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Xbox 360 XBLIG Review: Breath of Death VII

These are not your average heroes

Available Platforms

Xbox 360

Reviewed Platforms

Xbox 360

Pros

Witty Satire
Nostalgic look and feel

Cons

Obscure References
Varying Difficulty

Price

MSP 80

Purchase Recommendation

Buy

 

Gameplay

Death of Breath VII is an homage/parody to classic 2D RPGs from the 8 and 16 bit eras of gaming. A deceptively clever combat system and particularly excellent writing prevent this from becoming just another run of the mill knockoff however. For true die hard RPG fans, Breath of Death VII will surprise and delight throughout its 4-6 hour campaign.

First things first, if you immediately asked yourself “Are there six other games in this series?”, this might not be the game for you. The most rewarding moments in Breath of Death come from being “in” on the jokes. These jokes range from in from blatantly obvious to delightfully subtle to ludicrously obscure. There are references to Zelda, Mario and even Pokémon. Having gone through the campaign only once, I’d be willing to wager 2000 MS points that I missed at least a dozen references myself. For the record, I laughed out loud when I was told that the zombie prince I was looking for could be found in another castle. Take note: this is a funny game.

The actual story is quite understated. An opening trailer explains that humans have wiped themselves off the face of the Earth and in our place an undead civilization has arisen. The undead were getting along splendidly until, get this, evil shows up. The evil is not explained, which is fine because honestly who really cares? As a generic skeleton hero named Dem (not once throughout the entire game did I read the name ‘Dem’ without mentally finishing with ‘Bones’) you set out to start kicking the butt of all things evil. Dem is eventually joined by a zombie prince, a vampire techie and a love struck ghost. I mistook the ghost for a mermaid for about a 1/3 of the game. Together the four heroes explore ruins, save towns, collect crystals and eventually save the world.  The story is generic but this fact is embraced by the developers. The absence of a complex story is overshadowed by jokes and clever dialogue.

Why do undead need cemeteries anyway?

The game play will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used a potion to regain health or said a prayer to please let them take another five steps without getting thrust into ANOTHER random battle encounter. Monsters will be fought, experience will be gained, gold will be spent, and armor and weapons will be purchased and equipped. All of the classic elements are present and feel comfortable. Now let’s talk about what’s different. Party characters have both HP and MP. Again, if you don’t know what these are, don’t play the game. You should also stop reading this and go see if anyone has posted something new on your Facebook wall within the last ten minutes. At the end of every battle all characters are revived, status ailments are cleared and everyone’s HP is refilled. However, your MP is not. Your MP will regenerate slightly based on how quickly you finished the battle. The faster the battle is won, the more MP you regain. In addition, as battles wear on the enemies become increasingly stronger. These mechanics encourage players to power through battles fiercely. Your goal will to use your MP sparingly but efficiently throughout the dungeon so that you will be nearly depleted right as you stumble upon the next save point (whereupon the party’s MP is refilled.) Also adding to the depth of the combat is the character progression. Every time a party member levels up the player is offered two choices for the character. The options offered are always opposites (increase your defense or offense, increase max HP or MP, gain a physical attack or a magic attack, etc.) If you’re anything like me, you’ll agonize over each option every time and almost always lament the choice you ultimately make. For your sake I hope you’re not like me. There is also a “combo” element present where a count of your successive attacks is tallied and can be used to buff up special attacks, but it ultimately falls short. Rarely are the battles long enough to make use of it properly, and even when the occasional boss battle drags on long enough there are few attacks that even make use of the combo count you’ve accrued. Another combat feature is “unity attacks” (think Chrono Trigger). Your characters will develop these unity attacks over the course of the game where one or more characters will team up for super moves.

The overall effect is a clever and engaging deviation from classic RPG battle styles. The combat does a great job of blending new and interesting with old and comfortable. In the end you’ll ultimately just wind up over-leveling and spamming the A-button through battles but until then the combat is pretty good.

Visuals and Sound

Breath of Death VII goes for the classic pixilated RPG look, and it does nail it. That being said however, much of the landscape is fairly ordinary. The towns all look the same and the dungeons can be a little boring. I never got over the fact that there are tons of doors in the game and you can never open any of them. These are minor complaints however, because the retro look definitely succeeds. The soundtrack is the same; classic, well done, simple and slightly boring. A sprite in one town informed me that he was “working on adding lyrics to the battle victory song”. I assume he’s still working on it because there are no words yet.

The town is adorable, besides all the dead people walking around

Final Verdict

Breath of Death VII is a no brainer. It’s a classic RPG romp filled with humor and adventure. For only a buck, there is no reason to pass this by. Stop reading and go buy it immediately!

 

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 That was a really good

 That was a really good review of Breath of Death VII. The game has a deceptively clever combat system and particularly excellent writing prevent this from becoming just another run of the mill knockoff however. Keep up the good work. Outlook settings 

Sounds pretty good for a

Sounds pretty good for a dollar.  I'm in! 

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