BADGP Reviews: Bravely Default

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Bravely Default (Square Enix/Nintendo, Silicon Studio)

Alex Linna

Released: February 7, 2014

Review: Where the Fairy Flies

Nintendo of America recently announced that Bravely Default sold well, exceeding 200,000 sales in just three short weeks.  Square Enix recently discussed how the worldwide success of the game financially, will affect the nature of their JRPGs from now on. Also, a sequel is already announced, and there is even an unlockable trailer for Bravely Second in Bravely Default upon completing the game.  All this news surrounding one handheld JRPG is deserved because Bravely Default is a great game.

Final Fantasy in All but Name

Bravely Default is an “old-school” Japanese Role-Playing game.  The presentation, structure, combat, and map all harkens back the classic Super Nintendo JRPGs created by Squaresoft.  Bravely Default resembles Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy: Tactics in particular. The robust job system in Bravely Default is no doubt an allusion to these previous Square titles.  It is okay that Bravely Default borrows so heavily from Final Fantasy games of old, due to it being a Final Fantasy game in all but name.  Many items and spells in Bravely Default are directly copied from the storied franchise.  Players revive fallen party members with Phoenix Downs and cast Firaga to fry enemies.  As many things about Bravely Default send a shock of nostalgia down the player’s spine, but there are plenty of things that make it stand out as its own newly budding series.

Meet your heroes.

Meet your heroes.

Brave vs. Default

It is the core combat of Bravely Default that is most defining.  Players may “Brave” up to three times in order to do four turns at once, but one must then wait for the enemy to take the same amount of turns before being able to act again.  However, four characters are controlled at once, so staggering the team out can be beneficially, as can be a full assault of 16 player attacks in a row.  “Default” is the game’s take on the typical “Defend” command that is found in many JRPGs, however “Default “ banks an additional turn for the player as well as acting as singular defense buff.  This mechanic is similar to what is found in ATLUS’ wonderful DS game, Radiant Historia, where the player may delay attacks in order to chain them later.

Aside from the core turn-based combat described above, there is a multitude of experimentation to be done with the game’s deep job system.  Upon completing a battle, players earn experience points that go to the characters’ all-around level, and Job Points that are experience points for the currently equipped job.  The entire set of abilities from two job sets may be equipped to each character. This allows for dizzying amounts of customization that is both fun to play around with and rewarding when finding something that works just right.

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Anyone who has played a RPG ranging from Pokémon to Persona is going to agree that Bravely Default’s best feature is its inclusion of a random encounter slider.  Players may choose when they want to grind.  One can run straight through a dungeon to the boss if he or she pleases. There is a warning displayed when the battles are completely turned off stating that being underleveled is a bad idea.  The slider allows for the player to control the pacing and that is a much welcomed addition that should be included in every JRPG from here on out.

Social Features

Bravely Default encourages the player to have it on their person at all times, and is loaded with 3DS specific features. StreetPass players that have been collected may be summoned to help during battles, and 4-5 additional combatants can be added everyday through the Internet. People gathered through these methods may also be put to work in restoring one of the main character’s hometown. By rebuilding the tiny town, additional items and weapons are added to the shop. Placing the game in sleep mode will have the people go to work on the town; it will also load up SP points.  SP is what is used in the game’s Bravely Second feature that are essentially free turns.  Three may be saved at a time, but they may be purchased with real world money if one does not want to wait 8 hours per point. The game’s narrative also plays with the idea of StreetPass in some clever ways.

Bravely_Default_Job_system

Let’s talk some more about the story of Bravely Default.  The game is broken up into 9 chapters.  The first four chapters play out as a traditional game of this nature would: predictable and safe.  Things start to change up in the 5th chapter.  The rest of the game subverts expectations in some creative and impressive ways.  Most of the plot can be summarized as “restore the crystals,” but there is definitely more to it than that.  The premise of the game is that one of the main characters wakes up and his town is gone.  There is a giant hole in the ground where it was that is referred to as the Chasm. It is then presumed that restoring the four great crystals will bring the city back and cleanse the world of the evil that has been posed upon it. The journey spans continents.  The rest of the game’s narrative needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Audio/Visual

Bravely Default is beautiful game with fantastic art and looks wonderful in 3D.  The game begins with a strange augmented reality (AR) scene. It would have made more sense if there was another scene near the end or AR being more prominently used at all.  The game is not fully voiced, but many of the scenes feature the game’s talented voice cast.  There is a lot of dialogue, and a lot of reading in Bravely Default, so the large amount of voice acting is appreciated. One of Bravely Default’s strongest aspects is its score.  The soundtrack is memorable and diverse. The music will surely be among the best to come out of a video game this year.

The Bad

Bravely Default is certainly not a perfect game. The middle chapters drag. It is done intentionally and is eventually narratively justified, but that does not abate the frustration and repetitive nature of a large portion of the game.  Until the game reveals the true nature of its story, it is not engaging.  The payoff for sticking with the game was huge, but getting there was taxing.  If it was not for the game’s excellent core gameplay, I might not have been able to finish it.  The four main characters are well written and acted, but are hardly memorable.

The Recommendation

If one has any affinity for the Super Nintendo Final Fantasy games, then Bravely Default is a no brainer.  The deep and rewarding systems at work in Bravely Default make it a satisfying and worthwhile adventure.  It is a shame that the game’s story does not get interesting until the 30 hour mark of a game that can easily clock in at 40 hours. Replayability is ample with nearly infinite combinations of classes. Bravely Default certainly presents a good value, and is an excellent addition to the 3DS’s already stellar library.

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Score: 8.2 out of 10

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