Summer’s on its way, which means – oh faithful 3 readers – I will be taking a hiatus during the busy months of my year. (Hooray for public library Summer Reading programs!) This means you can expect to see me back in business next September – though I’ll still have my GUG gig to tide you over if you really start having withdrawals.
See, kids, back in the day CAPCOM actually devised its own turn-based RPG series, and it had a pretty nifty concept: a people group who were/could transform into dragons. Books have explored this fantasy element, too (and oh my lands, so many romance novels…), but something about the culture and struggle of Breath of Fire’s “Brood” sparked my imagination when I played it growing up.
(Plus, this series’ world has weretigers. And how can you go wrong with weretigers?!)
But I digress. This isn’t a look at culture and world-building, but a dissection of a good intro! Which, incidentally, offers a subtle look into the world and its culture by natural plot progression. Watch what I mean here:
Ah, back in the days where games would throw you into the fray and expect you to work out the game controls yourself. No heavy tutorials here, but more importantly – this introduction doesn’t weigh heavy with exposition, either. The game shows you a dragon locked inside crystal in a mine, a miner remarks that you “see ones like this every so often”, and then – well – you see exactly what happens when a dragon is freed from containment:
All hell breaks loose.
Or rather than see, you control what happens. Though, to be fair, the game gives you little option on whether or not you should roast every antagonist standing in your way. (But as a poor, scared dragon whelp, would you do any different?)
So, what do we know from this introduction? Well, we know dragons are supposed to be long dead in this world; we know even the baby dragons are a force to be reckoned with; we know there are dragons who actually don’t want to cause violence. Was any of this blatantly announced? No. (Unless you watched the optional pre-title screen exposition as well. But did you need it to figure out what was going on? Also no.) We saw the shock from the miners when the dragon woke, we saw the charred bodies of anyone who threatened the dragon, and we saw when the spirit of a long-dead dragon demanded the little whelp stop his rampage.
The intrigue increases when the scene cuts after our dragon friend shakes himself free of the transport train. Did we follow the dragon and see exactly what happened to him when he fell down the mountainside? Nope, but we do see his cage lying open near this blue-haired boy. Players who are familiar with the series will know what happened to the dragon; players who are unfamiliar will either make an educated guess or wait to see the truth unfold.
This introduction gives a hook to keep the audience interested. First, the dragon is already an anomaly in this world; second, his existence isn’t answered and is in fact tucked away while the story develops in other directions. New characters like Rei add layers to the story, and now we want to know what his stake in everything will be.
I feel like this is my common crusade on this blog, but seriously – it’s BAD storytelling to reveal everything to your audience at every opportunity. Keep some mystery; let the reader/viewer/player put some of the pieces together on their own. Hand-holding does them no services.
Plus, roasting everything in your path is great motivation to understand the game and its mechanics. Who needs tutorials?
Breath of Fire III is the property of CAPCOM. It can be played via the PSP or Playstation Vita (or old school Playstation, if you can make it happen).