Breath of Death VII:
- Genre: Turn-based JRPG
- Platform: Steam ($3.29 CAD)
- Release date: 13 July 2011
- Creator: Zeboyd Games
By Grady S.
To the modern gamer, Breath of Death VII (BoD 7) would be perceived as a dated title released for the NES. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. BoD 7 is an indie JRPG that seeks to pay homage to the likes of Final Fantasyand Dragon Quest from the golden days of the NES. Nonetheless, the game itself is rife with references to other modern games and various memes that are worth laughing at.
The game takes place in the year 20XX after a nuclear holocaust wipes out humanity. As a result, Monsters such as zombies and vampires have built their own civilizations and live with each other. You play as Dem, a Skeleton warrior who fights the evil monsters threatening the civilians of various towns. Later on, you will meet Sara, a ghostly historian, Lita a nerdy vampire, and Erik, a zombie prince charming. Truthfully, the story is nothing to write about as you spend most of the wandering from one dungeon to the next just because someone said so. There is no clear main goal aside from exploring the world. This allows the player fill in the narrative gaps with their imagination. Unfortunately, it also results in characters that are one-dimensional and vaguely contribute to the overall story. In short, the game’s story is as follows: Town>Dungeon>Town>Dungeon and so on. If you expected a decent story, you won’t find one despite the interesting setting.
The graphics in this game are on par with the NES era. The colours chosen are nostalgic, reminding me of the times when I played and enjoyed Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. In fact, if you expected retro NES graphics, the game executes them pretty well. The game’s colours are aesthetically appealing, especially in some dungeons involving torn down cities and abandoned laboratories. If you expected newer graphics, you bought the wrong game buddy. The sprites in this game are clear enough to understand the characters they represent as well as the objects. The same can be said for the monsters with simple designs and palette swaps that are not interesting but work well for the setting. Overall, while simple, the graphics are suitable for what BoD 7 wants to be: a throwback to the JRPGs of old.
Now we get into where BoD 7 does very well. The gameplay involves defeating monsters in turn-based battles, gaining experience, levelling up, and gaining stronger skills. The game ticks off all of the hallmarks of an old turn-based system where the person who is fastest gets to act first in the turn order and so on. You are also able to use the gold you gain from monsters to get stronger equipment to deal more damage and take less damage. You have the option to build your characters as you please with various level up options giving you different skills or stat boots that you can choose. The system is great as it gives new players a strong sense of accomplishment while giving veterans the tools needed to break the game. The difficulty curve is executed perfectly as well. New enemies are not too easy or too hard to kill but are varied in a way that pushes the player to conceive new tactics.
Outside of battles, you traverse through labyrinthine dungeons, each with their own treasures to loot. You also have to fight enemies in random encounters which are determined by a set number of battles left to complete. This allows you to explore a tricky dungeon without having to worry about never-ending random encounters. There is also bonus content involving secret caves that hide stronger gear for the characters as well as mini-bosses, a bonus post-game dungeon, and a super boss to boot. Overall, the gameplay is designed very well. It is engaging the first time through while also having tons of replay value. It urges the player to retry the game to see if they have missed any secrets. There are also different difficulty settings as well as a score attack mode for those wanting to enjoy more of the game.
While the game may look and feel outdated to some people, it is a modern JRPG at its core that executes the use of their tropes perfectly. The game is simple enough for newcomers yet deep enough to keep JRPG veterans engaged. It also packs a surprising amount of post-game content for a short 8-hour game. If you are into JRPGs in general, I recommend this game to casual and hardcore RPG enthusiasts and at $3 for two games, it’s a steal.