads to the other side of the mountains.

I've found a second save point! It's been like 45 minutes since I last saved so I really needed this. It's a good thing I played Breath of Fire first really or I might not have thought to try using the dragon statues. They're conspicious but they don't jump out as being useful.

I went inside the ruined house and found a man being harassed by a swarm of cockroaches. So I defeated them all with my overlevelled autobattle and he offered to make us dinner!

Our heroes might be mighty-ish warriors, but they're terrible pet detectives.

Oh hang on, one of them's finally started to put the pieces together. Turns out the pig the man is boiling has the same name as the pet we're looking for, and that's definitely a clue. Our heroes managed to drag dinner away from the starving old man in the end, ignoring his pleas to just let him have a bite of one of the legs... and now it's my job to get them all the way back to town again.


Wow, only four battles, that wasn't so bad at all.

Unfortunately the cutscenes didn't go so smoothly and now Bow is on the run from the law. I'm trying to smuggle him out in a trash can, but first I have to resist telling the guard that bin bouncing after me is actually a ComicBk. It's apparently a porn mag in the original Japanese version but shockingly that didn't survive the trip across the Pacific.

Anyway I said I'd be turning this off after finding the pet and that's what I'm doing. Though first there's something I need to know.

Hey they did pixel new trees for this game. I thought they might have reused the one they'd drawn for Breath of Fire 1 as they looked very familiar, but they put the effort in. I'm always impressed by good looking trees as they're hard to do.

Right, I'm done now.


Breath of Fire II has a lot of fighting in it. I wish that wasn't the first thing that jumped to my mind when I tried to write something about the game, but it was.

I'd rather say that it's a beautiful RPG with great music that really lives up to all the praise that fans have given it over the years. Partly because I talk to some of those fans online and I don't want them to hate me after this. Though it really does look great for a SNES game, you can see that in the screenshots.

Plus I only reached the part where the main concern in the heroes' lives was rescuing a pig, but I can already tell the story's going to be better than the one in the first game. Bow isn't the most appealing character I've seen in a video game, but he does have a character, and that means that other characters with a personality may show up later! The first few hours of Breath of Fire left me with no hope that anything interesting would ever get said, but this already seems to have a lot more potential. Even the battle with the harpies had a bit of a story going on during it. Granted every line of dialogue is going to be filtered through the ropey localisation, but it's been making enough sense so far, and there's a fan retranslation out there if necessary. In fact it seems to be recommended by a lot of people.

But when I think about all the mysteries I want to see resolved, the characters I've yet to meet, and the town building minigame that's apparently in there too, my brain starts calculating all the random battles I'd have to go through to get that far and it just doesn't seem worth it. It's like there's rakes spread across the landscape spaced a few steps apart, stretching from here to the very end of the game, all ready to slam into my face when I tread on them, over and over again.

The encounter rate in this game is so bad that I had to stop playing and check online to make sure it wasn't a bug. So far it's almost like they wanted players to have a certain number of fights each dungeon, but then they ended up making the dungeons too small, so I was tripping over the bloody things every few steps. To be fair I hit more random encounters than I needed to, because I didn't know where I was going, but those constant interruptions made me wish that I travelling the most efficient path at all times, with no exploring for treasure. I really started to miss my Mrbl3 no-encounters item from the first game.

It's not like enduring random encounters is a new concept to me, I've played a few JRPGs now, but this really made me hate them. Which is kind of a problem when they're the core of the gameplay. Every few steps there'd be another one, I'd select auto battle and go back to reading the internet for a while. You can tell I really tried to give this a fair shot as I didn't even put a podcast on! I suffered through each and every transition to the start of the battle music, back to the dungeon music, back to the start of the battle music and so on.

These kinds of turn based battles in RPGs are rarely that interesting, but I've played games where I was happy to run into enemies, because each encounter was a chance to level up a skill, or copy their magic, or steal their shoes, or something. I had goals of my own and the fights were a means to achieving them. In this they just felt like something to endure, and even the money I was bringing in wasn't enough to be worth it. They were just a joyless waste of my time. Every 3 seconds of walking followed by 30 seconds of fighting. Though gaining experience is absolutely necessary of course, so grinding is encouraged!

The sad thing is, I know it's not going to get better. The gameplay will probably improve as more characters and skills are introduced, but the random encounters will never ease off and that means I'll never reach a point where I'm able to enjoy the game. And I've beaten Final Fantasy II on the NES... twice; I can tolerate quite a bit if I'm interested enough.

Though I did get on a little better with the GBA version, perhaps because I knew what I was doing, perhaps because it hands out twice the experience and three times the money per fight, perhaps because it HAS A RUN BUTTON! It might even have less encounters, I don't know. The graphics and music have been downgraded a bit, and the translation is 99% as bad as ever, but it feels like it may be a better experience.

Though I know people who really love this game and probably count it as one of their favourites on the SNES, so I think the best thing for you to do here is to ignore everything I've said about it. Especially if it contradicts your own opinions. I'm just sharing my experiences and a few screenshots, I'm not here to tell you all your favourites are actually bad. Because what do I know about games? I'm the idiot who beat Final Fantasy II twice.

That encounter rate is bullshit though.

Thanks for reading! I've written about a thousand or so other games if you want to read more (which you can find using our newly upgraded search box), or you could write your own thoughts about Breath of Fire II in the box below.

If you're really into typing you could drop by the Super Adventures Discord and say 'hi' or maybe even other words.


  1. The next game is Baldur's Gate II. I haven't been on the Discord to see if someone guessed it within three seconds of you posting this, so if they have, please let me have my victory.

    It's just occurred to me that The Chaos Engine has the same viewpoint as these SNES RPGs and now all I want to see is the Navvie and the Gentleman running around Final Fantasy V, gunning down all the random encounters.

    Father Hulk is what happens when Bruce Banner studies theology rather than physics.

    1. You're the only one who guessed it within three seconds, so congratulations on your excellent game identification skills.

      Also now I'm actually annoyed that this game didn't have a Chaos Engine battle system. I wouldn't care about running into enemies every two steps if they took 3 hits to kill instead of 50 seconds!

    2. > I'm not here to tell you all your favourites are actually bad.

      That would be my job.

      And you want to see an RPG with a top-down perspective where you're gunning down random encounters? Sounds like you want to play... Parasite Eve! (It's a shame to cut out the PE boss music, but the TCE music works too!)

    3. > Also now I'm actually annoyed that this game didn't have a Chaos Engine battle system. I wouldn't care about running into enemies every two steps if they took 3 hits to kill instead of 50 seconds!

      I keep telling you to get Remnant: From The Ashes, but noooo. At least soon you'll have no excuse.

    4. That Parasite Engine (Chaos Eve?) mashup works surprisingly well. Oh what we could have had!

    5. It's never too late for them to make a new Parasite Eve 3 that complete erases the old one!

    6. They could even do that thing where they give it the same name as the first one, so it confuses anyone older than 12!

    7. Yeah, I love that, more of that please.


Semi-Random Game Box