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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: