To start off, I should say that I'll be making a slight change in the way I refer to the hero in this game. Instead of just calling him “the hero”, I'll be alternating between that and “you”, since that's essentially what I learned the spirit of RPGs was.
So, off to Winlan. When you get there, you'll have your first encounter with one of the niftiest things in the game. Although having a way to store items so that they can be accessed at certain points in the game without being in a player's immediate possession is nothing new to RPGs, this is the first one I ever played where it was the kind of streamlined it is here. Whereas Final Fantasy 4, the first game with off-character item storage I ever played, required the purchase of carrots and visits to Chocobo Forests in order to use it, Breath of Fire has special shops in most towns simply called “Storage” where you can leave items and gold to be retrieved at later points when needed.
Anyway, when you get to Winlan, everybody there talks about how they're the Clan of the Wing and their king has been poisoned by an evil wizard working for the Dark Dragons because the king says they'll never give in. When you confront the palace secretary or the Queen or whoever the main lady in the castle is supposed to be, she tells the hero that the king's run off somewhere, so he should take a room and get some sleep until King Birdman gets back. While this is going on, we also get to meet Princess Nina, the second playable character in the game. The good news is that Nina's a great healer. The bad news is that she sucks as a fighter. The worse news is that you pretty much have to use her as exactly that for a little while.
Fortunately, the game does give you two NPC soldiers as support for Nina when she goes running off to the Tower of Karma to get the cure for the poison that's been put on her father the king. Otherwise, it would be that you'd almost literally get your ass kicked in every fight because Nina's useless as anything but a healer.
One thing that I forgot to mention in Issue One was that there's a major item that I couldn't quite remember the location of called the I-Ore, short for Iron Ore. I couldn't remember if it was in Nanai, which got blown up last issue, or in the mountain cave we go through here. Fortunately, it was here, or we may have been screwed later on in the game.
Upon passing through the mountain cave, making sure to collect the I-Ore on the way, you'll come to a town called Romero, which, yes, is named that for a reason, as it's full of zombies. But that will be important later. For now, though, it's a good place to use the Inn and stock up on items before going through the maze to the Tower of Karma. Might as well upgrade the Princess's weapon as well, for what little good it will do.
West of Romero, there's a forest maze to navigate before you even get into the Tower of Karma. The one thing you'll remember, as I know I do, is that this place is full of spiders, and it's not just because it seems like there's at least one in every encounter. The spiders are also memorable for dropping an item called the DkKiss, which, at least according to the items list at RPG Shrine listing for the game, is supposed to be the item for Death or Rub magic, though I've never been able to get the damned things to work that I can remember.
Once in the Tower of Karma, you'll find yourself in another maze, of course, which is guarded by the game's first two mini-bosses, a pair of twin Reapers named Mort and Mortea. Kick their asses, which is easier than it sounds, and you'll be granted access to the part of the tower where the Wizard's lab is. Almost as soon as Nina and her guards get into the main lab, the Wizard hoses them down with a poison gas that leaves them almost dead. Big surprise, right? The Wizard puts the beatdown on the party, but not before one of the guards escapes to get the hero from Winlan and bring him to the tower. Once the hero gets there, he pretty much shoves his sword up the Wizard's ass, thereby saving Nina and getting the remedy they need to save the king as well. As much as I'd rather not use the Of Course gag twice in such quick succession, something tells me it's less funny if I don't.
The hero brings Nina back to the top of the tower, where the fresh air brings her around. There's a soldier waiting there to transform into a bird and fly the pair back to the castle. Once there, the hero and the princess go see the king. At first, it doesn't look like the Remedy is going to work, but in the end, it does. And no, I'm not going to do it three times in a row. I'm just going to say that once King Birdman is well, he lets the hero use the tunnel and bridge to go east of Winlan, where there's some funny shit going on, but we'll get to that in Issue Three.
Until then, thanks for reading. See you next time in Text Play: Breath of Fire: Issue Three: East of Winlan!