on February 7, 2014
This isn't a knock against the game, but a rant on how Amazon packed the game.
My CE came in a very poorly wrapped bubble wrap. Needless to say, the spine of the CE box is very crushed from the way the item was handled. This isn't an isolated incident, as reports are coming in from all over the internet about how poorly Amazon packaged the game. Many users are reporting similar issues as mine.
For anyone who got a crushed CE from Amazon, people were able to get a partial to a full refund of $20-$50, so you may want to go that route.
Update on 2/19/14 - Seems like Amazon has fixed its packing issue with this particular product, but finding it for the $50 MSRP at this point in time will be very difficult. So if you do see it for sale, don't hesitate to buy as the issue is no longer there. Took out some parts of the review that were no longer relevant.
Many people have already provided a full review of the game, so I'm not going to go into detail. All I can say is that if you're a fan of the older Final Fantasies, this is a must have for you. Granted, the game does suffer from some pacing issues at the end of the game, but the over experience is a very good.
Like many of you portable RPGers out there, I had been looking forward to this title for a long time. I've been a bit... put off... by Square-Enix's recent titles, but I can't refuse a free demo. The demo, if you haven't played it, wasn't taken directly from the game. The main mechanics and characters are the same, but the world and quests in the demo were created specifically for the demo to give players an idea of the gameplay. The demo was fantastic and definitely reaffirmed my decision to pre-order the game. However, after playing about 8 hours into the full version, I can tell you that the demo was a mere shadow of what to expect.
Bravely Default is a sequel to 4 Heroes of Light in that Final Fantasy II is a sequel to Final Fantasy. The overall design and themes are very similar but the characters and world are different. Genre-wise, it walks a thin line between classic RPG and Dungeon Crawler - a formula that works extremely well.
The story is, essentially, 4 young people from different walks of life coming together through adverse circumstances to restore order to the four elemental crystals (hmmm, this sounds familiar) and save their planet. I realize that I just summarized the plot of several Final Fantasy titles, but - as always - they've made it unique and added enough character and story to make it its own. 99% of the dialogue is voice acted and it is done well. I will admit, I am not a voice acting aficionado, so people may disagree with me on this point.
Gameplay is very interesting. Square-Enix got a bit experimental with the mechanics which I find very exciting. While the SNES era of Squaresoft will always hold a special place in my heart, I loved how innovative they were during the Playstation days. I felt that they really pushed the envelope and attempted new things, something I don't feel they have done much of over the past few years... at least until now.
Bravely Default (yes, I think it's a stupid name too) gets its name from the battle system. Combat is turn based in the traditional sense, but you can select the Brave command up to 3 times to take up to four turns at once. The downside of this is that every time you select Brave, your taking away your next turn. This means you may have to wait through several enemy turns while your turn gauge catches back up. So, if you don't defeat your enemy, you may be forced to watch - helplessly - as your team gets slaughtered for up to four turns in a row. Fortunately, the Brave/Default command is per party member, so while you may max out your Brave on your Monk so he can hit four times in a row, you can let your White Mage take their turns one at a time so they can dole out the cures and eliminate status effects after each attack.
The Default option is essentially Defend, only it allows you to save your turns as well(up to 3). So, using the White Mage as an example again, I max out Brave on all my offensive party members. The boss is still standing and their turn gauges are all at -4 meaning they have to wait through four turns before they can act again. I opt to let my White Mage take their turns one at a time, taking each turn as it comes, healing my party. The boss makes his next attack and misses, there's no need to heal anyone. Instead of attacking with my White Mage for paltry damage, I'll select Default. My White Mage will Defend and my turn meter will increase by 1 (meaning I have an extra turn saved up). Let's say this happens twice more, now my White Mage has 3 turns (the maximum) saved up on top of their standard turn. Then the boss unleashes a massive attack that blinds my Monk, kills my black mage and deals heavy damage to everyone else. No worries, my White Mage has four turns saved up! I hit Brave three times to use up my saved turns on top of my current turn and cast Raise on my Black Mage, Blindna on the Monk and Cura twice. These actions all happen in succession and now my party is now fully restored. Because I had turns saved up from Defaulting, I'll be able to take my next turn as usual because Brave didn't put me into a deficit.
It probably sounds complicated, but it really isn't. It's a unique twist on turn based combat that adds an element of calculated risk to the equation. It's a great spin on turn based combat that allows you a little extra control over the flow of the battle. Keep in mind though, the enemies can also use Brave and Default, so you may get a boss that will attack four times in a row, but remember they'll have to wait four turns to act again as well. There are also job abilities that can add brave points to your teammates or subtract them from your enemy which adds an additional element of strategy, allowing you to act sooner or keeping the enemy from acting longer.
Another new mechanic is called Sleep Points. You have a gauge that fills whenever the game is put in sleep mode. For every eight hours you get one SP or Sleep Point, these points can be used to get an extra turn in the middle of battle regardless of your brave or default status where you act immediately. You can also buy sleep points with real world money if you feel that they're necessary. I'm never a fan of micro-transactions, but the game is perfectly playable to its fullest extent without buying additional Sleep Points, so this doesn't bother me.
There are 24 jobs (classes) in Bravely Default and you can switch your character's job on the fly, as long as you are not in battle. Jobs are obtained by defeating key bosses that represent the job. So, for instance, everyone starts out as a Freelancer. Shortly into the story you will fight a Monk and a White Mage. When you defeat them, you obtain an item called an "asterisk". This item unlocks that job for all your party members. You party members will level up with experience points as per usual, but your job will level up independently of your party member's level with job points collected from each battle. Each job level grants you additional abilities and attributes for that job. For instance each level of a Mage job will give you access to more powerful spells.
Attributes are passive abilities. These are gained by leveling up jobs. Once you unlock attributes, you can set them to the party member even if they change jobs. For instance, the Valkyrie attribute - Piercing - can be set to a Ninja to make them more effective against armored enemies. Each attribute has a numeric value and each party member has a maximum value their slotted attributes can equal. For instance, if your party member's attributes can't equal more than 5, you can't slot in 3 attributes that have a value of 2. Using the right Job and Attribute combination can make for a REALLY powerful party. It's a nice element of customization and strategy that rewards experimentation that's really rewarding.
Lastly, you can use one set of existing job abilities in addition to your job specific abilities. An example would be, if you mastered the Black Mage job on one of your party members and you want to have them start the White Mage job. You can select Black Magic as their extra ability set and still have access to the spells they learned. It's essentially a sub-job. This can also make for powerful combinations and support opportunities.
Traveling takes place just as a standard RPG, you enter towns and dungeons via the world map and either run on foot or use vehicles (depending on where you are in the story) to navigate around the globe. Random battles take place both inside and outside dungeons. The encounter rate didn't seem too extreme either way.
Part of the game centers around rebuilding a town. You collect townsfolk via Streetpass tags. Each time you get a tag, even if it's the same person, an additional townsperson will be added. Building shops, upgrading shops and clearing paths take real world time for your townspeople. When you want to complete these tasks you can select how many of your townspeople you would like to work on it. Increasing the townspeople assigned to a task greatly increases the speed in which it is completed. You can put everyone on one project and get it done quickly, or spread the townsfolk around more strategically and get several tasks done simultaneously. Rebuilding shops gives you access to purchase their goods when you're at a save point. Upgrading shops increases the quality of the goods offered. Clearing road blocks gives you access to previously inaccessible shops. As you upgrade shops, rebuild and repopulate your town you will receive care packages from your townsfolk including potions and items. Upgrading shops also grants you different abilities based on the weapons you're using. Once you have assigned your townsfolk work, you can return to the gameplay and they will let you know when they have finished.
Every once in awhile a Nemesis may arrive in your town, usually piggybacked on a Streetpass tag. These are powerful enemies you may choose to fight for exp. and items. Only 7 can be present at a time (check their level first so you don't find that you're in over your head) the oldest ones will age off as new ones arrive unless you choose to "protect" one, saving it for later. You can choose to send select Nemesis with your Streetpass tags to other players.
Speaking of Streetpass, you can also send your party's information via Streetpass to your registered friends. While in battle, they can call on your to jump in and execute an attack. You can also pass along special moves to your friends and each of their party members can slot a single special move received from you.
Graphically, this is the prettiest game I've seen on the 3DS. The hand-painted backgrounds are beautifully done. Details like waterfalls and moving objects are plentiful. I've wandered around the city in day and night just examining the details. The 3D was expertly handled and you can tell they put some real thought into it instead of just making the moving stuff come forward and sticking everything else in the back. The demo looked good, but the finished product looks amazing!
Sound is beautifully done. The 3D sound is executed well and the gorgeous music pairs perfectly with the breathtaking scenery. This game is aesthetically brilliant.
The Collector's Edition (as long as it wasn't smashed by Amazon) is well worth the fifty bucks. You get the game, obviously. It also comes with a very nice/large - softcover - artbook. The artbook has paintings and detailed sketches, character designs, etc. It's one of the best CE artbooks I've seen in a long time. The soundtrack is great, 10 tracks total. The AR cards come packaged like a deck of cards and allow you to see interactive cut scenes. The art on the cards is pretty cool as well. The packaging is just about twice the size of the SMT: IV packaging. If I had to do it over again, I would definitely still buy the CE, which is more than I can say for several other titles released over the past few years.
Overall, Bravely Default is one of the most refreshing RPG experiences I've played in years. The amount of customization and strategy included in this title make gameplay a blast! It is extremely robust! There is so much put into this game, it's a bit overwhelming at first. However, the learning curve and tutorials are done very well and you'll be on your way in no time. Graphically it is gorgeous. The story is well done and very much an active experience, things are constantly happening to advance the story and provide insight to the world around you. Traditional RPG and Dungeoncrawler elements are fused seamlessly and perfectly. It really reminds me of the kind of innovative game Squaresoft put out on the PSOne and I love every second of it! This is a must buy for any 3DS owner!
on February 19, 2014
RE: The game itself
Really fun game in the tradition of those old turn based jrpgs. Job system games are always great and feeds into ocd types like myself. The brave/default system may seem innovative but as you get used to it, it really isn't anything groundbreaking. Story and characters are what you would expect, all pretty much standard fare but the production and gameplay is fun, and the boss fights can get pretty interesting. If you've been looking for a bit of the oldschool jrpg, this is it. I'm about 25hrs logged and still enjoying it!
RE: Delivery damage
Yup amazon totally botched the initial roll out of this Special Edition but they really did a great job taking care of the problem.
I wrote this to respond to another review but felt I needed to give Amazon a thumbs up for how they treated me.
I too got a squashed box in bubble envelop but my experience with Amazon's customer service was stellar and I didn't even throw a tantrum on the phone, so I dunno what it was. They first offered a full refund, but told me the stock was out so no replacement would be available. I told them that is disappointing since the whole purpose of me having pre-ordered it 3-4 months in advance was to insure that I got a copy. I explained that people who order special editions value everything about it, including the packaging. The CS agent was very understanding and offered another solution which was to buy it from one of their sponsored vendors at the hiked up prices (undoubtedly hiked up because they saw all the trouble brewing over at Amazon) and that they would offset the additional cost to me with a "courtesy refund." I agreed to this although that meant I'd have to wait an addtional week or 2 to play the game, but they processed the refunds (both for the original purchase which I had to mail back of course, and also the "courtesy refund") right away with confirmation emails and what not. Had the credits back on my card in a day. The agent also followed up on my request to the vendor to please package the item carefully so that I wouldn't have to go through this again. Product came pristine, and I am very happy with it. Customer service even scheduled follow up calls twice with me to make sure the item was being processed correctly and that I had received them with no damage. That was some incredible customer service, but it seems like not many got this option. I'm not sure why I did. I didn't post about this since it didn't really strike me to say something about it but reading these comments I guess I felt then need to show a positive experience in this debacle. I did think that Amazon would be taking a pretty big hit if this was the way they were handling it for everyone. Anyway, I got what I wanted and was totally blown away by Amazon's CS.
on February 28, 2014
The game is fantastic, and there are countless reviews around for it that can attest to that, so I am just going to leave my feedback specifically in relation to how Amazon handled the shipping of this, as well as their two subsequent attempts to assist me with getting another copy.
I received the first copy, as many others did, absolutely destroyed in a Bubble Mailer. Case ripped, CD case inside cracked, dents in the actual AR cards, and damaged art book. I contacted Amazon about this and they agreed it was not really acceptable. They had me place an order for a $150 copy of the game from the Amazon Fulfilled seller Dealz And Stealz, and credited me $100, as well as set up an RMA for the first copy of the game I had. I was glad it had been addressed. When I received the second copy of the game, it came in a bubble mailer again, and was damaged more than the first copy.
I contacted amazon again about this, and this time the support person was much less helpful. He offered a RMA with standard refund and no assistance actually getting a copy of the game. I left feedback with amazon about the support saying I was unsatisfied with the support given as I ordered this months ago and just want to get a good copy from them. They replied again tome in email and apologized, and told me once again to order another copy of the game. This time I ordered a copy from Video Games 1 for $142 with 1 day shipping as they told me to, and Amazon again refunded me the $93 difference. What they also did again was ship it in a Bubble Mailer, and it arrived as damaged as the last one. THREE COPIES from them, came jacked, even when two of the copies were replacements after I had already complained about previous ones being damaged. At this point I contacted them again but was told I cannot be helped more until they received the other copies back. They have been returned now, and I am going to contact them again to see what to do about this.
Update Feb 28th 10PM: I have went through support again, now that they have received the copies of the game back, and have ordered a 4th Copy of the game for $150, with the price difference being refunded to me. It sounds like this time it will be in a box for sure. So hopefully it is. Amazon support itself has been pretty much fantastic during this entire thing, the issue is their shipping department. Getting a $49.99 pre-order to me properly has cost them $300 in profit due to the shipping mistakes, which is far beyond what other vendors would do.
Update March 3rd: The fourth copy arrived at my house today, delivered by Fedex this time. Again in a bubble mailer according to someone at the house who received it. Will update this to note if it has been damaged or not when I get home.
I just received the collector's edition of Bravely Default. I had played the demo through to completion, so I was already familiar with the combat and a few other gameplay basics. But I was excited to delve into the story. I had heard a few professional reviewers stating the story was bland and repetitive, but I counter with this: better to stick to a tried and true story with interesting characters then to try and come up with something new and possibly terrible (Final Fantasy 13 for example).
One HUGE positive is the difficulty and encounter rate settings. I like a little challenge and a higher encounter rate, so I started the game Normal and with 150% encounter rate (+50%). I think this is a great setting for those somewhat familiar with this style of game. You can toggle the settings at any time from the menu (except in battle I believe).
Battle is turn based, but extremely innovative for such a 'classic' system. You expend energy with each turn. Each turn you then can stock energy. This is the Bravely-Default system. So you can hit Default to pass your turn, defending and gathering energy to unleash more attacks - or you can use Brave and unleash multiple attacks, even if you haven't stocked enough energy - but this means you cannot act or defend for several turns. It's a risk-reward system that works well. You can beat up weaker enemies very quickly in battle using Brave, or in the case of stronger enemies you would need to balance stocking turns and waiting until the enemy uses their stored turns and unleash your counter attack. Failing to utilize this system properly against tougher enemies will spell doom.
There are a few nice online features, but one I could live without (which I don't use or intend to use) is the purchase of SP tonics with real money. You can get them in game, but I think the only reason they put these in are to encourage folks to buy more. You really don't need them for the most part, they are almost a cheat of sorts. Like the Pokemon Elite Training in Pokemon X/Y, I am not using this feature in order to maintain the honest difficulty of the game. But you can use street pass to add extra folks for your village rebuild and such, so there are a few nice perks that assist side quests but don't effect the main game too much.
Graphics are amazing. I don't usually play in 3D mode, but this game is breathtaking in full 3D. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the character sprites and animations are unique and interesting. All in all a real looker!
Overall this is an amazing breath of fresh air in the video game market, especially for hand held systems. Nintendo is leading Sony in the handheld RPG market, and this game adds to an already impressive list including Shin Megami Tensei IV, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pokemon X/Y, Fire Emblem, and the two Etrian Odyssey titles. I highly recommend picking up a 3DS and a handful of these amazing titles if you don't have one already. If you have a 2DS or 3DS, then this is a must buy!