Bravely Default: Review

I’ve been playing Bravely Default for almost 30 hours now and although I’m nowhere near the end I thought I’d write up a quick review of the game.

Elephant In The Room

I’m going to get this off my chest right from the start, Bravely Default might not carry the Final Fantasy name, but this game is more Final Fantasy than the last two major releases in the series put together. Bravely Default is old school Final Fantasy made with modern game design principles. This has more in common with Final Fantasy I through VI than Final Fantasy XII and any of Fabula Nova Crystallis FFXIII series does.

Four heroes of light reviving the four elemental crystals, you don’t get more final fantasy than that.

Combat

The combat in bravely default is fairly similar to Final Fantasy per Active Time Battle was introduced in Final Fantasy IV, you give each character commands in turn then hit go and they proceed in order of speed. This does feel like a bit of a step backwards, in that the order the characters will execute your commands isn’t immediately obvious (Unless I’m missing something) and it makes it a little difficult to chain their moves. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had a character use a potion on the wrong character because I got the order of the Phoenix Down and the potion wrong, or at least I would have lost track had I been keeping track.

The combat system does add a novel Brave/Default element, actions take up Brave Points or BP, and you can use the “Brave” command to actually tell a character to use up to 4 BP in a round, allowing them to go into negative BP meaning they will skip turns till they hit a positive amount of BP again. This allows you to quickly pull off a series of moves, such as: a revive followed by a heal, using an ether followed by a spell, or just cast a spell up to 4 times. You can alternatively opt to “Default” which stores up the BP so you can use it in a future and turn and makes the character guard. It’s a fairly elegant system, and it adds a level of strategy as to whether you attack full pelt at the risk of not being able to do anything while the enemy gets 3-4 free turns, or guard to store up the points to attack later.

A Cast of Hundreds

Okay maybe not hundreds, there are four player main characters and there are I assume 23 “boss” characters which you have to defeat in order to get their jobs. The player character are well fleshed out and for the most part likeable despite or because of their flaws.

Tiz: Tiz has literally had the his world turned upside down, his entire village is destroyed in a cataclysm in the opening cut scene of the game. He is ever the optimist and resolves to rebuild it no matter the cost.

Agnes: The slightly naive “Air Vestal” is a priestess who has spent her entire life in a what amounts to a nunnery worshipping and maintaining the Air crystal.

Ringabel: The amnesiac womaniser with a book full of prophetic notes. Ringabel will hit on anything that moves.

Edea: Edea is the turn coat daughter of the leader of the big bad evil empire, she reminds me in a way of Celes from Final Fantasy VI in that respect. She’s compassionate and has a strong sense of right and wrong.

Bravely Brutal

The story is really dark at points, it starts with a entire village being wiped off the map and an entire order of priests dying to protect one person, and it goes on from there. Lots of people die and not in nice ways.

Some of the bad guys you meet are plain evil, and although I’ve yet to meet anyone to rival Kefka, some of them are quite sadistic and I’ve got a way to go yet. The so far the story has covered extorting people for the benefit of industry, government corruption, child labour, the use of chemical weaponry, it’s almost as if Square took a list of stuff that is wrong with the world and decided to use it as a check list.

Jobs Done Right

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with job systems in Final Fantasy games, I like the versatility of allowing my characters to change jobs, but I hate that fact that when a character first switches to a new job that character is crippled for at least half an hour of gameplay while you level up the new job, and that some characters become one trick ponies when you give them a job with an essential skill but only that essential skill.

Bravely Default solves this by allowing you to select one ability from another job the character has levelled up and have that as a secondary ability. The secondary ability is not as effective as it would be if it was your primary ability but it’s still useful and it means that when you convert your level 9 black mage to another class they can actually do something while you level the new class.

You also gain support abilities by levelling up jobs, that you can apply to a character regardless of what job they currently have, this is insanely useful for the “abate” abilities, which allow you to confer a level of resistance to certain elemental attacks, it also makes your characters much more versatile.

There are 24 jobs available, some you get through the main quest and others through side quests, some are useful others seemingly useless unless you want one of their skills. This allows for an amazing level of customization for your characters, as you can equip 576 different primary/secondary job combinations, as well as the choice of a slew of special abilities across the jobs you’ve levelled up.

Bravely Difficult

This game is not easy, but if you find it too easy you can change the difficulty level mid game, I’ve not really played around with this apart from changing the encounter rate, but that in it’s self is a god send. Sick of getting attacked every footstep by irritating enemies? Set the encounter rate to 0 and no more random encounters. Grinding for XP or Job points? Up the encounter rate to double it’s normal value. These effects normally require a special item in Final Fantasy games, but here they are just settings in the config.

You can also opt to not receive experience points, job points or money from battles to make the game a little harder.

If You Build It They Will Come

The game starts off with the town one of the characters lives in being wiped off the face of the planet by a cataclysm, you are the sole survivor of your village and you get to rebuild it through the game. Final Fantasy games usually have this kind of side quest/mini game, but rebuilding Norende is quite a good touch, you upgrade shops which in turn allow you to buy better items, the shops will also periodically give you gifts of the items they sell which is always nice.

Your city is rebuilt by an ever expanding populace which you get by Street Passing other players who are also playing bravely default, or by checking the internet once a day to get up to 4 extra people.

Social Features

Bravely Default makes use of the 3DS’ Street Pass system to populate the town of Norende, every time you Street Pass another player who’s played Bravely default you get an extra citizen in Norende, which in turn means you can rebuild the town faster.

The town is also menaced by Nemesis, which are big bad boss type monsters that are sent over from other players, which you can in turn send on or fight. I’ve been swamped with level 99 monsters for a while which is a bit irritating, but they get replaced over time as you street pass other people, and they have a chance to drop items which pump your characters’ stats, which is nice, as well as offering a generous amount of XP and Job points.

You can also link your friends characters to your own characters in something that is called AB Link, which as far as I can tell allows you to use skills that your characters don’t have, but that your friend’s version of that character does.

Lastly you can summon a friends character into battle to aid you, this is really good if you are in a pinch and your friends are higher level than you, but a bit useless otherwise, I’ve seen characters do anywhere from 3 damage to 9,999 by doing this. The other player does get to pick what moves they send you though which is nice.

Side Quests

So far each chapter I’ve played has had two side quests which you can optionally play through to gain extra jobs. Though the side quests are optional they are tied into the story and are the kind of quest in another game would have actually been part of the main story. One of them had me deposing the monarch of a nation!

The side quest locations are highlighted on the map so you don’t have to worry about missing them, although sometimes it is a case of being at the right place at the right time, for example: I’ve already run into two which are only available at night.

Graphics

I don’t normally care too much about graphics, especially not in a handheld game, so long as it’s not butt ugly I tend not to mind, that aside, the graphics in Bravely Default are nothing short of stunning. Everything is rendered in 3D and the way the camera pans in and out on the field or in cities is amazing. I’ve noticed the odd glitch or JPEG artefacts in the FMV, but for a hand held console this is more than acceptable.

Unaceptable!

There is very little I didn’t like about the game, I personally found the English voice acting a tad annoying, but I’ve switched it over to Japanese and that is much better. I’m quite happy reading subtitles, so I’m happy.

Worth it?

So far this is one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in a long time, I’m really hoping it holds up. I heartily recommend this game to anyone with a 3DS.

I leave you with this:

Nintendo’s Stroke of Genius

For the past few years people have been saying that the handheld console’s days are numbered because the phones that people carry around with them are getting better and better at playing games.

The logic here is that you are already carnying around a device that you use to call and message your friends, which also gives you access to the internet and a slew of games at your fingertips whenever you want them. Why on earth would you want to also carry around a larger device that only allows you to play games, and maybe lets you access the internet on a crippled browser if you happen to be within range of a WiFi access point (Note I appreciate that Sony’s PSP Vita comes in a 3G flavour but personally I find the idea of paying for a 2nd data contract when I have a perfectly good data contract on my phone slightly repulsive).

There are a small contingent that will argue that a D-Pad or Analogue Stick and buttons are much better for playing games but if you look at the way the industry is going both Nintendo and Sony are migrating towards touch screens. Another argument is battery life, in that if you spend a few hours playing a game on your phone you probably wont be able to use it to make calls later, and although smart phone battery life is nothing like that of the mobile phones we had in days of yore it’s getting slowly better, and for the office slave it’s perfectly normal to charge your phone while in the office so it’s still usable while you are at home.

These arguments aside my personal experience with handheld consoles lately has been that I’ve had an initial honeymoon period where I carried the thing about with me all the time, and occasionally even played games on it, then bit bit bit I started to “forget” to carry it around. I found that most days I didn’t have time to play on my hand held, so I didn’t bother bringing it with me.

Then when I did have time to play games, I didn’t have the handheld on me, but I did have my phone so I amused myself with a short game of Bejewled or some other mindless puzzle game. It’s a viscous circle, sure the games I had on my phone weren’t as good as the one’s I had on my GameBoy Advance, PSP, or  DS but they were the games I had on me.

Sony has tried to make the PSP and the Vita useful in other ways, they’ve added a web browser and music and video playback, to these consoles, and although I admit to having watched a lot of Anime and TV shows on my PSP while travelling my phone and my tablet do all of that much better than the PSP ever could, I don’t know about the Vita but I also don’t see much point in carrying about two devices that do the same thing.

About three months ago I bought a 3DS XL, I’d been unimpressed by the 3DS at a Nintendo preview event and the reported battery life had put the nail in the coffin of any intention I had of buying one, but the XL fixed my issue with screen size and the battery life was better so I took the plunge.

Now when I got it and set it up I had to create an avatar or Mii and the setup process intoned to me that there would be mini games that I could play using something called Street Pass, I wasn’t really interested in this, I’d bought the console so I could finally play Ocarina of Time and see what the hype about Fire Emblem was all about.

After a few days of mainly playing indoors I took my 3DS out with me, and when I got home I noticed a flashing green light on it, when I opened the console there was a message saying that I’d met someone while I was out and that I could play games with them using the Mii Plaza.

I was curious so I opened up the Mii Plaza and got a piece of a puzzle and played a stripped down RPG. To paraphrase Mr. Bobinski from Coraline, “That was nice but not so Amazing”. Anyway I was still carrying about my 3DS because was was still in the honeymoon period and every day I noticed the little green light with more and more people added to my plaza I slowly got hooked on Street Pass Quest, and I noticed that the 3DS had a pedometer built into it, that gave you coins to spend in the games for walking about. I’m no fitness freak but I’ve always like the idea of having a pedometer to see how much I walk, just never enough to buy one. Now I had one for free, and I got points for walking!

Here is where the genius of the 3DS comes in, you don’t have to actually play it all the time to benefit from having it on you, you pick up coins, you add to people to your Mii Plaza, heck you can even get bonuses in the actual games you are playing.

The 3DS encourages you to have it on you even when you know you aren’t going to be able to use it, because you might pick up some Miis for your Mii Plaza and because you will earn coins by walking about.

I even saw a post on Reddit a few weeks back (I’ll link to it once I find it) asking if people actually started getting out of the house more just so they could get Street Pass hits, most people didn’t but a lot of people did say that they often altered their walk home to to school so that they would pass by places where they thought they would get more street pass hits.

There is even the potential to meet or in some cases seriously creep out people who you bump into on a regular basis which is quite cool and a way to meet fellow games.

What Nintendo have done with the 3DS is Genius, it’s made me carry about my console most of the time just in case I get a street pass hit and to rack up my pedometer. But in doing so it’s made me play more games on the 3DS, which will mean that I use the 3DS more and probably continue to buy games for it rather than in languishing in a drawer somewhere because I never get a chance to play games on it.

Have Nintendo Missed a Trick with the 3DS?

I just had a thought that would make the 3DS awesome! unfortunately I think it’s too late to add it as a feature to the 3DS… The 3DS has a 3D screen, and WiFi and can take 3D pictures using the camera’s on the back of the device. unfortunately there is only one camera on side facing the user… If there were two… 3D Video chat! It would be like having a space age communicator thing in your hands! Oh well we’ll have to wait for the next generation, or an add on.

I’m not going to go into my thoughts on the pricing of the 3DS aside from the fact that I think it’s too expensive in the UK, $110 more than the US price… Seriously? What a rip off… I’d import on except for the fact that they are region locking it. At least the region locking is apparently optional and up to the game publisher, but also the store is different on a region by region basis, and I assume I’d want the UK store…

As it is I’ll probably wait it out till the price drops.

One cool note is the 3DS apparently has a web browser but it’s not preinstalled. You can apprently switch out of a game to browse and then switch back in, which as Kotaku rightly mention is perfect for looking up FAQs online

Image Via  TechSpot News.

Nintendo Are Region Locking the 3DS!

I’m not sure how reliable the source for this is at the only citation they have for it is an email in Korean, and I can’t translate the email using Google translate because it’s an image of the email… But…

I wasn’t aware the DSi was region locked, I’m gutted that the 3DS will be though. As a “World Traveller” I’ve always just bought games wherever I was and expected them to work on my hand held gaming device. I kind of understand why you’d region lock a home console, it’s unlikely to see use outside of the country it was purchased in, although both the PS3 and the X-Box 360 are for the most part region free.

The whole point of a portable is that you can take it on holiday with you, when on holiday if you happen to complete the game that you brought with you you should be able to buy another game to play while you are out there, you shouldn’t have to wait till you get home…

I’d skipped the DSi and was looking forward to the next iteration of the DS hardware to jump back on the bandwagon, but this is very close to a deal breaker for me…

Tech2.com India.

Nintendo 3DS Could be cool but I’m Skeptical

Nintendo have Quietly announced the Nintendo 3DS which is the successor to the DS Line. Lets see if we can figure out the features from the name… 3D DS…. It’s got 2 screen and “games can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.” Hmmm I’m dubious, I guess they could use some funky eye tracking to make it look 3D.

It really reminds me of the Virtual Boy which Nintendo released in 1994 or there abouts. It only lasted for a year. The video below is a review of every game ever released for the Virtual Boy. While some small part of me wants one I would never pay more than £30 for one. I’ve seen them going for £80 in Game Station but that’s just too much…

Anyway some of the Features the 3DS is touted as having:

Backwards Compatibility with DS and DSi Games

Nintendo would be shooting themselves in the foot if they didn’t do this, it’s a proven formula for them and assures a strong back catalogue at launch)

Acceleromter/Tilt Controls

This seems to be the way mobile games are going and keeps it in line with Nintendo’s biggest rival for the handheld space… The iPhone…

High resolution Screen (Possibly 720p?)

I have no doubt that it will have a larger screen, and it will probably be higher resolution than the DS’s 256 x 192 screens 720p seems a little pointless considering the size though… I’d like to see video out like the PSP-2000 but the 2 screen input of the DS might not translate very well. Apparently both screens can be treated as a single screen so that might lead to a combined resolution of 720p

It’s possible that it could be powered by an Nvidia Tegra Chip

This makes sense as Nintendo have a history of using mass market chips in their hand helds, the Tegra is the up an coming chip boasting performance and efficiency.

3G SIM slot

This again seems to be a wise decision, Data tarrifs around the world have been driven down, and a 3G connection allows easy access to game downloads (a market strategy shown to be viable by the Kindle, iPhone, and Android) as well as other applications, such as network gaming. I assume it will also have Wifi as everything does these days.

Twin Cameras

One on the back and one on the front, this facilitates DSi Backwards compatibility and eye tracking. It also opens up a few interesting possibilities.

Conclusion

It looks like Nintendo are filling in the features they need to claw back the handheld market from the iPhone, the only feature missing is GPS… The 3G Sim/Wifi and the Camera lead to video conferencing, I’d like to see them partner with Skype as that would make this a killer device in and of it’s own. I’m skeptical about the 3D without the need for special glasses, I’m picturing holding this thing in my hand with a 3d princess Leia hovering over the screen asking me to help her… It could work, I guess… I remain skeptical

Leia

They will probably market this as an e-Reader as they have the DSi XL that’s not a bad thing, assuming the screen is good enough. The 3G SIM allows you to buy books wherever you are. I think I remember reading somewhere that Nintendo are looking to put DS’s in the classroom this would be a good way to do that.

I guess we’ll have to wait till E3 in June to find out…

Via  GameTrailers.com & Geekosystem & Gizmodo & Wired