Review | Bravely Default
Bravely Default harkens back to a time when RPGs were simpler.
Instead of focusing on huge cutscenes or convoluted plotlines, RPGs were simple, dealing with grinding to get stronger and progress farther and standard save the world storylines.
Sure, some smaller companies have put games out that still use this formula once in a while, but some of the leaders of RPGs, such as Square Enix, seemed to have forgotten the formula that made the genre famous.
At least, they did until Bravely Default released.
Bravely Default is an old-school RPG. The story centers around the four crystals in the world failing, resulting in the world starting to fall apart. One of the four heroes, Tiz Arrior, watches his hometown disappear before teaming up with the Wind Vestal, Agnes Oblige.
The other two heroes, Edea Lee and Ringabel, shortly team up to try and repair the crystals and stop the dark energy that has destroyed them.
First, let’s talk about the combat system that gives the game its name, Brave and Default. The battle system is turn-based with the standard features (attack, magic and items).
Each turn, though, players have the option of using one turn, Default or Brave. Default has a character defend for the turn, storing a turn until later. Up to three Defaults can be stored during a battle and used either all at once or over the course of longer battles.
On the flip side, Brave lets you use multiple turns at once. The turns can either be saved up from using Default or borrowed from future turns. Borrowing means that, after using the turns borrowed, the fighter will stand there until catching back up to the current turn, taking hits until they can fight again.
It’s a risk/reward feature. There were some battles where I’d rush all my characters at the start. However, a missed attack or one surviving enemy can spell doom for a fighter or even the entire party, depending on what the enemies choose to do. I had many battles that ended because my greed to end the battle quickly resulted in a party wipe.
It’s also worth noting that enemies can also use this system. So, they may also try a quick rush to take out a teammate and mess your tactics up, or defend and hold for a big burst later.
Outside of battles, there’s also a job system to play with that will remind players of older Final Fantasy titles. Players can switch jobs outside of battle, and jobs level up more by using them inside battles, unlocking new attacks and skills. In addition, job skills can be mixed and matched. So, you could be a thief with the ability to heal from a white mage. Support abilities can also be learned and equipped, letting you set your party however you want.
A small thing that was interesting to notice is that jobs carry outside of battles as well. Cutscenes will dress your characters up in their class, and that’s how they’ll run around in the overview as well. It’s nothing big, but details like that are good to see.
One thing to note is that, beside a few references, Bravely Default shares nothing with the Final Fantasy series. However, a lot of things and mechanics in the game will remind you of early series titles, making it almost like a spiritual successor to the old titles. The game is a solid title on its own, though, and could have a good future ahead of it.
The game has a distinct loop it likes to follow. It advances the story some, has you go to a new location, explore a dungeon and grind for a while and then fight a boss battle. It may sound tedious to some, but fans of older RPGs will feel right at home.
Outside of the main game, there are a few StreetPass features that are interesting. One is the ability to summon an ally to assist you in battle with an attack. The power of the attack is based on their level. If you can’t find a friend nearby that has the game, you can put a SOS out online for a few random players to help you, or even an AI that can come in and help.
The thing I found myself sinking time into was a town-building mini game. Early on, you can start rebuilding the town of Norende. You can have more people help you rebuild the more you meet on StreetPass. Everything you build and upgrade has a timer that it uses to become finished (similar to Facebook games). However, the more people you put on a task, the quicker it wraps up.
The benefit of the mini game is that you can get bonus items from time to time and also unlock new items to buy in a quick shop. The shop can be accessed from dungeons, making it extremely useful later in the game.
Another great benefit the game has is that it always has the player in mind. Options have been put in to let you change the difficulty at any time, and even raise or lower the encounter rate to grind or just speed run a dungeon. Battle speeds can also be turned up to make encounters quicker, handy when trying to get money or experience.
Something the game does note early on is that there is a microtransaction system in the game. You can buy SP drinks to refill your SP bar, which can freeze battles and give you free hits. However, SP can also be refilled by just leaving your 3DS on when not playing, making using real money pointless.
The graphics in the game look great from beginning to end. Everything has its own unique charm that will have you wanting to see the next new thing the game brings. Characters and enemies are hand-drawn, while worlds are 3D, giving a great balance.
This uniqueness carries over to the music as well. The soundtrack is top notch, like many Square RPGs are. Even voices are good, although a few can get a bit grating on your ears.
Bravely Default won’t win anyone that hasn’t been a fan of RPGs over. It brings the best and worst of RPGs to the table. Gamers that will love this game are the ones that grew up on RPGs and can remember the Super Nintendo titles. What they’ll find here is a game that is great to play from beginning to end, with strong characters and an enjoyable combat system.
Final Score: 4.3 out of 5