Breath of Fire 2 improves upon the formula of its predecessor, weaving a fairly surprising story into a world that feels much more alive. Not only that, but the evil forces at work have learned that omitting punctuation is genuinely frightening. I know I cringe whenever I fail to see a sentence ended with a period. Evil cares not for grammar.
Whereas the original was short on convincing narrative, BoF2 actually manages to be compelling at times, and the pacing is fantastic. One moment you’re looking for a thief to clear your friend’s name, and the next you’re wandering through a forest to knock out a lumberjack and take his place in a fighting competition. All the while, those who stand in your way offhandedly allude to a mysterious god who will return and bring with them your comeuppance.
Unfortunately for them, you’ve got friends. Sort of.
You meet Bow as a child, and quickly become best friends. Naturally, he’s a dog. A talking, bipedal dog. Unfortunately, the strangeness of a talking animal is lost on a world where evil is traipsing about, breaking the laws of grammar right and left. Talking dogs who walk on two legs and shoot crossbows don’t mean much when we have a code-11 grammar violation on our hands, people. Priorities.
Katt is a fighter with an explosive temper, not to mention a stick with which she mercilessly clubs to death all those who stand in her way. Given the many, many people in this game who deserve blunt force trauma, she’s an invaluable asset.
Another winged Nina is in this game, though not the same one as in the original BoF. Evidently, bird-people don’t have much creativity when it comes to names. Still, she’s a badass who can bombard the entire screen with lightning bolts, so she’s a welcome addition.
There’s also a street-magician monkey, an armadillo, an easygoing frog, a man made out of grass, and the immortal snake-sorceress Bleu (returning from the original game, but only if you can find her).
Throughout the world you’ll find “shamans,” who are essentially magical women you can fuse the supporting characters with for interesting results. All of my real-life attempts to fuse women and monkeys in front of a video camera have been promptly shut down by the authorities, so this aspect of the game was strangely fulfilling. Your experiments will fail more often than not, but every so often you’ll be pleasantly surprised; certain combinations drastically alter the stats and appearances of your characters, from the status screen to battle animations.
One of the greatest parts of the game is that you get to own your own town. A small portion of the first twenty minutes later spirals into a lone, broken-down hut being transformed into a bustling city. To help it grow, you’re required to find people to live in it. There’s a guy living in the Corsair pub’s toilet because he’s broke, so… maybe you should start there, because it’s probably impacting business. The best part of this is that, depending on how much you build and which choices you make, this town could affect the ending in a very drastic way.
It may be strange at (all) times, but Breath of Fire 2 is ultimately a much more fulfilling experience than it’s predecessor.
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