Review of Bravely Default
A Brave New World
Like many, my first introduction to JRPGs came from the classic series Final Fantasy and games like Secret of Mana. There is a tradition that goes alongside this genre, and it can be quite a polarizing topic – to break away from that tradition or to embrace it. With Bravely Default, developers Square Enix and Silicon Studio seek to introduce new mechanics and still, hold firmly to what has worked for decades in the JRPG genre. In many ways, Bravely Default stands successfully upon its attempts to change the familiar formulas while leaving itself room for improvement.
Probably the biggest and effectual change comes from the game’s innovative risk/reward battle system, from which the game derives its name. There are two options available in battle – brave and default. Brave presents you with an extra go at a foe – up to 4 times. You can use those additional attacks to deal out more punishment to your enemies, or you can use it to set yourself up for the next round of attacks. By using default you store up brave points and reduce the amount of damage you receive. So if you decide to choose default for a few turns, you’ll not only reduce your damage, but you’ll also be given an opportunity to heal yourself and attack your enemy multiple times in one turn. Just remember, the bad guys have the same options – so they can attack you four times, as well. Scenarios like this are what make this game such a joy to play and it allows you to not feel annoyed when you find yourself in another battle. It really is an ingenious mechanic that highlights what so many loved in traditional, turn-based JRPGs, while still giving us a fresh new direction for this battle system.
Even though you are on a perilous journey, it is important that you have a job. Although, these jobs are much more fun than what yours may be. Bravely Default has 24 different roles to choose from throughout your journey. Most of these are unlocked by completing side-missions, which is a nice way to entice you to take time away from the main story. Some jobs, such as the knight, increase your physical attacks and make you more resistant to enemies’ physical attacks. However, you’ll be weak in magic and take more damage when assaulted by magic. Familiar RPG jobs like, white mage and black mage, make a return. Realizing that it can be difficult to part with a job that you’ve spent time leveling up, Square Enix and Silicon Studio allow you to have a support-job. So if you’ve gotten comfortable with being a thief, you can keep that job as your support-job and take on a primary job like, Valkyrie. Your primary job will level up, while your support-job will no longer level up. Having 24 jobs to choose from, and having 8 jobs between your 4 party members, makes for giant range of possibilities. And if you have a hard time leveling up, you can download other real-life players’ characters via an internet connection or Street Pass.
In addition to jobs, characters can also be equipped with certain “special moves”. These special moves allow you to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies. These special moves can be equipped with certain abilities. I had a special move that I imbued with a fire power and a poisonous effect, and it also gave me health back after the attack. Each special move is accessed differently, like completing 10 brave moves consecutively with one weapon or healing 10 times with the same rod. And if, for some reason, you find yourself on the brink of destruction, you can use a maneuver called, “Bravely Second” to freeze time and allow you to deal out additional damage or heal your part members. Bravely Second uses “sleep points”, which can be purchased through micro-transaction or by putting your 3DS in sleep mode for 8 hours. I rarely found myself resorting to Bravely Second, but the option is there if you’d like to capitalize on it. And if you find yourself struggling to stay alive in a dungeon, you can adjust your encounter rate so that you won’t encounter any further battles. You even have the freedom to change difficulties at any time, which I admittedly resorted to when in the last few, more challenging hours of gameplay. You can also receive new special moves and items by rebuilding the devastated hometown of one the main characters. The more people you street pass with, the faster the rebuilding process goes. If you don’t have many opportunities to Street Pass, don’t worry, because every 24 hours you can receive new townsfolk via an internet connection.
New battle mechanics and freedom of choice are welcome additions, but if you’re going to invest 60 plus hours into a game, it never hurts to have an engaging story. Bravely Default’s story is neither spectacular nor terrible, but rather unoriginally familiar. Many story elements from the Final Fantasy series are used in this title, which is possibly why I never found myself surprised by what came next in the story. In the world of Luxendarc, the 4 elemental crystals have been consumed by darkness. The foursome comes together within the first hour of gameplay. Agnès Oblige, the vestal of the wind crystal, is tasked with the responsibility of returning the crystals to their former glory. She comes in contact with the humble and determined teenager Tiz Arrior, whose entire village was swallowed in up in a huge crater. He wants to avenge his village by helping Agnès defeat whatever dark forces destroyed what they both loved and cherished so much. They are also aided by the amnesiac Ringabel, a hopeless romantic and ladies’ man, who is in possession of a journal that strangely predicts some of the future happenings in their journey. The last addition to the party is Edea Lee, a skyknight from the enemy army. She defects and joins the party when she realizes that Agnès is not the nemesis she was portrayed to be. The voice acting is great, and remarkably, there is a considerable amount of it in this game. It was truly a joy to see these characters grow together and travel through the breathtaking, hand drawn world of Luxendarc. At times, I would just stop playing and simply marvel at this game’s visual spectacle.
While Bravely Default doesn’t always achieve the full realization of its ambitions, it clearly is a giant step in the right direction. It is rare to find an RPG that seasoned veterans and newcomers can both enjoy, and developers Square Enix and Silicon Studio have done a tremendous job in accomplishing that feat. With an already stellar catalogue of games, the 3DS has arguably its best JRPG in Bravely Default. If you own a 3DS or 2DS, you should definitely make this title your next purchase.
Have you played Bravely Default or are you thinking about buying it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!