So, I really like’s BOF III’s Myria as a villain. Research says I’ll turn out just fine.
Say what you will about Breath of Fire III: How it was doomed from its release, competing with Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and its Final Fantasy VII. Or like how annoying the Desert of Death was—I’ll even throw in Teepo’s criminally underrated storyline.
Don’t get me wrong, though, Breath of Fire III is a beautiful game in its own right. Beyond the amazing OST, the voice acting (which sent me jumping around the house doing uppercuts and shouting “Itadaki” — his catchphrase for the “Pilfer” move) and even the cute-as-a-button 2D sprites, what makes the third installment of the Breath of Fire franchise is Myria, the game’s final boss.
A long, detailed discussion of Breath of Fire III follows, so I’ll put the spoilers ahead banner.
Myria hoodwinks most Breath of Fire III players, and for good reason. She first appears as part of child Ryu’s dream, even calling our silent hero “My Ryu (or whatever name you chose).”
As you play through the game, you get to see how the world Ryu and his friends are living in is actually a manufactured reality created by the ancient goddess. Even worse, she was behind the slaughter of Ryu’s clan, having ordered Garr and the rest of the guardians to kill the Brood for the promise of peace.
After the time skip, you’ll now control adult Ryu, complete with his ragtag team of misfits—Momo, Nina, Rei, Garr and Peco, the talking onion, as he searches the world for answers.
It’s when you reach the ruined city of Caer Xhan that the storyline goes on hyperdrive. For one, Teepo survives Balio and Sunder’s attack, just like Ryu. But unlike our still-silent protagonist, Myria took him under his wing to protect himself, and the rest of the world, from the Brood’s power.
By the time you reach Myria, you’re faced with a ton of questions.
If the Brood were to exist, what proof does Myria have that they will not end up destroying the world? In fact, the Brood made it look like they gave their power to Myria in agreement, but in reality, they had a trump card with Jono, the elder of Dragnier, who was just biding his time—waiting for the right person to overthrow the goddess.
If Caer Xhan (and the rest of the land across the ocean) was an example of what happens when people are left to their own devices, then doesn’t it make sense to leave the goddess to take care of what small piece of land she can save?
Admittedly, there were some things that Myria could have done better—like make the ingredients for shisu (I’m looking at you, horseradish on Ogre Road) appear in one place, or maybe not create beings like Balio and Sunder to terrorize the world into submitting to her cause.
But I have to admit, if I played the game right now, I would have chosen to leave her be. I understand the team’s argument that Myria shouldn’t be such a helicopter parent and give humanity the chance to move forward, but if the evidence around them is any indication, they’ll probably be engulfed by the desert in no time.
If I were in Myria’s place, I would have probably gone old testament on the world, forcing a reset to quell resistance. It’s one advantage she has over the Brood, where the dragon race can only destroy, she can preserve whatever signs of life are left.
Interestingly enough, my agreement with Myria’s methods has a scientific explanation behind it. A new study published in the journal Psychological Science says that people like fictional villains when they can identify with these characters.
In the report, the researchers noted that while we’re repulsed by real-world individuals who exhibit these behaviors, fictitious villains don’t get us riled up that much, mainly because the idea that they’re fiction acts as a safety net and allows us to identify with them without compromising our self-image. In fact, lead author Rebecca Krause says that fiction—with its villains and worlds—offers people a “safe haven’ that allows them to learn more about these sinister characters who resemble them, something that they’d feel uncomfortable doing so in real life.
“Finding similarities between oneself and a bad person can be uncomfortable,” explains Derek Rucker, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellog School of Management and a co-author of the study. “When you are no longer uncomfortable with the comparison, there seems to be something alluring and enticing about having similarities with a villain.”
But before you give me the side-eye for wanting to end the world, the researchers note that relating to story villains doesn’t make a person a threat. The team, however, was intrigued by why people are attracted to villains that reflect a darker version of themselves. They didn’t explore this concept in their paper, but they offered a few ideas.
For one, the idea of sharing similar traits with others is inherently attractive, say the researchers. Just like how we’re excited when we find out that some people share similar hobbies or thoughts with us, learning that these villains have the same motivation as us has a similar draw, especially since it allows us to explore our own personal dark side.
“A lot of people who are actually good human beings,” Rucker adds, “who would never want to be bad in the real world, may see fantasy as a means to entertain it.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll gush about why Breath of Fire IV’s Fou-Lou is my next favorite villain. (Read: Underrated JRPGs that deserve a remake)