In my campaign to write with some frequency on the forums I have been taking topics on from people in our IRC channel by demanding it from someone when they say something at an inopportune moment because I like to just be demanding for not particularly good reason. This is the results of one such scenario suggest out of left field by someone else. Beaten at my own game there I suppose.
Disclaimer: Post contains words of a vulgar and disgraceful nature by some kind of filthy swearmonger. Read at your own discretion.
So going by request when putting people on the spot makes for some strange topics, today we are talking about Breath of Fire 1. As an old game it does actually sprout up some surprisingly interesting bosses. That is to say maybe three or so? Still that is more than be said for some games. This was done browsing through Meeplelard’s Breath of Fire Statistics Topic in our RPG Stats Forum here.
Probably the most noteworthy addition to Breath of Fire is a mechanic that the game calls Second Wind that bosses use. It isn’t really something I have seen anywhere else, I suppose it could be seen as spinning out into form chains for bosses in later games (FF4 beat it to form chains really if not other games). I think that is giving it a bit more credit than it really deserves though. The basics the system is that the bosses health bar shows only a portion of their health pool. You chip down that and the boss has their Second Wind where they have a second portion of health to get through before they die. When a boss has their Second Wind they end the turn directly after it. So effectively you have two separate health pools to get through, any excess damage to the first HP pool doesn’t loop over into the second one, but because it ends the turn you don’t really lose out on all that much damage. Now in a game with some really fast bosses like Breath of Fire 1 likes to have this could honestly be incredibly punishing and some seriously horrible design, but because Breath of Fire 1 is a really silly game it actually bypasses it with another mechanic that is totally out there and still stuns me that it was thought to be a great idea for balance, buffs and healing always goes first. It has crazy good initiative. So the Second Wind isn’t even that punishing if you are on low health, you aren’t going to be stuck waiting for the heal. It can actually play to the player’s favour if they have abused the crazy broken Idle spell (check the stat topic for more details), you are likely going to be cancelling out the boss’ turn if you know what all the spells in the game do.
I honestly don’t quite know what to think of this taken as a whole, I don’t think it is a particularly good mechanic, it isn’t terribly interesting, but it isn’t offensively bad because of the other choices made in the game. If you are going to balance something as strange as this then I am all in favour of you handing the advantage to the player, that is fine to me. It is mostly just that it doesn’t really DO anything that bugs me. Not many of the bosses have different AI between parts of the fight based on health levels and those that do seem to are just things like healing spells at low health, not completely different attacks or anything. It is just a baffling design choice, but that is what we get with relatively early dipping into a genre for a company.
For the interesting bosses? Well the two Dragons aren’t a bad start. Zog and Sara both take 50% more damage from all magic. For a game that doesn’t really have a magic defense stat, it was neat to have enemies that were just thematically weak to magic. Not exactly ground breaking, but it is something.
Next up there is really Myria who is probably one of the earlier bosses I can think of to have a secret hard mode real ending deal going on that was unlocked by optional content. Prototypical example of that kind of thing is Unlimited Indalecio of Star Ocean 2 fame, which this predates by 7 years. I kind of have to respect that to be honest. The only other thing Myria really brings to the table is crazy stupid longevity and some mediocre damage, but it definitely is an interesting dot point in history regardless. Her mediocre damage is the real surprise really.
Jade is the next most interesting one in that he is the boss that really just messes with the player’s expectations the most of any boss in the game. As you go through Breath of Fire 1 you tend to have a pretty easy time of the game, there isn’t really overly much that stands up to you for very long. The start of the game is overly harsh, but once you get the E.Key everything settles down to nonthreatening damage that is handled by your initiative healing and you are generally pretty cool. Then you get Zog and Sara and they just pack in the HP. Complete and total damage sponges. They are just a trial in longevity more than anything else, but it does make for a pretty exciting climax given that the game is pretty much a mega snooze after the first quarter of the game after your awesome golem dude jumped into a volcano and killed himself because they didn’t want you having an awesome golem to stomp on shit. Not surprisingly that is the point you get Dragons for Ryu as well. Not that they are the turning point in the game, it is just the point where shit gets mind numbingly easy for a while, partly because of the Boomerang but mostly the filling out the party roster really.
Gettiing back on track though, Jade just fucks shit up totally. After slogging through Zog and Sara you get to the final dungeon and have a decent size dungeon that escalates fairly well, the random encounters there are a bit of a step up from memory. Then bam along comes Jade. He totally ruins your day. He looks pretty normal at first. Then he likes to randomly throw out Bolt X which outside of rare exceptions just straight up overkills your dudes. Not just kills them in one shot, but kills them by a good margin. That shit is uncalled for and is out of nowhere. If you are really unlucky he will hit you with Instant Death as well. Seriously some rude shit. Then to crown it off? He is still packing in that HP, it just keeps escalating at the end of Breath of Fire 1. He really does one interesting thing though, he completely and totally fucks with the Second Wind system. For the whole game you have got used to bosses using it at low health and it being a sign that you just have to hold it together for a few more rounds at most. Jade has 25000 HP and he gets his Second Wind at 21500 HP. If you aren’t going into this fight well aware of it you are dealing with randomly huge spikes in damage to a character that will ruin your day with a health pool that you have no gauge on. Normally you can see boss HP pools on a bar in this game and then you guess another 10-25% for Second Wind. Jade just fucks with all your expectations. It is a boss fight to remember really. Then as above, you get to Myria and she is either not really much damage and only a bit more HP or a bit more damage with stupid amount of health. Jade is all kinds of crazy wacked out bullshit and I respect that.
Finally the most interesting boss in the game is Mote. You won’t remember Mote. He is a boring side villain during the boring boring part of the game where they decided it was cool to make you fight flowers, slime, roaches and flies along with a dull boss that they make you fight a pathetic boss twice with two shitty bosses in between. Regardless, Mote is pretty cool. Mote starts the fight huge and massively pixelated so that you can barely make him out at all. He is noteworthy as being one of the few bosses to resist magic. Each time you hit him with Magic or a Physical he will get more and less pixelated respectively. The more pixelated he is the more damage he takes from physicals, the more in focus he gets the more damage he takes from magic. It is a concept that has been used elsewhere, but this is a pretty early example of it in a game with nothing else really like it. Closest thing to it is taking more damage from magic normally. Mote is somewhat unique in that unlike other examples I can think of he starts off massively resistant to magic in his fully pixelated form. The other reason you won’t remember his that because of this he is completely and totally rolled by physicals. To top it off he comes just after you unlock Puka as well. I don’t quite know what they were thinking, but Puka will 10HKO him by himself if you throw some weak spells at him with someone else. It is pretty crazy. As a fight in an early 90s Console RPG from a company with not much history in the genre? It is pretty fascinating and well worth a look to be honest.
So there we go. Breath of Fire bosses, they are mostly boring, but has some minor stuff of note. Enjoy.