Breath of Fire begins with the main character's town (although you can name him anything, I'll call him Hero) being attacked by the Dark Dragon army. To protect the town, a mysterious but powerful sorceress petrifies everyone in it, including Hero, and selflessly sacrifices herself to trick the Dark Dragons into leaving. The game continues after the petrifaction wears off, and young Hero is sent to stop the Dark Dragon armies.
Although the gameplay has some very innovative aspects to it, it is not without flaws. First off, most of the dungeons take a long time and tend to drag. It would have been nice if the folks at Capcom had put some more different dungeons in the game instead of making them so long and enemy ridden. However, the fighting is done remarkably well. Battles are turn based, with magic generally being the first action to take place, followed by the melee attacks. However, the things that really make the fights fun are the little innovations that Capcom threw in. Both your characters and the enemies have life gauges that flash up when they are being hit, which helps you determine what strategy to use in different fights. It's also nice not to have to relearn how much damage certain monsters can take after you've set the game aside for a while. Each character has their own specific spells and fighting abilities, and while the spells aren't really graphically impressive, they do help add a feeling of uniqueness to each character.
Another nice touch that Capcom put in was character transformations. Hero can change into dragons, and there's a character named Karn who can fuse himself and either two or three other characters (depending on the spell) in to one super character. However, Hero's dragons, while fun to play around with, tend to make the fights that you use them in a bit too easy, especially right after you get the first ones. There are tons of little options in battles that help keep the game fresh. One of them is the autobattle feature, which sets all of your characters to attack until you defeat the enemies, cancel the autobattle, or die. This is nice for blazing through swarms of weak enemies, and helps make some of the dungeons a bit less tedious. Another helpful feature is the ability to change characters in fights. If one of your four fighting characters is low on hit points, magic points, or just isn't getting the job done, you can switch a fresh character into the fight in his place.
Overall, I gave gameplay an 80%, because although there are lots of fun, innovative little features, dungeons tend to take way too long and fighting with dragons makes most fights a breeze.
Control doesn't play a big part in the game, since all there really is is selecting options off of menu bars and moving your character around the world map, but selecting the enemy you want to attack can be a pain occasionally. Also, when you make some kind of error (pressing a button that's not available, canceling a command, etc.) the game makes an awful beeping noise that makes you want to put your controller through your TV speaker. However, the controls are fully customizable, and you can set certain buttons to bring up specific menus. For example, I set the L button to bring up the magic menu, and the R to bring up the item menu, and so forth. This helps cut down the time of mindlessly plodding through the same menu over and over. Overall, I gave control a 90%, since it has some nice features and no problems that terribly ruined the game.
Aside from the spell effects, the BoF graphics really shine, especially considering this is a SNES game. All of the characters are well drawn, beautifully colored, fairly large, and nicely animated. The same goes for all of the monsters. However, on the whole, spell effects are rather weak. Most of the spells that target single enemies are adequate, but the area of effect spells usually consist of a bunch of lame drawings flying diagonally across the screen (ex. snow flakes for ice spells) or something equally unimpressive. However, since it seemed to me that there was an emphasis on melee fighting as opposed to casting spells every turn (as in the latter stages of Final Fantasy 3 (6j)), this wasn't terribly distracting. Overall, I gave the graphics a 90%.
Breath of Fire has some of my favorite music of all time. The tracks fit the situations well, and all of them are well composed and catchy. One thing that helps keep the game fresh is the fact that the battle music and world map music changes at different points in the game, and the second battle theme is my favorite fight music of any RPG. However, some of the sound effects (I already touched on the cancel/error sound) are rather irritating. However, this was the only blemish in an almost perfect area of the game, so I gave sound a 95%.
The story is definitely the weakest point of the game. Although it isn't bad, it doesn't have any real depth. Throughout the entire game, it seemed like the characters were merely reacting to what was happening. You go from place to place with little rhyme or reason other than that's where you go next. Like I said, it wasn't really bad, but it just didn't flow as well as games like Final Fantasy 3 (6j) or Xenogears. There are two different endings, a good one and a crappy one, depending on whether or not you found all of the dragons or not. The game was also sort of short; I beat it in about a week and a half (playing more per day than I care to admit, but most games do take longer). I gave the story an 80%.
All in all, Breath of Fire was one of my favorite games for the Super Nintendo. All of the other aspects of the game cover for the slightly weak story (and I do mean SLIGHTLY. It really wasn't bad, just not on a level with the rest of the game) rather nicely. If you can find this one, throw some money at it; you won't be disappointed.