Breath of Death VII is an old school RPG where you find your party members and fight random battles with a turn based system. Part of the charm to this game is that it mimics the original Dragon Quest games in color, menus, maps and even the feel of the towns.
After each battle, each party member gets restored to full health, including dead characters. Even if you escape, you get full health. This makes the game streamlined and easy even on hard difficulty. To compensate for this, the game balances out by powering up the monsters after each round. Their attack strength keep going up by 10%. It puts pressure to finish the fight fast. There is also no run, but instead its relegated to a magic skill given to one character. One of the biggest enjoyments that I get out of the game is the ability to chose one of two bonuses every time a character reaches a new level. Do you chose this spell or that spell? Do you want +20 Max HP and +20 strength or +10 Strength + 10 Willpower +10 Magic +10 Vitality? After level 30, the game runs out of choices for you.
The challenge is in your MP / mana. You will get some back after each level, but outside of an Inn or a save point (you can save on the fly too). You won’t be able to refill your magic. On the surface, fighting and button mashing make quick work of enemies. Deeper into any dungeon makes fighting difficult without using magic or techniques (both cost MP / mana). While battles are random, the dungeons have specific numbers of battles before the random battles get down to 0. So if you fight 20 random battles, you won’t have any other random battles to fight. This works well, because you can go deep into a dungeon, have no mana left and need to walk back out of the dungeon. Having 0 remaining random battles ensures your survival. Since there is no sort of easy teleportation. A few dungeons force you to beat the boss and walk back. Luckily there is a run button.
Spells get upgraded. The heal spell can get upgraded to resurrect. Making it easy if a character dies that you’re trying to heal, well they’re just resurrected! There aren’t items, but there are potions. You can’t buy these, you need to find them in caves. They resurrect and give full health to any character. These are necessary if your lone healer dies. There is a health regenerating zombie though and a vampire sort of attack with another character.
The leader of your party is a silent (yet thinking) skeleton, a ghost princess healer, a vampire nerd and a prince zombie. They are all powerful in their own way. In battle, two of the characters can join forces for big attacks. The only problem is both need to be alive to do them. Its not a problem toward the beginning of the game.
About 7 hours into the game, I noticed there is a combo system. Sure its always been there. I just didn’t find it useful. Every attack builds a combo. There are special combo boosts and breakers that when used will multiply the damage by the combo, but reset the combo to 0. It would be more useful if these specials weren’t already the highest damagers in general. You can keep using them to kill the enemies quickly without having to build a combo.
When I played, I found normal (medium) difficulty far too easy, so I played on hard. On hard, the bosses became insurmountable. Like any RPG, grinding made any boss easier. The menu has a ‘fight’ command that will cue up a random battle for you! For the most part random battles are a numbers game. Not your stats vs their stats, but your remaining members against their remaining members. The party that outnumbers the other wins unless one of them balances out the numbers.
Bosses were a major issue on hard, which made for an hour long grind on many of them. One boss, I had literally run out of enemies to grind and couldn’t beat a boss. I had to leave the dungeon by walking mind you and grind on over world enemies. Then walk all the way back to the boss with 0 enemies. It just felt unnecessary and hindered my ability to enjoy the game.
For equipment, Breath of Death is bare bones. You have a weapon and armor. No headgear, no accessory. Towns don’t have more than a couple weapons and armor for your four characters. There are a few treasures here and there in dungeons. Treasures in towns get relegated to jokes, like “A true hero wouldn’t steal from a person, even if there’s a bazooka in there.” There is no interaction with anything outside of talking to townspeople. Nothing hidden in book shelves or pots. It is sad how little effort got put into the details outside of readable tombstones in one lone graveyard.
The world itself feels big enough. There are around 10+ dungeons and 3+ towns. You won’t get to travel the oceans or visit far off lands, but the dungeons are the real maps. Each dungeon feels big enough. There are mostly underground areas, a prison and the ruins of giant towns. You can tackle them pretty openly. The second area has three dungeons you can visit. Yet, with the fourth, it bluntly tells you not to go in there yet. It just seems like a cheap reason, when other RPGs would point out we need the X to continue.
The game really wants to hang its hat on comedy. There are funny tombstones and excessive references to classic lines in other video games. “Hey listen!” “Its a secret to everybody!” “Master of unlocking.” “Welcome strangah! what-cha buyin” “I am error” “Motherbound” “Perhaps your prince is in another castle?” Even a reference to Bionic Commando that made me laugh, because that one was unexpected. The rest of the references have become commonplace on the Internet. Not only that, but there is a replica / parody of Zelda 2’s version of Death Mountain. Other than that, the humor doesn’t seem overwhelming. Sometimes less is more.
I just didn’t care for the game’s humor like I did with Cthulhu Saves the World. Breath of Death VII feels like it doesn’t have its own jokes and relies too much on your knowledge from 25 year old dialog.
Then there are the game’s other issues. Three years after its release, the game still has issues here and there. Enemies immune to poison, still get poisoned. Two dungeons have no music. That could be a good thing when all the other dungeons have the same music that overstays its welcome. Getting experience still seems glitched. plenty of times, I’d look at the status screen. I needed 4,000 more EXP, then beat another group of enemies earning 1,500 EXP only to discover that I still needed 4,000 more EXP. In a game where grinding is necessary, its an issue. I’m left with a feeling of knowing that I have to invest another hour into the game grinding before I’ll face the boss of any area again.
If you don’t want to get too involved with a 40 – 80 hour RPG, Breath of Death could be for you. With saving anywhere and refilling your HP after every battle, that makes for an easy game. Some people like easy! Some complain that the game is 3 – 5 hours, that’s perfect for $3 in my opinion. For the $1 combo pack that I bought it in. I feel like I got my money’s worth thanks to hard mode. As for this being a fun, entertaining game, it wasn’t. I spent several hours grinding to overcome boss after boss. Maybe I made it too hard by playing hard mode and turned a 5 hour game into an 11 hour game with 6 hours of grinding, but I can only review my own experience with the game. The humor just wasn’t there for me like it was with Cthulhu saves the world.