TOH Game Club 5 – Breath of Fire I & II

We’ve had four Tired Old Hack Game Clubs now. The first two were a success, with oodles of players joining forces to play Zelda II and StarTropics together. Then we tried with Earthbound and Phantasy Star and the numbers dropped drastically.

The formula now seems clear: folk are happy to get involved if they don’t have to spend much money (which is understandable). So, with the Switch now in possession of a growing number of SNES games, let’s go with one of those. Or two of them, as it were.

The idea

In case you missed the first four, the Tired Old Hack Game Club is a new group in which, for a month at a time, like-minded gamers can play through retro games together.

Instead of trying to decipher a potentially troublesome retro game and figure out what makes it tick by wading your way through terrible online FAQs written by 13-year-old amateur comedians, you’ll instead be able to take comfort in the fact that a bunch of other folk are also playing through the same game as you, and you’ll be able to talk to them about it.

breath-of-fire-ryu.jpgStuck in a particular area? Struggling to get to grips with the game’s mechanics? Found a particularly cool trick and want to share it? Have you drawn your own map to help you get through a dungeon, and you want to proudly offer it to others to help them (not that you’ll need to for this one)? This is for you.

Each time we do the Game Club, yer man Scullion will pick a retro game for everyone to play together. These will almost always be games that are easy to get hold of and affordable: I’m not going to ask you to buy an Atari Jaguar and drop £80 on Alien vs Predator or anything like that. Ideally, nothing in the Game Club will cost more than £10.

Anyone wishing to take part in the Game Club will be able to join the discussion on the Tired Old Hack Discord server. If you haven’t already joined or are new to Discord, it’s essentially just a chat room with various channels: the Tired Old Hack one has channels dedicated to the site itself, Nintendo games, Xbox games, PlayStation games, retro gaming, off-topic and the likes.

As of right this bloody moment, the Tired Old Hack Discord server also has a channel called #game-club – this is where all your Game Club discussions can take place.

If you’re interested, then, follow this link to sign up to the Tired Old Hack Discord server, and join in the conversation.

Throughout the month I’ll be jumping in to share little tidbits about the game, and post old magazine articles, be that reviews (so you can see what people thought of it at the time) or tips sections (so you can get help like we did back in the day).

The future of Game Club relies on your participation, really. If only a couple of people do it and there’s no real enthusiasm for it, then I’ll scrap it and chalk it up to experience. If, on the other hand, it results in a lovely wee community of like-minded gamers discovering classic games for the first time together, then it’ll continue for as long as possible.

That said, sign up to the Discord if you’re interested and let’s get cracking! This month’s games are:

Breath of Fire I & II

SNES, 1993 & 1994

bof-boxesCapcom may not immediately be associated with RPGs but that’s not to say it didn’t dabble: it was responsible for the Breath of Fire series, which found a small but dedicated following over the years.

Originally planning to only release it only in Japan, Capcom struck up a publishing deal with Square, who set about translating it into English and publishing it in North America.

The first Breath of Fire tells the story of Ryu (not that one), a member of the Light Dragon Clan. The clan is down to a handful of remaining members thanks to an attack by their rivals, the cleverly-named Dark Dragon Clan. When the Dark Dragon Clan kidnap Ryu’s sister Sara, he sets off to try and rescue her, during which time he also discovers his ability to turn into a dragon. Which is useful.

Transformation is one of the key themes of the game in general. As Ryu proceeds on his quest he encounters and adds seven other characters to his party, all of whom have some sort of transforming ability. Gobi can turn into a huge fish, Mogu can turn into a mole and dig holes, and Bleu is a sorceress whose lower body is a snake’s tail.

With character designs by Keiji Inafune (best known for working on Mega Man) and a soundtrack by Capcom’s iconic Alph Lyla team – also responsible for the likes of Street Fighter II, Final Fight and Strider – Breath of Fire may not break any new ground in terms of RPG mechanics, but is a polished and critically well regarded title nonetheless.

Set 500 years after the previous game, Breath of Fire II once again has you playing as a young chap called Ryu (not that one, or the other one).

When he returns home one day to discover that his family is missing and nobody in his village recognises him, Ryu and his pal Bow leave town, beginning an adventure that once again leads to recruiting a bunch of animal-transforming party members and the inevitable discovery that Ryu is descended from the Light Dragon Clan and can also turn into a dragon.

Although praised for its detailed plot, Breath of Fire II was also criticised for being notably longer than its predecessor and failing to introduce more than a handful of major new gameplay innovations. That’s not to say it wasn’t still a great adventure, mind.


How to get them

There are a few ways to get both Breath of Fire games if you fancy taking part in this month’s Game Club.

• By far the easiest way is through the Switch Online service, and its collection of included SNES games. Breath of Fire is already on there and Breath of Fire II is due to be added on 12 December, meaning if you’re already subscribed you have access to both games without spending a single penny more.

• If you still have your Wii U plugged in, both games can be found on the Wii U Virtual Console for £5.49 each.

• More of a 3DS person? Well, they’re both on the 3DS Virtual Console too, albeit at an increased price of £7.19 (and you’ll need a New 3DS, because only they can handle SNES games, apparently).

• If you’re a purist and need the original games, that may be tricky: the original Breath of Fire didn’t launch in Europe, and the second one launched in such limited numbers you’re talking around £200-£300 for a copy. Alternatively, both were released on the GBA too.

• Finally, if you’re dodgy, you can obviously also run them both on a SNES emulator. But I’ll leave you to figure out how to do that because I quite like having my wee site, thanks.

Starting out

Breath of Fire is one of the easier RPGs to get into, but that doesn’t mean you’ll just be able to stroll it. Take some time to do some grinding near the start and don’t be afraid to work your way though healing items. The game will get a lot easier once you get a good party going (just like in life), but take your time to build your strength until then.

The one thing to bear in mind is never to equip the WolfHT or CursedHT items. Although they have high defence, they actually make you take greater damage and are about as useful as an inflatable dartboard.

As is often the case with older games like this, reading the manual is a great help. So, here’s the PDF manuals for both games:

Breath of Fire manual

Breath of Fire II manual

You should now have enough to get started on your adventure. When you’re ready, hop into the Discord server to begin chatting about it with your new Game Club pals: how are you finding the game so far? Have you discovered any strategies to help you in the early stages? Are you stuck and not sure where to go next?

See you in the chat!

NOTE: One final request. If you’ve already beaten either Breath of Fire game and fancy yourself as a bit of an expert, by all means take part in the discussions but please don’t try to become some sort of oracle of knowledge. The point of Game Club is for people who haven’t beaten the game before to experience it together: having someone give them all the answers all the time ruins the fun a bit. Besides, nobody likes a smart-arse.

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