RIBBITSo let’s talk about the War on Christmas as it relates to dragon people.

Breath of Fire officially turned 30 years old this year (Japanese release, natch), so we can safely say this is an ancient RPG. And it shows! Ultimately, Breath of Fire’s detractors’ flippant description of “Dragon Quest with furries” is wholly accurate for the first adventure of the blue-haired Ryu (not to be confused with Capcom’s other, more successful mascot). Ryu ventures from town to town, solves problems that are unique but generally related to the worldwide quest outlined at the start, and, eventually, gathers enough companions and powers to slay god(dess). While there are a few distinctive moments across the adventure (your winged buddy getting too close to a time hole and being torn across time and space just so she can gain bird powers is immediately memorable) this is a very basic good versus evil tale that could easily have been relegated to a basic, three-minute ditty… or even a Fisher-Price book.

But, while this is a simple tale of Light Dragons fighting Dark Dragons, how this world works does reveal something more… sinister.

So here is Breath of Fire’s deal: some centuries ago, there was a goddess that “granted wishes”. It is never specified exactly how that worked, but later Breath of Fire titles implied that she was just goddess-level powerful, and most “wishes” were assumed to be “hey, wreck up that place over there”. Somewhere around this time, the Dragon Clan, which possessed godlike power too, split into two factions. There isn’t much of an explanation on the exact beliefs of the two groups, but it is generally assumed that the “Light Dragons” wanted to seal the goddess, while the “Dark Dragons” wanted to do something… darker. Whatever the case, there was a war, and the malevolent goddess was sealed away in her own little dungeon, and said seal was locked by seven keys that were distributed around the world. The two dragon factions never recovered from the rift, though, so they stayed separated over the years that the goddess remained sealed.

Something important happened in that span of time. By the present epoch of Breath of Fire, the two separate dragon tribes have very different living conditions:

  • I hate you guysThe Dark Dragons live in Scande, the capital of the Dark Dragon Empire. There are multiple Dark Dragon soldiers. The Dark Dragon army can transform into flying dragons for aerial assaults. Their leader is Emperor Zog, who can become an unfathomably huge dragon. His generals have impossibly strong magic, and utilize more esoteric abilities like controlling people’s dreams. Scande is apparently built on top of the Goddess’s dungeon, so they have full control over her final resting place. Just for funsies, the center of the city contains what may be the tallest tower on the planet, and it is technologically advanced beyond the rest of the world.
  • The Light Dragons live in Drogen. It has, like, six houses. When the game starts, most of them burn down.

This seems… how to put this… dangerously moronic. Not saying we must annex the Dark Dragons for the rest of history here, but they were already involved in the near destruction of the world at least once. Even if the seven keys have been “democratically” distributed to different tribes across the world, there is still the issue that the Dark Dragons could amass enough power to take back said keys by force. And guess what happens…

KNEEL BEFORE ZOGThe Dark Dragons make their problem into everyone else’s problem. They start with their own key, but conquer Nanai to claim the Earth Key, and then menace nearby Camlon with earthquakes because a giant, poisonous frog isn’t enough (long story). Tantar and Tuntar hold the secret to the King Key (and a giant robot), so they kidnap the chief of that quiet village to get a civil war going. The rich city of Auria earns a significant bribe, but when that doesn’t work out (thanks to ghost interference), the entire D.D. Navy is sent to destroy the metropolis. The Queen of Tunlan is seduced by the possibility of immortality for her Time Key, and the traditionally temperate town of Spring is frozen solid while the Sky Key is heisted. The only key-town that seems to be unaffected by this global war is Bleak, but that was a city full of thieves to begin with. Maybe the Dark Dragons thought they could get the Dark Key while nobody was paying any attention anyway…

And that is just what the Dark Dragons did in direct pursuit of the Goddess Keys. Whole kingdoms are menaced as seemingly nothing more than a backup plan in case this whole Goddess thing does not work out. Winlan will not cooperate, so they are intimidated by a sorcerer that poisons their king and raises zombies at Romero as an afterthought. Nearly the entire town of Gant is kidnapped so those ox-like people can build submarines to invade the aquatic town of Prima. Prima is the economic center of this world, but it is also strictly staffed by keyless merfolk, so why go fishing, Dark Dragons? Gramor’s mole people being similarly abducted to excavate the goddess jail makes some sense, but the people of Gust are malformed by wicked plants just to entertain one Dark Dragon general. And Carmen? Carmen is threatened by a random Dark Dragon general, but this general is actively risking a Goddess Key to do the threatening. That isn’t helping anything! Take that key home this instant, young lady, you are holding up the whole plan!

Whatever the reason, the Dark Dragons are a problem for everybody, and all because of the meager reason that they have an agenda for the pursuit of having even more power. They already live in the biggest fortress on (BoF) Earth! What more do they need!?

ZOOMLet’s go back to talking about our Earth. In 2005, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought was published and promoted ad nauseum by Fox News hosts. That title is… pretty straightforward. But you would be mistaken if you believed that nearly twenty years ago was the start of the “War on Christmas”. Go back further, and you’ll find the John Birch Society was claiming that communists wanted to “take Christ out of Christmas” in the late 50’s/early 60’s. If you are curious, the John Birch Society was founded by Robert W. Welch Jr., who bankrupt one candy company, but was hired by his brother at a different candy company, and somehow parasited a significant chunk of wealth off of that venture (I guess they invented Junior Mints?). Earlier than that, there are newspaper articles from 1920 claiming that removing mentions of Christmas from “our” schools was somehow the goal of “The International Jew”. This belief was disseminated widely by a fellow by the name of Henry Ford, whom you may identify as someone recognized as one of the most accomplished Americans in history.

So, shucks, we sure do seem have a complete century of proof of that rich and powerful men really loved fanning the flames of war in the name of Christmas…

PIGGIES!According to statistics available as of 2021, about 63% of the population of the United States identifies as Christian. That is approximately 210,000,000 people. Comparatively, there were a mere 155,000,000 votes cast in the 2020 Presidential Election. And, according to the statistics of how quickly Home Depot makes Christmas decorations available, I can safely say that more than 63% of the population at least recognizes Christmas. The United States has never had a president that did not participate in annual Christmas activities. If you can find anything outside of a 24-hour convenience store open on Christmas, congratulations, you are probably not in the United States. Christmas has won the war on Christmas. It has never been in any danger of losing. There is no debate there.

So why does the war persist? The winners are already living in their giant city with the best stuff in the world and the largest army ever and a giant tower for no real reason. How ever this war first started, they definitely are living the highlife now. Why fan the flames of hatred? Why attack marginalized groups and enslave them to your beliefs when you already have so much? Why does the War on Christmas matter when you already have won by any quantifier available?

Because they don’t just want the best, they want everything. And they will take over the world if it makes their lives just a little bit better. A War on Christmas or a War to Enslave a Goddess? The goal doesn’t matter, just so long as the outcome is more. Set all the little people against each other. Separate them, make them easier to conquer. Make them miserable. And then take everything that is worth having. Maybe use the ultimate attack of “white lady tears” if things get dicey.

Cry more

Anywho, Merry Christmas, everybody! And hope for a blue-haired kid to sort this all out!

FGC #657 Breath of Fire

  • System: Super Nintendo, and then a slightly modified version for the Gameboy Advance. There have been a number of ports of the SNES version since then, and it is currently available on the Nintendo Switch.
  • Number of players: Eight characters, one player. Consider them fused.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I have a great affection for Breath of Fire and the whole Breath of Fire franchise. That said, this game is terrible to play in the Year of our Deis 2023. It needs a few… let’s say quality of life improvements. Everything is so slow! And there are so many scenarios where the “challenge” is walking back and forth between the same areas. There is a tower you must complete twice seemingly just for the heck of it! But, hey, it is gorgeous, and I like the characters, so I can put up with it once a decade.
  • Port-o-Call: The Gameboy Advance version introduced an improved translation, slightly more manageable menus, and a run button. It still has the problem wherein like 40% of the game feels like filler…
  • Translation Woes: Ted Woolsey was responsible for Breath of Fire, just the same as Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. Unfortunately, there are more than a few typos this time…

    Sara if free

    However, he did change the name of the worst Dark Dragon for the better. Ted’s “Jade” is revealed to be a Kefka-esque betrayer of the Dark Dragon Emperor, and this is theoretically a surprise for new players. In the original Japanese, he is “Judas”. That might give it away a tweak.

  • Favorite Character: He may have been white washed (long story), but I appreciate Karn the Thief, as he is actually helpful to the party before he becomes a permanent member. And he unlocks doors! And transforms into some manner of crazy wannabe dragon thing that does 999 damage. So much better than that stupid fish merchant…
  • Buy something will yaGoggle Bob Fact: I played the majority of this game as a rental from a local supermarket. As a result, my playthrough was extremely disjointed, and it was not unusual for someone to clear another area, and then I would just have to wonder what happened at Tunlan or Gust with their stories finished. And then there was the time someone who named Ryu “Rita” overwrote all save files on the cartridge…
  • Feeling Bleu: Deis/Deece/Bleu appears for the first time in Breath of Fire (though, apparently, not the first time chronologically in the series). She is instantly established as powerful, lazy, and faintly unhinged. It is no wonder everyone’s favorite sorceress then reappeared for another three games. She is one of two characters with actual characterization!
  • What is precious to you: Tunlan has a carefully guarded gigantic safe. It is where they keep their Time Key, one of the most important objects on the planet. The safe also contains a treasure chest that houses a melon. It is… just a melon. Tunlans are a very complicated people.
  • Did you know? Due to limited characters available, the names of various items are practically impossible to understand. For an easy example, M.Drop will restore all HP to the entire party, while T.Drop is just a cure for zombie status. And don’t get me started on the Mrbl items. But! This all means that we have the key item M.Cura, which means that the iconic “Cura” spell from Final Fantasy first appeared in English here, and not in an actual FF game. At least Ted was involved…
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only with a healthy number of cheats for leveling and making the game run about 400% faster. I love you, Breath of Fire, but you are old and slow and maybe I’ll visit again on the next holiday.

What’s next? 2023 is just about over! Let’s talk about that!

I hate you

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