Review: Bravely Default
Posted 05 Dec 2013 at 16:26 by Derek Wheatley
There is an element of uncertainty with regards to what is considered to be a step forward for the RPG genre, as it feels to me that every angle has been tried. What seems to be needed in order to stand out is either to be a part of an established series, such as the 'Final Fantasy' or 'Tales' franchises, or have an already established hook, such as 'Kingdom Hearts' that went down the Disney route. Bravely Default however, has neither of these, yet it still manages to stand out rather spectacularly.
A lengthy cut-scene sets the story wheels in motion for several characters, depicting a once peaceful land which has suddenly taken a dark turn for the worse, apparently for no reason. Despite entire monarchies being in a state of uproar, no one seems to want to do anything about it except for a small group of friends thrust together to save the world. So far, so RPG.
Your main starter in this adventure is a young farmhand called Tiz. He comes from the village of Noronde, which he witnesses being swallowed into a giant chasm. During this tragic event he was unable to rescue his little brother, which builds into the story. At the same time this happened, Agnés, the Vestal of wind, has just witnessed the giant wind crystal taken over by darkness. What’s more, the wind crystal is part of a set of four – the others being fire, water and earth – which naturally have suffered the same fate as the Wind crystal. So begins the journey to travel the land, entering into the elemental themed regions to defeat the darkness and vanquish the source.
So what does Bravely Default to help it stand out from the masses? The answer lies in its battle system. Attacks use brave points (BP) which you can usually use once per turn. You can choose to “Brave” up to three more times in addition to being able to attack four times in one turn, however for the next three turns you’ll be a sitting duck. Alternatively, you could “Default” which means you’ll spend that turn defending from enemy attacks and the BP will be stored over for the next turn (again to a maximum of three). See what they did there, putting the name into the battle system? Very clever.
This unique battle system offers a great deal of strategy as you could possibly win a battle in the first turn by attacking 16 times, but if you don't win you're left in a more vulnerable state. By taking a leaf out of Dragon Quest IX's book, Bravely Default takes
Bravely Default makes use of StreetPass as well. You can send and receive characters from those you pass, then allowing you to summon them in battle when in a pinch. It is also used in the restoration of the village Noronde, an optional feature in the game. The “new” Noronde has only one resident to rebuild the village and restoring shops and clearing paths takes time, but by gaining assistance of those with StreetPass your population increases and the time taken to fulfil a task is spread out. It is kind of like one of the StreetPass games that Nintendo offers, but based on the Bravely Default world.customisation even further through giving each character a job. When a character joins your party they are a freelancer, however by defeating certain enemies throughout the game and from side quests, you can ‘take’ their job, which comes with matching attire and certain affinities with associated weapons and armour. So if you do decide to change a characters job, it’s recommended to have some money to spend as you may need to buy an entire new arsenal. As well as gaining EXP from battle you also gain job points (JP) that increase a character's experience in that job, which leads to learning new skills.
However, it must be stated that I am assuming that this is how this works. It only seems to work with those who actually have Bravely Default, and/or possibly the demo. Whilst playing I have had only one person come to my village, but on one day I had 6 people in my StreetPass Plaza, one of which had recently played the demo. Additionally, when I try to update my data I always get an error when connecting to the Internet, I am not sure why this is, but it could be because the game is not out in Europe yet.
The 3DS' augmented reality feature also gets a look in, which hasn't happened much since the console's launch. The game comes packaged with six cards that, when viewed through the AR function, show in-game characters in the real world detailing elements of the story.
The amount of customisation in the game is quite refreshing. Apart from being able to change the difficulty throughout, you can decide whether you can learn EXP, JP or money from a battle or not (for whatever reason) and if you’re on the brink of fainting after a lengthy play session without saving, you can take the monster encounter rate down to zero, or crank it up if you want some training in a manageable area. One thing I wish I could edit is the control option that makes you shift to the D-pad to make selections. You walk around with the circle pad and when it’s time to battle everything you have to switch to the D-pad, which to start off with is annoying but soon becomes second nature. The main period of annoyance is when exploring a town and you enter a shop for a quick price check, or get asked a question. You have to use the D-pad, which seems senseless in these situations and breaks the flow of gameplay.
The world of Bravely Default is gorgeous to look at and sounds beautiful too, showing Square-Enix’s wealth of experience in the RPG business. Voice acting is used also, so you can really feel the emotion and even optional skits can be viewed like those in the 'Tales' series, which can deepen your understanding of the relationships between the party members whilst some are just for fun, it really depends who is chatting to whom at the time.
What Bravely Default lacks in RPG storytelling innovation it makes up for with a truly intriguing battle system. It does require a bit of mass button pressing if you decide to go on a rampage, but when you get to a truly satisfying boss fight the strategist must take over and juggle the Braves and Defaults of each character to keep a winning team going.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Bravely Default is a charming RPG with a unique battle system which has been crafted especially for purpose rather than following conventions. It's unlikely that you will find another experience elsewhere of such quirky quality, this is a special game that no 3DS owner will want to miss.
Brain testing battle system
Nice use of StreetPass
Some minor control niggles
Standard RPG storyline