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Breath of Fire 2 is another one of my childhood treasured games. XD I already talked about many of things I love about the series in general in our Breath of Fire 3 comic entry.
The story starts off with the hero as a young boy living in a small village with his little sister and his father, the village priest. One day he took a nap in front of a sleeping dragon near town and upon awaking discovers that his father and sister are missing and no one in town knows him or his family. He and his new friend, Bow, grow up as orphans and become rangers for hire.
Breath of Fire 2 uses the commonly used random encounter and turn-based battle system that most console JRPG's sported at that time of its release with character turn order being determined by each character's agility stat. Though it has a very basic battle system, it also sports a number of interesting and unique features for its time, such as day and night cycles on the overworld, town building, three endings, and the ability to fuse characters with certain NPC's you find to power up or even change character looks and skills completely.
Like its predecessor, BoF2's hero party is made up of a variety of different races, each with their own unique in-battle, world map, and sometimes dungeon map abilities; it was an interesting fun feature that I feel weakened severely in games 3 and 4. Though the story is very linear, some of the dialogue changes depending on who you have in your party at that time. -and though the story is linear, I think it's still rather interesting and entertaining because it takes you to strange and unexpected places.
In every Breath of Fire game, your hero has the ability to turn into a dragon. While in the hero's various dragon forms, he is usually given special abilities and/or stats associated to that dragon form's nature. All Breath of Fire games do the dragon system differently and as much as I love this game, I have to admit that Breath of Fire 2's dragon system is the most lacking throughout the series. The dragon form in this game is not a form you battle in, but instead acts as a one-hit-wonder spell that consumes all of your hero's "mana." The closer you are to your maximum "mana," the more damage the dragon form will deal. This is a really iffy system in that you have the hero's spells at your disposal, but you never want to use them to save your "mana" for your dragon power, but even if you do so, it will only be for a single burst of damage; is it really worth it? (mana recoverying items are a real pain to use and acquire too) I do admit though that throughout the series, BoF2's G.Dragon is still one of my favorite dragon designs. =)
One of the really strange things about BoF2 is that I don't think there's really any way to tell who made the game since there are no ending credits. Instead of being presented with a long staff roll after passing the game, you are given a huge list of names of every single NPC in the game, including npc cats! I've always adored the promotional art and always wondered who did it; I think BoF2's character designs are also my favorite among the series.
According to Wikipedia, promotional art and character design credit is given to Tatsuya Yoshikawa, but I'm having a hard time swallowing it. Sure, he did the character designs for games 3, 4, and 5 and the Gameboy ports of 1 and 2, but his art style is completely different than what was used for the original BoF 1 and 2. The original artist tended to draw sharp eyes, long feet, drew muscles differently, and his costume designs seemed to favor small intricacies like carvings, buttons, and buckles; Yoshikawa's costume designs are more simple. Even if you look at the Breath of Fire Official Complete Works' BoF3 section, there are two Nina rough draft sketches that are different than all the others and resemble the style used for BoF 1 and 2. I suppose we can always guess that maybe he had some huge style change decision, but I don't know... Also, the artwork he redrew for the Gameboy ports of BoF 1 and 2 don't carry the same spirit of the original art.
Anyway, Breath of Fire 2! Another great SNES game! =D