Bravely Default Review
Bravely Default is a 3DS spin-off of the Final Fantasy series, and while Square Enix did re-use elements of their previous Final Fantasy games-Bravely Default utilized and improved them. While Bravely Default is based on the Final Fantasy series, in particular, I found it is very heavily based on Final Fantasy I, the first game of the main series-from concept to story, from story to gameplay.
The story began with the great chasm-a massive earthquake which destroyed Tiz’s village, Norende, with him being the only sole survivor of the village. Meanwhile, vestal of the wind crystal, Agnes, found the crystal consumed by darkness, which also in turn, led to the various disasters in the world-the great chasm being one of them. The two met together, followed by Ringabel, an amnesiac and Edea, a Duchy of Eternia; the four of them went off on a massive journey to save the world from further destruction.
Especially with how story-focused games had become recently, there aren’t anything special about Bravely Default story-wise. It uses the same formula of main character and his comrades traveling together to save the world-only that unlike classic Final Fantasy titles, the context is expanded with much, much more details and coherence. Aforementioned, Bravely Default is heavily based on Final Fantasy 1 and you’ll see a lot of similarities-for one, this game also has the same fair of your main characters running around to get/awaken (Bravely Default’s the latter) the four elemental crystals of the world. As had been previously mentioned, it’s a used concept which isn’t too special, but not too shoddy either.
I do however, want to give praise for the game’s world-building efforts. Instead of just throwing us in a random world without much information (a reminiscence of most classic RPG), Bravely Default really used a lot of focus to build up it’s world, and it’s world-building is pretty good even compared to modern standards. From a story standpoint, this gives the settings of Bravely Default much more backbone, providing details and features to the kinds of worlds we had probably seen a thousand times-in particular to the political conflict of different religious ideologies. Instead of feeling bored, it’s easy to feel immersed into it’s riveting world.
There is also another noteworthy element in regards to Bravely Default’s storytelling, only thing is, I’ll be stepping into spoilers territory to elaborate on this. At the very best, I’ll just be talking about settings and storytelling structures-nothing major will be revealed. But a warning for spoilers in the following paragraph just in case.
Bravely Default’s story was written by Steins;Gate author, Naotaka Hayashi, and those whose familiar with Steins;Gate will probably see what’s coming. Yup, it’s the time travel/parallel world thingmajing again. I of course have no problem with it in games (in fact, I love Chrono Trigger/Cross), but Bravely Default’s way of executing it, to be frank, seems cheap and lazy. Everything will simply jump back to day one, forcing you to replay everything you had already done in the last few chapters. What’s more, the game didn’t just do this once but four times in total. There are few changes in dialogues and how events unfolded, but unfortunately, too little to justified playing everything again with the exception of chapter 7 and 8 where the enemies had some surprising team-ups, revealing some of their hidden relationships with each other. This problem which still occupied a majority middle portion of the games though-creates a flaw, and perhaps my only gripe with it’s gameplay, in that it’s too repetitive somewhere down the middle, but I’ll talk about the gameplay more in a little while. To summarize my point, I just feel this portion of the game is too stretched. Is it necessary? Well, yes, since despite it’s draggy issue, it does provide some important insights, however extremely sporadic. Can it be shorter though? Hell yes. Though now that when I think about it, I could had skip the multitude of sub-quests when I reached this part, and I could finished these mundane chapters faster, still kinda sucks for completionists though. (end of spoilers)
The characters seem stereotypical at first glance, but arguably have ample depth to make up for it. One of the main aspect of the games which help shape up their characterizations and developments are the frequent party chats you can press Y to initiate in the middle of a gameplay, sort of like the conversation mechanics of the Tales series. They are very nice and interesting addition to the game which other than giving information on the world and settings, also provide character backstories, their struggles or sometimes just a brief comedic exposure of how they usually spend their day-to-day adventures with their quirks. Listening in also creates a better transition of main scenes as far character developments are concerned.
The characters however really does take a while to grow on you, Tiz and Agnes mostly though, since by far they are the least quirky of the bunch. Tiz I see is mostly hated as being the dull character of the group, but to me, not entirely dislikable though, and some character revelations in regards to Tiz near end-game is brilliant and provide some dimension for his normality. Agnes also had been particularly hated too, in due part to her foolishness and naivety, which I can understand, but can’t help but feel it’s more of a storytelling issue and less of a character fault. Admittedly though, Ringabel still takes the cake as being the best character in the game-his character story really has some shocking twists, and he has a pretty vibrant personality to boot.
But still, a big part of what makes Bravely Default such a great game for me is it’s gameplay mechanics. It’s battle gameplay uses the classic Final Fantasy turn-based RPG style, with a main addition. You now get the ability to use “Brave” or “Default”. What these two do is that they are “turns multiplier”. Brave helps increase the number of turns, or BP (brave points) to be game-specific, allowing you to do multiple things in succession per turn, up to a maximum of four, and “Default”, with the addition of being an equivalent to “Defend”, also helps store up BP again for you to use/Brave again. These two game mechanics, which get it’s name from the title, form the absolute core of it’s gameplay, and creates an innovative change to an otherwise, stale turn-based mechanic.
What makes Bravely Default’s gameplay so great though, isn’t it’s battle gameplay mechanics, but rather, it’s customization aspect. Aforementioned, Bravely Default borrowed a lot of it’s core concepts from Final Fantasy I-including it’s gameplay mechanics; however, refined extensively for modern tastes. The game uses a job system, similarly to how you started your classic Final Fantasy titles by choosing what job you want your four characters to be. In Bravely Default however, you have the ability to change your job at any time. Furthermore, you also have the ability to equip two jobs at once-one primary, the other secondary. By doing this, you gain the use of skills from two different jobs (although your stats increase will still depend on your primary job). Additionally, you can also equip any weapons/armors you like regardless of your job choice (although the jobs still do have specific preference to certain equipments). This seems like a small thing but in hindsight, it provides a refreshing way of customization like no other-providing a completely new realm of possibilities and strategies to beat your foes. Last but not least, the game also allow you to equip “support abilities”-basically something like stat increases, status immunities and other additional effects. As long as your job level is high enough to get those abilities, you can equip them regardless of your primary or secondary jobs.
As for the jobs themselves, there are a total of 26 of them! Each of them with a different role, specialization and play style. This mass array of jobs, coupled with Bravely Default’s “turns multiplier” mechanics and customization aspects, are what makes Bravely Default such an excellent game-giving you a lot of flexibility and strategic freedom. By each of these mechanics alone, they aren’t really special, but when all these small tweaks and improvements from it’s predecessor are combined together, it becomes a game with an excellent gameplay, and feels completely new and refreshing.
Those are the bulk of what makes Bravely Default such a great game, but of course, aside from those, there are still a lot of misc gameplay elements I had yet to mention. The game also uses a day/night system, and some of the enemies which appear on the map will change depending on the time of the day. The ability to also toggle random encounters on/off and switching difficulties in the middle of playthrough surprisingly doesn’t break the game at all-they improve convenience and flexibility, which believe me, is an important improvement to have due to how inconvenient classic RPGs can be.
There is a side game in Bravely Default which also cleverly utilized the 3DS’s interactive features. This side game involves rebuilding Tiz’s village-Norende (as pictured above). At any time, you can check your village reconstruction status on the lower screen, and by the use of Streetpass or through “Update Data” via adventurers, you can recruit more villagers into your village to help rebuild your village. Through doing this, you have access to powerful equipments not sold anywhere else.
Speaking of interactive features, in Bravely Default, you can also send/receive attacks from your other friends registered in FCs (though only once per use until the attacks need to be resent again), which is nothing major, but also a nice addition to the gameplay. Last but not least, in battle, there is also a move to stop time for awhile which disregards your current BP, called Bravely Second (incidentally, also the same name of it’s upcoming sequel) Aforementioned, the gameplay suffers from repetition in the middle portion, but that’s honestly the only issue I had with it, overall, I have high praises for Bravely Default’s gameplay.
The DS/3DS are mostly known for their Super Deformed character designs, and Bravely Default is a game which took that signature visual feature, and take it to it’s highest level. They also have the advantage of having great concept designs, giving them a sort of fantastical feel reminiscence of Final Fantasy series.
But mostly the visuals are great because of the incredibly detailed backgrounds which helps complementing the graphics majorly. One thing about Bravely Default is that it obviously puts a lot of effort in world-building and it shows a lot visually. The environments seem like water-color painted, and looks absolutely gorgeous and inviting, and it’s great how the game would zoom out to look at the whole area at times when you’re idling your character; they really are breathtaking to look at, and the developers clearly know that, allowing players to look at the whole scenery at will. The artistic backgrounds are captivating, and helps bolster the sense of immersion. However, the music strengthen that feeling even further.
I had always like Square Enix’s music, and Bravely Default is also promising in that regard. Earlier I mentioned how artistic and immersive Bravely Default’s visuals are, but by pictures alone, they wouldn’t had achieve such an effect without it’s music-in due part because of how nostalgic they sound. Bravely Default, instead of utilizing more modern, contemporary compositions, opted for an orchestrated classical approach instead, and it worked wonders. Bravely Default’s music feels like a great throwback to the classic 8-bit tracks of classic Final Fantasy titles, but modernized with more detailed composition and powerful audio hardware. From the adventurous mood of the overworld music, to the hopeful battle tones; it’s not always easy to mimic something so rudimentary and re-detail them to suit the modern era, let alone to relieve the empathy these tracks were able to express. Overall, this gives Bravely Default an edge, musically, over it’s peers.
Bravely Default is a huge throwback to traditional JRPGs, and show them despite newer-style JRPGs, traditional ones like these still have a place to stay. Bravely Default took the core concepts of JRPGs and expanded them vastly to suit modern needs-it’s best aspect is it’s extremely flexible gameplay mechanics. While it does borrow an established formula, Bravely Default is still a great game despite a few shortcomings. I wouldn’t say Bravely Default is one of the best games ever, but one of the best 3DS games? Sure, and I would recommend the hell of it for anyone who’s a fan of traditional RPGs.
Probably one of the best J-RPG’s in recent memory.
Which is telling quite a lot considering how turn-based J-RPG style games have become almost a niche to handheld gaming; and the more fast paced action games are left to the more powerful home consoles. Square fell for that trap and made FF, a franchise I’m fairly fond of (more of an Atlus guy myself, but meh xD), from essentially producing promises of great adventure, to sort-of adventures with amazing scenery.
Suffice to say, I believe it was the right move for Square to go back to their roots for this one. I mean, the turn-based formula was never bad to begin with. The only real problem was there haven’t been any real innovation to it that made it unique for one game or another. Bravely Default took that formula, added in some minor yet immensely effective adjustments to it, and the result was an amazing J-RPG. Like the old days, but with a modern day twist.
You already know I’m a big fan of the job system of Bravely, so I’ll skip all that xD
But one of the gameplay mechanics that you mentioned that I really became a huge fan of was having the ability to toggle enemy encounters. It’s a minor thing (and some find it a bit cheap), but to me personally, having that option made grinding (the bane of most J-RPG’s) a bit more fun.
I promise you, I will finish this game.. eventually :D
(*also, Edea best girl)
Yes, definitely agree with you there.
Yea, the only turn-based RPG that’s still going strong lately are the Persona series :/ Indeed, Square fell for that trap. One thing I didn’t like about FF XIII is that it’s like they didn’t know if they should go fully real-time action or turn-based RPG. What they decided was a sort of hybrid which doesn’t seem to work that well. Seeing the gameplay trailer for FF XV, seems like Square is still in the trap, as it looks completely action-paced (KH-like even), but it looks better than XIII mechanics-wise, regardless of genre. Liking Atlus more is completely understandable :p I don’t really like how most of their localizations don’t include JP voices, however.
Indeed. What Bravely Default did great is it made a lot of small tweaks and changes from an otherwise, stale genre, and prove that traditional RPGs still have a place to stay.
“You already know I’m a big fan of the job system of Bravely, so I’ll skip all that xD”
I guess :p
Yea, I thought it’s odd to include an enemy encounter toggle on/off-I had never seen an RPG with such a mechanic, but like you said, it actually made grinding more fun. Instead of being forced to fight mobs along the way, you get the flexibility to grind whenever and whereever you like, and you can turn it off when you just want to move from one place to another.
I’ll be intetested to hear opinions again midway through the game.
Ringabel is clearly Best Girl :3