Bravely Default Review
Bravely Default is a game that feels like a memory ripped out of the consciousness of every old school JRPG. It feels like a game that desperately wants to relive days gone by with spells, equipment, inns to sleep at, airships to take to the land and sky, and maybe a few new tricks. Although the title doesn’t begin with a Final Fantasy prefix, Bravely Default may be the best Final Fantasy game Square Enix has released to the market in quite some time. Can the old trope of the world needing saved still make a fantastic game, or does Square Enix need to rethink their formula that gave us the buster sword and epic summons.
The game starts in a pretty stereotypical way. Tiz, a young man, walks with his brother and something terrible happens. Tiz then joins together with a rag tag bunch of heroes as they stumble their way through fighting enemies and clearing dungeons. Honestly, the story is pretty typical for anyone that has played a Square Enix or Final Fantasy RPG anytime since forever. All of the tropes, memory loss, giant crystals and a twist or two along the way are all there. But the weirdest part about the story how it doesn’t seem to feel too terrible even though these tropes have been used forever. Maybe because it’s been so long since a RPG wasn’t over the top with crazy convoluted crap that a good, old fashioned, save the day story felt fine. In fact, it almost felt good.
I say almost because there is still a few RPG tropes that felt less like coming home, and more like coming home to a pile of dog poop in the kitchen. When the story does fall, it falls hard. For example, going on a quest line to get one of the heroin’s a pretty dress so she can win the fashion show is not an appealing hour or more, especially when the payoff is less than rewarding. Also some of the scripting for the story seems, oddly adult in some areas to say the least. One of the side quests has you defeating a man that drugs women and takes them to his dungeon to steal their beauty. A weird, and almost offensive idea, to someone that understands the underlying context under.
So the story has some good and some bad, but all of that didn’t really matter too much because the meat of the game, the combat, is some of the best turn based combat I have played in quite some time. The brave and default system is an interesting one that feels good and makes turn based battles interesting again. When fighting players can choose to brave, which uses an extra turn right now for the trade off of having to wait the next turn, or defaulting which is basically blocking, but gives you an extra turn next time around as well as all of the stereotypical Final Fantasy attacks. These options give players a multitude of different options for approaching battles and changes the formula enough to make things interesting.
Another thing that changes battles quite a lot is the ability to mess with almost everything in the game when it comes to the frequency or agency in battles. Players have a slider where they can increase, or completely turn off random encounters. This gives players an option to grind in some areas or to run through others as quickly as they choose. There also is a fully automatic battle system that will just take the last commands and do the same attacks at every encounter. This again makes grinding much easier and much less painful unlike past RPG games that I hope gets incorporated into other titles.
One of the best parts about the combat system in Bravely Default is the Job system. Players assign each character in their party to fill certain jobs that are pretty similar to other Final Fantasy job systems in the past. White Mage heals, Black Mage does magic damage, Knights are heavy hitters with lots of defense and so on. The thing that makes the job system so interesting is there is actually a primary and secondary job. This rewards players for switching out jobs and mastering each job to expand the abilities characters can have.
There are a few interesting things that Square Enix has incorporated that can only be done on the 3DS. The 3D when in town has a beautiful painted world that will pull out if any time is spent not pressing buttons. Also the streetpass additions to the game are phenomenally addicting and will keep players checking their 3DS as often as they can. Streetpasses nets villagers in the main characters town that will be able to build shops for upgrades, weapons, armor and other special items. Bravely Default is about as perfectly built for the 3DS as any other Nintendo game is for the platform and this leads to a great overall experience for a person looking for a 3DS title.
For good or for bad, Bravely Default is an old fashioned RPG. The story can be hit and miss at the same time introducing fantastical and cringe worthy dialog. If you are looking for something to sink your teeth into for 80-100 hours this unabashedly Final Fantasy like game isn’t a bad way to do it.