JRPGs have definitely been experiencing a bit of a comeback in the past few years. It started with the immense breakout success of Persona 5, and the trend has continued with the remake of Final Fantasy VII and new titles like Tales of Arise. Unfortunately, one classic Capcom JRPG franchise has been left out of the genre's current era of revival.
Breath of Fire was a series from Capcom that's most known for its tight continuity and recurring narrative elements. Today, the franchise has gone dark, with most only being familiar with it thanks to the first two entries landing on Switch Online. Despite being a well-received series and one of the few well-remembered JRPGs of the PlayStation 2 era, Breath of Fire has remained mostly dormant. This is due to a number of reasons, only some of which are in regard to the series itself.
When Was the Last Breath of Fire Released?
1993's Breath of Fire followed Ryu, a member of a lost race that can transform into dragons. On a quest to find his sister, he allies himself with other warriors and fights a group of evil dragon people. Outside of issues like high enemy encounters and simplistic mechanics, the game was well-received, with its sequel being even more beloved.
The series would receive four more sequels afterward, with the most recent coming out in 2016. Whereas other series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Shin Megami Tensei have titles that are typically unrelated to each other, the Breath of Fire series all carries over concepts and elements such as beastmen and the protagonist Ryu. The fifth game, Dragon Quarter, was both incredibly well-received yet also divisive among some fans due to its drastic differences from previous titles. Unfortunately, this PS2 title was the last time that the series would have any sort of notoriety, a fact which still hasn't changed.
Why Hasn't There Been a New Breath of Fire?
The reason for a lack of new Breath of Fire titles is multilayered. For one, Capcom has been known to focus primarily on one franchise at a time (namely Street Fighter and Resident Evil) at the expense of all other intellectual properties. Thus, many of their franchises have languished in obscurity, and in the case of Breath of Fire, the fact that the property doesn't even show up in the company's many Vs. fighting game series doesn't help.
On top of all of this, Breath of Fire is something of a more classic-style RPG series. The first two games in particular are seen as staples of the SNES era, but the series didn't evolve in the same way that Final Fantasy did. Being different from the stereotypical and cliche JRPGs of the past has been part of the success of the current crop of JRPG stars. Final Fantasy VII Remake, for instance, is notably different from the original game, which itself was a break from the norm set by other Final Fantasy games. Likewise, the modern Japan setting and focus on relationships in Persona 5 lead to something drastically removed from most's perceptions of JRPGs.
Then there's the reception to Breath of Fire 6, which many saw as a half-hearted effort at reviving the franchise. The title was an online action RPG and was even more drastically different from the other games than Dragon Quarter and not nearly as well regarded. The game received horrible reception, and one year after its 2016 launch, its servers were shut down. Its success, or lack thereof, matches other JRPG franchise efforts to jump into the world of online gaming. This likely killed any potential momentum that the series would have had in gaining a new audience or receiving another game more in line with previous entries.
Based on past reception, the market might not be receptive to a classic Breath of Fire game that's too much like the old series, especially when said series has no momentum, hype or even name recognition in the grand scheme of things. There's hope that Capcom could turn this around in the future, but without so much as a compilation re-release on the horizon, the flame still seems to be out on Breath of Fire.
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