After the Great Chrono Cross Fiasco of ’12 – in which I was left hanging while I wait for us to get our hands on a PSX console so I could finish playing it – I found myself in desperate need of an inexpensive RPG to keep my mind off every terrible thing that has happened in the last few months. Because Mister E and I share an Xbox, the criteria was as follows:
- inexpensive (bears repeating)
- +/- 8 or 16 bit graphics*
It was with these things in mind that I signed on to Xbox Live Arcade while Giant Bomb was open on my computer. After wading through a multitude of games that looked like they’d been made with the original NES software (and not in a good way), I came upon Zeboyd Games‘ Breath of Death VII: The Beginning.
After taking into account all the important factors, I determined via the internet that it was a short, amusing inexpensive, JRPG-inspired parody game with SNES-esque graphics. I had intended to spend $5-10 on a game, so it got bonus points for being only 80 Microsoft points (about a buck. It’s also available on Steam for $2.99). I have no problem with telling you that it is the best dollar I have spent in a very, very long time.
BoDVIII is set in a world where war has killed off all the humans and left the planet populated with the undead. The hero is a skeleton named Dem (as in “dem bones,” I assume) who doesn’t speak, though we do get to hear his thoughts thanks to the narrator, and he is joined by a ghost, a vampire and a zombie on his quest. A quest that starts out with his pushy new ghost companion Sara wanting to explore some ruins and ends up turning into a mission to save the world!
There are references to other games everywhere, which is not as tiresome as you might expect. It’s fun to hear the characters or narrator make a joke and immediately think “that’s from Castlevania” or see the words “giant sword” and remember every Final Fantasy game ever. The one thing they don’t do is running jokes, so once you’ve seen one reference to a game or movie, you’re not likely to see another. This is a good thing, because there’s nothing like beating a joke into the ground to ruin a gaming session.
Combat is classic turn-based RPG with HP and MP, but it differs from most in that at the end of every battle your HP is automatically restored and your defeated characters brought back to life. Save points will replenish your MP but they’re few and far between, and there are no elixirs or spells to do it for you so you learn quickly that grinding is a gamble unless you’re right beside a save point.
One of the things I really loved was that after you’ve fought a specific number of battles in a certain area, you don’t have to fight any more unless you want to. This balances out the usual random encounter frustrations nicely, and I would often stay in the area around a save point and instigate fights so I could get them over with and explore freely. The final boss fight took more planning and strategy than I’ve had to exert in a while, so it was true to the old genre in that respect.
All in all, I recommend BoDVII if you’re looking for a short, amusing game. I put in about 9 or 10 hours and beat it in two days, which was perfect to take care of my Chrono Cross withdrawals. If you’re not into random encounters, dungeon crawling, or grinding to level up it may not be the game for you but if you’re looking for a SNES-inspired RPG you’re probably okay with it. Even if I had gotten an hour into it and hated it, I still would have considered it a dollar well spent. And once I finished it, I immediately turned around and bought Zeboyd’s second game, Cthulhu Saves the World. I’m looking forward to playing that one if the whole PSX thing doesn’t pan out.
*On an amusing side note, my friend Helper Girl D had an unfortunate run-in with a guy at the movie theatre who tried his best to hit on her in the worst and most clichéd ways possible, including “do you come here often?” This guy was about 14, which he revealed after the following exchange:
Kid: “What video game system was big when you were a kid?”
HGD: “Super Nintendo.”
Kid: “Really? Oh man, I started playing on a PS2.”
HGD: “Go away, kid.”
We laughed. Then I told her the first game I ever played was on a 2600 and that as far as I know, E.T. is still in that pit waiting for me to get him out. She didn’t get it, but I’m pretty sure her father would.