You can name this game as a Final Fantasy spin-off like “FF: Crystal Chronicles Dimensions” or however you want to fit in the word “3D”. I imagine that they would have called it Final Fantasy something and deferred that idea due to less-than satisfactory sales of non-Final Fantasy Numbers games. Regardless of the glaring similarities in the game system of Bravely Default with Final Fantasy games, credit must be given where it is due, it is a well made game.
Bravely Default is the summary of the collective experiences of classic Final Fantasy games (I through VI), updated to appeal to a younger/more casual player base. The game is also integrated with a social networking experience (Streetpass and a “Netfriend” system) to deliver a some-what refreshing RPG experience while feeling all yet too familiar to older fans of the genre with classic turn-based mechanics and the ever-loved job class system.
The story revolves around four (4) characters namely: Tiz Arrior, the sole survivor of a great calamity which struck his home town of Norende the wake of the disaster would be known as the “Great Chasm”. Agnes Oblige, the Vestal of Wind who has the ability to awaken crystals. Ringabel, an enigmatic man with no memories of his past with a penchant of speaking perverted thoughts out loud seemingly without knowledge of basic social graces and Edea Lee an impulsive young girl who has a very simple view on values by categorizing them as black or white. They are accompanied by the ever-charming “cryst-fairy” only known as Airy. She possesses the “collective knowledge” of all vestals of the crystal from the past and guides Agnes in awakening the crystals to prevent the end of the world.
Struggling to save a world in turmoil from the crystals losing its light and the oppressive kingdom of Eternia opposing the religion of the Crystal Orthodoxy our main characters fight an uphill battle against Eternia‘s elite forces and ancient evils which have corrupted the crystals. A new job class is unlocked every time the group defeats Eternia’s top soldiers and leaders by taking their “job asterisk”. These will unlock a new set of active and passive skills which will prove vital in future boss fights and competing the game.
I must emphasize that unlocking all the job classes is absolutely essential not only for beating the game but enjoying the game to the fullest. The combinations of skills from several jobs is key to making your life a whole lot easier as proven by this interesting bit of news from Bravely Default’s Japanese release. While I didn’t bother to attempt that feat, playing Bravely Default smartly is something I agree with. Capping out your character level and getting the best gear means squat because the later chapter boss fights will prove to be impossible unless you figure out the right combinations to outlast them or even to completely suppress their relentless assaults.
The Brave and Default system makes battles more interesting. Each action a character takes costs one (1) Brave Point (BP), you can have them make a maximum of four (4) actions per turn by using the Brave command. You do not need to accumulate Brave Points to take multiple actions in one turn but when your BP falls below zero at the start of your turn, that character cannot take an action until your BP is at least zero. The Default command simply raises your defense at no expense of BP, allowing you to accumulate Brave Points to take multiple actions without losing turns. This simple system can be used and abused based on your job skill combinations and opens up various ways to beat certain bosses. What I really like about this system is how battles turn into combinations of exciting big swings from you to your enemies at least until you figure out the extremely cheese combos which I abused ’till the end of the game.
It is very difficult to discuss Bravely Default in detail without spoiling the entire game so here is a run down on key features of the game that will help you figure out if the game is worth your time or not. But if you do pick up the game or have already done so, I invite you to look back at this review after completing the game. A lot of things will suddenly make more sense.
- Graphics (it’s Square, duh) – Once your eyes get settled with the game after the nice CG intro, you will find that the graphics of the game is done really well. Especially with the background environments. When you leave your game idle, the map will zoom out for a breath taking scenery you can further appreciate with the 3D option of your 3DS (because 2Ds owners am cry).
- Streamlined game – The character XP and job XP are streamlined so that you can max everything out with little effort if you play smartly. There are a lot of features which make “grinding” a walk in the park like Auto-Battle which remembers the last actions your characters take and the option to increase or decrease your random encounter rate. You will at the least want to max out your job levels to play around with all the skills so Bravely Default gives you all the tools to play your game with ease.
- Job Class System – Boss fights in later chapters will prove to be some of the best battles yet. Granted that there are some fool-proof methods to beat them, you are not limited to those combinations only (you also need to figure them out first). You can attempt to beat bosses with the various tools presented to you outside abusing the Bravely Second skill which allows you to take extra actions at no penalty and break the 9999 damage cap. You can try to beat bosses while retaining some of your favorite job classes whilst taking on a handicap because sometimes the journey is more exciting than the answer.
- Character Development – There is a surprisingly huge amount of character depth despite the droll plot of the game. As you go through the course of the game, the growing cast of characters keep developing their personality to maturity.
- Game Depth – This isn’t a “you will get 60 hours of game-play, this is worth it!” thing. Rather, the meat of the game is in overcoming challenges presented to you. While everything is ruined by consulting an online guide, relying on your understanding of the game’s job system is the real reward in playing Bravely Default. I mean if that is your thing.
- Voice Acting – This could really have been done better. They sometimes sound like they are just being played over a voice recorder and some character voice acting are just plain bland. It really puts a damper of a pretty nice soundtrack. Your usual orchestral fair.
- Plot Structure – Einstein once said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and I couldn’t agree with it more. This does not pertain to grinding in the game but a more core aspect of the game, the plot.
- Not expansive – When the game’s plot unravels, you will realize that the game world is not as expansive as you were lead on to believe.
- Micro-transactions – Anything under this is normally bad but it does provide a way for people to share their benefits (of dealing incredibly insane amounts of damage by using Second Points (used to activate Bravely Second) or even buying them. While viewed by some as “breaking the game”, it is an edge you have the option to use. If you pride yourself too much in being “such a hardcore gamer” don’t use: problem solved.
- Social Networking Features – While Bravely Default is in the strictest sense a traditional RPG. The inclusion of the Abilink and Send Skill feature really helps break in casual gamers into the genre. Abilinks are the collective job levels your registered friends on your 3DS have already attained. You can start out a game at level but have maxed out job levels already. This takes out the grind for the player who benefits from Abilinks from early adopters. With this, new players can focus on core game-play and the story rather than take time to level up. If you have really hardcore RPG playing friends, they probably already found a way to deal hundreds of thousands of damage and can share their skill for you to summon in times of dire need, that’s if they’re not selfish. If they are, you may stumble on someone who is not as selfish, as I have. Net Friends are random people you can add up as villagers and receive their sent skills. No worries about your privacy, as this is Nintendo, absolutely no personal information Friend Codes included will be shared with these people.
- Added Value – On top of the above mentioned social networking features, you can access additional content through the rebuilding or Norende. You can gain access to valuable items, weapons, Special skill parts and new costumes for your character through re-populating Norende and upgrading the shops using villages you acquire through Streetpass or from sending invitess to “Net Friends” daily. You will also receive Nemesis monsters to fight from your Streetpasses and Net Friends. These Nemesis are challenging boss monsters which drop permanent stat improving items provided you can beat them. There is a challenge for everyone all the way to level 99. While entirely optional, rebuilding Norende does unlock a lot of goodies for you.
- New Game Plus – That’s replay value for you should you crave for more but honestly, once is more than enough. I’ve enjoyed Bravely Default thoroughly in my first play-though.
Overall, I would still say Bravely Default is an extremely well made RPG which will appeal to its traditional fans and makes a strong attempt to break into non-RPG players through social networking. It uses its fan-base as ambassadors of the genre through Abilinks and Net Friends to give casual gamers a huge edge in the game which they would normally not attempt to achieve by spending their time grinding in the game. If you like role-playing games, this is a no-brainer. Buy it.
There are potential spoilers below. Highlight the space below at your own risk.
As a head-up to current and potential players of Bravely Default, the droll plot of the game will eventually make sense of standard RPG functions which are treated as plot holes such as save-points. He he he.