Customer Reviews: Bravely Default - Nintendo 3DS
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Platform: Nintendo 3DS|Edition: Standard|Change
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on February 7, 2014
The Good:

+Very unique combat system
+A lengthy quest that'll keep you busy
+Return of the job system allows for lost of customization
+Charming characters overall
+A lot of old school charm
+Great soundtrack
+Stunning visuals

The Bad:

-Pretty straightforward story (though this is definitely intentional)
-Some players are probably not going to like that the game will sometimes get bogged down in grinding for hours

Back in the 90's and early 2000's, Square was the king of the RPG. In particular, Final Fantasy was once revered as one of the greatest JRPG franchises of all time. In recent years Final Fantasy has had something of a mixed reputation. So, in fact, has Square-Enix. Yet Bravely Default comes as a surprise. It harkens back to what made Square so great in the first place. It is an old school RPG right down to the core. If you were a fan of Final Fantasy back in the days when they were known as Squaresoft instead of Square-Enix, you may very well love Bravely Default. It's overall a fun game.

There isn't much to keep track of in terms of story in Bravely Default. Compared to the rest of the game, it's fairly simple and straightforward. You control a band of adventurers who are out on a quest to revive the four crystals. If you're familiar with Final Fantasy this is all pretty familiar and straightforward. The good news is that the cast of characters are actually quite likable. You'll meet them all pretty early on in your quest. The story may not be what will entice you about Bravely Default. Though the characters are likable there are quite a few "by the book," moments. Rather what is likely to excite you about Bravely Default is the battle system.

The battle system in Bravely Default is a good one. It's a simple turn based affair. Your allies on one side of the screen while your enemies populate another. What separates this battle system from others is the Brave/Default mechanic. Every character has a set of BP. Those who choose to Brave can expend them and get an extra turn during combat. The sacrifice is that if BP drops into the negatives they lose the chance to attack the next turn. If you default, however, you'll store BP that you can choose to expend or not within the following turn. So let's just say you decide to default for a turn. The next turn, you'll have an extra BP which will allow you take one extra action. And it can be anything. Utilizing this system you could say... prepare for a powerful attack by having a character default and then the next turn they could attack AND heal if they wanted to. You can play around with the system in many ways. If you keep defaulting until your BP is maxed out you can perform several actions in a turn. A mix of healing, boosting stats and attacking can be done by every character if you so choose.

This is more than just a gimmick. The game's battle system has been designed around this mechanic. Bravely Default is not an easy game. You can't simply ignore the Brave/Default mechanic and hope to win in the traditional sense. In some fights, for example, attacking twice is probably going to be the best way to defeat an enemy who insists on healing. You may find in some battles the need to boost your defenses before launching into attacks. The enemies sometimes hit hard. Bravely Default is not going to hold your hand through it, either. Comprehending and mastering the battle system is key to getting through Bravely Default. If you don't take the time to really get it down the game is happy to punish you for it.

The job system is in play here as well. Final Fantasy fans who played through Final Fantasy V will instantly recognize and understand the system. You'll select a job which already has its own innate abilities. Black mages cast black magic, white mages heal while warriors are apt fighters and ninjas are fast. Final Fantasy veterans will know all this stuff already. As you master abilities, however, you'll be able to mix and match. So it's possible to have a black mage that will also know white magic if you're trying to build a good sorcerer. In many games with a job system there are plenty of ways to take advantage of it and learn the best abilities and just keep going with those. Bravely Default isn't always like that. In many cases you'll find yourself forced to rethink your strategy against a powerful boss every now and then. Mixing and matching abilities gives the game a lot of customization. This isn't like so many RPGs with a job system where you can find a good set and keep it going for nearly the entire game. Bravely Default has such a wide variety of ways to customize your party that you'll probably want to experiment and learn as many abilities as you can to build up the best party that you can.

Of course doing all that involves grinding. And this is where Bravely Default certainly shows its old school charm the best. A lot of JRPGs are designed in such a way now that you can coax through them with ease. They're balanced in a way that the levels typically tend to come around as you go. Bravely Default doesn't do this. There are times when you'll need to spend LONG periods of time grinding. Either to learn abilities with jobs or to gain levels. You'll often take a break from the story to do this. In part because Bravely Default demands it.

The good news is that the game is rarely that punishing and you can actually choose the pace at which you grind. You can speed up battles to make them go faster if you want (or select a handy auto-battle command that actually serves you well). The best part, however, is that if you're feeling tired from grinding or battling and just need a break, you can set how high or low the encounter rate is. This is something the JRPG has probably needed for a long time. No abilities, accessories or items necessary to it either. You can always go into the configuration and set the random encounter rate to 0%. This is especially nice if you ever find yourself backtracking or just exploring a dungeon for the sake of exploring. For those looking for a challenge you can also opt to turn off experience, gold and job point rewards. There really doesn't seem to be any real point to this other than for the hardcore JRPGer who likes to challenge himself or herself.

It's nearly impossible to talk about Bravely Default without mentioning Final Fantasy. The game itself is most definitely a spiritual successor to the famed franchise. It deals with the elemental crystals and the job system is ripped straight out of FInal Fantasy V. Many spell names sound very familiar and the graphics and art style are reminiscent of the remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV. And it all makes for a glorious package. Bravely Default is a beautiful game through and through. The world is lively and feels alive. There's plenty to explore and a lot of things to do. It'll probably keep you busy for hours on end. The music is also very good. It's a game that easy on the eyes and the ears.

The only thing that might keep Bravely Default down is that the old school charms aren't for everyone. The story is fairly slow going at times and is also pretty predictable. The emphasis here is definitely more on the gameplay, exploration and grinding than it is the actually story at hand. That doesn't mean the story is actually bad. It just means that Bravely Default plays it straight. Likewise, some gamers aren't going to like the emphasis the game will put on grinding. Especially when it comes to earning abilities The game makes the process of mastering a job take a long time. And with so many classes to choose from you'll be busy for a while learning abilities. For some gamers this is the charm that some of us have to come to appreciate from the genre over time. For others it might be seen as a way to pad out the length of the game. Indeed, a lot of hours spend on Bravely Default will come from you running around looking for a battle.

Neverthless, I still happen to think this is primarily why Bravely Default works. It is a game that knows its audience. And knows them very well. If you are fan of the JRPG and you've got a 3DS and you loved Final Fantasy, then Bravely Default is for you.
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on February 8, 2014
I don't know about you, but I have sure missed the kind of PlayStation JRPGs, and specifically the Final Fantasy games, that Squaresoft published in the 90's. The many classics from that era had an intangible magic that is fairly rare in the industry these days. Thankfully, Bravely Default is a lovely gem that could easily be mistaken for some long-lost Squaresoft gem from that period, and playing it reminds me of the way it feels playing Final Fantasy IX and Xenogears. This is a special treat. Warning: somewhat long review incoming, either buckle up, or jump ship now if that's not your thing. Having become intimately acquainted with the eshop demo, as well as putting it quite a few hours into the main game by now, I feel confident in my ability to give an informative, honest assessment.

The story in Bravely Default features four protagonists, all of which have backstories that any veteran of the genre would regard as painfully cliche at first glance. You get Tiz Arrior, a young man recently beset by horrible tragedy and great loss. He is joined by Anges Oblige, a sheltered priestess girl who must save the world by healing huge crystals through prayer, Ringabel, an amnesiac ladies man with a magical book, and finally Edea Lee, a spy for an enemy nation who joins the heroes at a later point (try to guess why she does this. Here's a hint, it's cliche, lol). Of course, political intrigue, giant elemental crystals, and world saving shenanigans ensue. It almost sounds like a "Four protagonists walk into a JRPG" bar joke, doesn't it? Thankfully, what Bravely Default's story lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for in execution. The writing in this game is, for the most part, very well done. The story is mostly coherent and moves along at a good pace with memorable events that make sense. The characters are all generally likable and developed well. Plenty of endearing humor offers a nice counterweight to the serious moments. There's a nice balance between freedom and structure, so you never feel strangled by linearity or lost with no guidance. Overall, Bravely Default is a very charming, well-written JRPG adventure. All of this is more than I can say for any Final Fantasy from the last several years (sadly), so Bravely Default gets a big thumbs up from me in its plot and story structure. It's very enjoyable to take in. It's a definite throwback to the classics of yesteryear and makes for a good adventure.

To aid in the sense of adventure of the story are the visuals, all of which are influenced by hand drawn art, water color paintings, and old-timey children's fairy tale books. It's very unique, full of imagination, and quite beautiful. The visual designs of the settings in this game are nothing short of brilliant. Wondering around the various locales, all of which are quite unique, really reminded me of how I felt playing Final Fantasy IX for the first time. Amazing. The 3-D effect does even more to add dynamic impact to the visuals too. It's no stretch to say the awesome settings add a lot to the game's story. Akihiko Yoshida, known for his work designing characters in games like Vagrant Story,Final Fantasy Tactics, and the recent Final Fantasy DS remakes, did the character designs in this game. To be honest, this aspect will probably be a love-or-hate thing for people. His stylized art tends to be. While some characters are kind of silly looking and clumsy (more on that later), I personally like the character design for the most part. All-in-all, Bravely Default is an undeniably gorgeous 3DS game.

Let's talk about sound for a moment, and specifically the soundtrack. Let me put it this way... If you told me that the soundtrack in this game was some long-lost collaboration between Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu from the 90's, I'd probably believe you. Seriously, Bravely Default's soundtrack is amazing. It has the striking emotive melodies characteristic of Mitsuda's music, and the lovely sophistication and elegant refinement of Uetmatsu's work. Every song fits its purpose perfectly for every situation/scenario/circumstance. Indeed, "Revo" nailed the soundtrack in this game. Other than that, most of the sound effects in the game are appropriately nostalgic. There's a surprisingly large amount of voice acting in the game, and thankfully most of the time it falls between acceptable and exceptional (keywords there being "most of the time").

As a JRPG, Bravely Default works very well mechanically. All of the basics in the game are very well refined and play as well as any classic Final Fantasy game would. However, there are a couple twists in place that make this more than just an adequate FF clone. For one, the battle system features an "action point" system wherein each action, be it attack, use an item, etc. costs you 1 "Brave Point." In "Brave Mode," you can go all out up to a deficit of 3 BP, meaning you can attack an enemy four times in a single turn if you want. Beware though, because if still standing, the enemies get to wail on you for four turns in a row. Then there's "Default Mode," which is basically a turtle-up move that allows you to accumulate BP for later use, while greatly increasing your defense for that turn's duration. This system has a fantastic feeling of risk vs. reward that encourages and prizes smart strategy, and I appreciate that.

The other unique aspect in this game is its robust job system. Anyone who has played Final Fantasy V will know what I'm talking about. Each distinct "job" or class has different stats and abilities and most (but not all) fall under archetypal roles (ie. White/Black/Red/Time Mage, Monk, Thief, Ninja, Knight, Swordmaster, etc), and you can change any character's class on the fly under most circumstances. There's a huge number of team combos you can achieve with this that not only allows for deeper strategy, but guarantees that every player can have a unique experience catered to their tastes. It's really great fun. Usually, I find bare-bones turn-based RPGs to grow rather boring shortly. Thankfully, the job system and Bravely Default combat modes makes this a very engaging RPG. Throw in unique streetpass features and an incredibly large amount of options that makes the game experience tailored to virtually any player, and you get a cocktail of smart design choices. All of this makes Bravely Default a unique, deeply refined JRPG that makes the experience stand out among its source inspirations.

For the sake of being fair and all that, let's talk about some criticisms for the game. Like I said earlier, the character style will be a love-hate thing. Since the job system changes character outfits, the only constant distinguishing feature of the main characters is their face and their hair. Unfortunately, two of the main characters, Ringabel and Edea, have hair styles that look stupidly ridiculous, even for an anime character, which is a shame. Again, I usually really enjoy Yoshida's work, and it's *mostly* great here, but some designs fall short. Also, some "job" outfits look ludicrous in certain cutscenes. Try imagining a serious scene playing out while Ringabel is wearing the Las Vegas Elvis suit (complete with aviator shades) that the Performer job has, or the fox-mask wearing Ranger... You can't do it without laughing. Kind of ruins the serious vibe in those scenes. The pre-rendered cutscenes, while having stunning detail, feature characters with a bizarre, somewhat unappealing combination of chibi and realistic proportions and details that I'm not a huge fan of. It's a little off-putting if you ask me. The mechanics of the game are awesome except for one admittedly small thing that still really sticks in my craw. There's a special sleep ability you can use to make battles much easier. You replenish your supply by putting the 3DS is sleep mode for eight hours (pain), OR, pay REAL money in a micro-transaction. Now, to be fair, the game is balanced so you don't *need* it, but still... Call me old fashioned, but if I pay this much for a game, I expect every feature to be included, no strings attached. Micro-transactions in a game like this is just plain ugly in my opinion, and glaringly so in a game meant to salute past classics. You stay classy Square Enix. This sort of stuff is why people these days call you an evil/incompetent out-of-touch corporation. None of these issues are "game breakers" per se, some are admittedly very nit picky (except for the microtransaction aspect), but they are worth mentioning for the sake of fairness.

Bravely Default is, by and large, a great 3DS game, despite some nit-picks here and there. If I could be more specific, I'd rate this game somewhere between an 8.5-9 out of 10. In many ways, this game is a wonderful salute to the kinds of JRPGs Square made for the PS1 back in the day. In fact, I'd say that Bravely Default is to PS1 JRPG masterpieces what Radiant Historia is to SNES JRPG masterpieces: a nostalgic homage while still offering enough new ideas to feel like a genuinely unique and fresh JRPG for the modern age. All things considered, I'd highly recommend Bravely Default to the majority of RPG fan/3DS owners who, like me, miss the kind of quality JRPG releases of yesteryear. Buy it, gather up your trusty four protagonists, and prepare to save yet another world in a new (but not final, sequel already confirmed) fantasy.
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on February 7, 2014
I have heard rumors about this game and when the demo came out, I tried it and immediately reserved the collectors edition from a game store. I am only a couple of hours into this game, and already it blew my mind, the first AR movie looks good both in standard and in 3d, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the story thus far is amazing. It takes a lot of the elements from the old style RPGs but adds a twist - a risk/reward combat system which allows you to choose early combat, or save up brave points by defending and then going whole hog on an enemy (its fun to take out an enemy of you store up enough points in one shot) or using a special ability to Speed up your turn, but to do this you either need to use money to buy potions, or let your system sleep for 8 hours, the job system reminds me of the Final fantasy tactics games where you can level up the current jobs, or switch out and gain levels learning new things, and making each character unique. Also the streetpass and friend list comes into effect, you can use powers and abilities others have by passing them while your system is in sleep mode and also use them to rebuild your town, a good benefit for those like me who enjoy extra things to do. The soundtrack is reminecent of old FF games, haunting and beautiful. Overall I say this game deserves a place in any players library and while the story may be linear, the ways to get there are immense. Enjoy.

UPDATE(WITH LITTLE SPOILER) - for those who have not beaten it, or beat it without trying, I only am in chapter 5 - but I discovered there is an alternate ending. When you do the Rite after Airy says stop keep pressing the x button and keep going until the crystal shatters - you will unlock another story when beaten will get you an outfit for Anges, but then you will go back to before you shatter the crystal (usually suggested to do the final Crystal), there will be changes to the story and to the opening screen shot. Enjoy
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on March 4, 2014
When you start playing Bravely Default, you may definitely enjoy the visuals. The towns are rendered very well. The graphics are actually pretty good overall. You may also end up liking the optional mini games like town building, or can skip doing those if they're not your cup of tea. You don't even have to spend on the SP points but it's an option for people who would.

You might enjoy trying out all the different jobs the game has to offer. The characters aren't much other than Ringabel and Edea who will probably have the most enjoyable dialog going on in the game.

When I played the demo it was enough to get me into the full game. So I bought it. I loved it...then Chapter 5 and the rest happened.

Let me go into the mechanics of the game. In fact, people really enjoy these features. You have the ability to change difficulty and random encounters during the game. This is in fact fantastic. However, people probably don't realize why in recent localization it was put into the game.

Those later chapters I mentioned, are the reason these mechanics have been put in the game. Imagine having to be forced to repeat all your quests and not be able to turn off random encounters or you're stuck on a difficulty level that just makes you lose interest in the game.

I will try to keep it spoiler free but while I do understand on one level why the later Chapters go into a repetitive mode, I also feel like it was lazy development because of budget reasons. It should not feel like the last disc of Xenogears (if anyone gets the reference). When you play it you realize it doesn't feel like storytelling but more like lazy gameplay.

One other thing that is a bit baffling is when you are revealed more of the story, it makes you go "Really?" with some of the characters, even as entertaining as they may be. I mean you can pretty much read quite a bit of a spoiler by just reading D's journal.

If you can put up with that or are just very forgiving then you may feel my rating is a bit harsh, but I can't see in all honesty why so much wasted development in the later chapters of the game.
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on May 4, 2014
This won't be the most thorough review ever, but this game really, really annoys me. Spoiler alert.

The game repeats itself! And then IT REPEATS ITSELF AGAIN! Do you want to fight the same bosses over and over again? Do you find that fun? I don't, but Square Enix thinks you will.

I will say that I like the characters in this more than most of Square's other games and the battle system is fairly good with up to 4x speed.

The button mashing to wake up the crystals is annoying.

Also, this is quite the nitpick, but Square's naming sense always annoys me these days... A character named "Ringabel (ring a bell)," a fairy lazily named "Airy," etc.

Another annoyance - and I'm not sure if this applies to all DS/3DS games or just some (I know it's not just Bravely Default at least) - but why can I only use one save slot per game? This game has multiple endings - who are you to tell me I can't start one game and then save to multiple slots if I want to branch out? Why should I have to replay the entire game to get a different path? I don't think Nintendo should be enforcing this. They should be allowing gamers to save their games the way they want to. I own my 3DS and I own the software I've purchased for it and I should be able to use it in the way that I want to.

Edit: The game lets you save game-clear data after you get an alternate ending and if you resume the save, it starts you before the branching point. I'd still rather be able to save to any slot, but this is less bad than I previously thought. You do not need to replay the entire game.
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on February 13, 2014
I am thirty-three years old. I've been playing video games since I was five. I've tried almost every Final Fantasy game and abandoned all of them after a few days. However, Bravely Default is quickly becoming one of my favorite games.

I've never been able to get into Japanese RPGs. I love D&D and Pathfinder, but Final Fantasy - possibly the quintessential JRPG - always bored me. I got sick of random encounters, some of the dialogue scenes were too long for my tastes, battles got repetitive after a while.

Bravely Default (an awkward name if you ask me... I blame it on a loss of translation) by Square Enix is similar to Final Fantasy in mechanics and art style, but there are differences that transcend plot alone. The new battle system which this title is named after allows you to get past frustrating enemies that heal themselves frequently. If you use the "default" move, you can defend yourself and collect "brave points" which you can spend to unleash a few moves in one turn. If you have a group of four and most of them have initiative (D&D term... sorry) higher than the enemy, they'll pummel the enemy and hopefully knock its HP down way faster than it can heal. That's just one way the new system is helpful.

The things that make this game better for me than Final Fantasy (FOR ME... that's an opinion) is the option to adjust the frequency and difficulty of encounters in-game, and the ability to change characters' job/profession/class whenever you want without suffering too much loss to stats.

*Encounter Frequency and Difficulty*

Within the character view screen, there's a "tactics" selection. Under that is "config", and then "difficulty". From there, you'll find "encounter rate" which will present a slider that can be set to +100%, +50%, +-0%, -50%, -100%. The highest setting will throw you into encounters every few seconds, while the lowest will let you wander around freely (but it'll warn you that you'll have a tough time leveling up).

This is great for me. For instance, when I'm trying to find a hidden chest and I'm getting really annoyed with the random encounters interrupting my search, I can simply turn them off, find the chest, and then them turn all the way up and set the difficulty to "easy" so they happen every few steps but don't completely destroy my characters. This way, I can sort of make up for the potential loss of XP. Once I get tired of battling every few seconds (and feeling like I'm cheating) I can set the frequency and difficulty back to a normal levels and continue the game as intended. Basically, you can adjust the frequency to suit your needs at any moment. Random encounters are important for leveling your characters, but they can get irritating at times.


Rather than have set classes, Bravely Default offers jobs which you acquire as the game progresses. Characters have slight variations in base stats, but the jobs you choose increase and decrease relevant stats, while the weapons and equipment they hold helps with their abilities. This way, you can play a characters as a monk for a few weeks and change it to a mage or knight if you want without worrying too much about them not performing efficiently.

Like I said, there are slight variations, but they're not so extreme that jobs can't be changed. Agnes has higher base mana points (MP) than Tiz (these names will have meaning when you play the game). At first I set Agnes as the mage and Tiz as the monk based on that stat alone. I wanted Agnes to be the monk (despite her in-game personality, I like strong female leads and it made sense to me for Tiz to want to heal her and keep her alive... but that's just me). I played a few encounters and then switched their jobs and equipment. Agnes performed just fine as a monk and Tiz has kept everyone alive and well thus far. Additionally, you can set each character with a secondary job ability and have a knight who can heal in a pinch, or a ninja who can use fire spells.

Here's a short summary of relevant stats between Tiz and Agnes to illustrate my point:

As a monk:
Agnes - 68 MP, 14 Strength, 8 Intelligence, 11 Mind
Tiz - 58 MP, 16 Strength, 7 Intelligence, 10 Mind

As a white mage:
Agnes - 126 MP, 7 Strength, 16 Intelligence, 18 Mind
Tiz - 110 MP, 9 Strength, 14 Intelligence, 17 Mind

(There are more stats, like dexterity, agility and others, but these seem to be the most relevant for their jobs. I assume - for example - dexterity and agility will be higher for a ninja.)

The only significant difference, as you can see, is between mana points. The other stats differ by one or two points, which isn't enough for me to lock either character into a job. Sure, ten MP seems like a lot, but I've only run out of mana once in the beginning.

With my love for RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, Pokemon (card and video game), and even Magic the Gathering, I wanted to like Final Fantasy. I tried so many times over the last 25+ years, but I just couldn't get into them. Bravely Default is the JRPG I've been craving. It's everything Final Fantasy was/is and more. The annoyances that made Final Fantasy feel tedious and uninspiring for me have been rectified.

*Mini Game*

I've played this game for about a week and I only know of one mini game. I don't want to tell you what it is because it would be a major spoiler. It functions similarly to all of those farming and city building games in that you can set tasks that are completed in the background over time.

Try the demo, but don't rely on that alone. It'll give you a few jobs to switch between, you can try out the new battle system and the difficulty settings, but it sort of throws you into difficult situations.

Overall, Bravely Default is receiving a lot of hype and it is totally deserved... even if the name isn't too inspiring.
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on February 26, 2014
I'm an old person. I grew up playing games on the Commodore 64 and Atari, later it branched out into turn based strategy games like Civilization. Last year I got a 3DS to play with the kids. I got about 3 hours into Professor Lawton, and then I kind of forgot about it. Enter Bravely Default - I read the reviews and it reminded me of some of the turned based D&D games I played as a kid. So I took a chance and bought the CE addition (i had a coupon at BB) and I haven't been able to stop playing it ever since. It is very addicting. The skills/jobs/ability combinations keep me up at night, trying to figure out the best combination for each. yes, it is that addicting.
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on April 21, 2014
After Chapter Four, it constantly repeats itself until Chapter 8! What the heck? I was tedious at best. The ending is only a shocker if you have lived under a rock for years...This is not the best that Square Enix has to offer. I have no idea why everyone things this is so good...Its not. Now, it is not a total failure ...but it is annoying.
There are good parts of the game it is not a total wash ...but I think they ruined it with constant repetition...I got to a point where I just could not wait for it to be over....and I put in 127 hours... I got to level 99 and got all the job asterisks...but in the end was not worth that amount of time to play the game.
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2014
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!
22 comments| 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 19, 2014
OK, I did have some fun with this game so it wasn't a complete wash. There are some high points the game does well. Great music, looks very nice for a portable game. Most of the characters were pretty good. Personally I wanted to shoot Agnes out of a cannon. Terrible voice actress and the character herself was pretty lame. The other 3 mains were all pretty good though. The game was localized well and had several moments of legitimately funny humor and character interactions.

Combat is an enhanced version of classic turn based, with a job system thrown in that will be well familiar to anyone that has played previous Final Fantasy games, such as FFV. There are a ton of jobs and only a few of them are throwaways (I'm looking at you, Pirate). Most of them can stand alone or at least have some desirable secondary abilities you may want to learn and equip. The name Bravely Default refers to the ability to act multiple times or defend each turn. Basically if you've ever played any strategy game or RPG that uses action points, you know what's going down here. It's that type of system behind a sassy name. You can act up to 4 times per turn, but that leaves the character unusable for multiple later turns (of course there are various ways to regen brave points more quickly).

So at this point you're probably thinking, "this sounds like a 5 star game, what gives with the 3 star rating?" Well, the problem is the structure of the game itself. First, without spoilers, know there is a "bad" ending and a "true" ending. You can get the bad ending at about the 50 or 60% mark of the full game. If you choose to push through to the true ending (and why wouldn't you?) the game becomes an insanely repetitive, seemingly endless boss rush, where you run the same dungeons again and again, fighting the same bosses every time. If you're old enough to have played Xenogears, the entire second half of Bravely Default is basically an even less satisfying version of Xenogears disc 2. Plot-wise, the characters start to understand what is going on at maybe the 60% mark of the game. By roughly the 80% mark they understand completely what is happening, who the villains are, and what the villains are doing. Yet as you fight the final bosses, the characters act all surprised and hurt. It makes them look like total morons, especially in light of the dozens of conversations they've had indicating they know what's happening.

Some other random thoughts. Many boss battles are extremely exploitable with the right combination of job classes, especially later on when you start to get the more advanced jobs, which are not particularly well balanced. If you don't exploit... well, I won't say these are the hardest bosses of all time, but they are some of the toughest I've seen in a while. Towards the end of the boss rush that makes up the entire 2nd half of the game, it starts throwing 3-4 bosses at a time at you, usually in combinations that are pretty nasty. Beating them "legitimately" can be very satisfying, but some of the encounters are so brutal you basically just end up cheesing through them. My biggest late game gripe is the final boss run. There's all these different jobs and abilities, but if you don't bring a Spiritmaster to the last battle, along with someone who knows time magic and salve making, you are NOT going to win the game. It's a big constraint considering how many tools you have in your box.

The final word: I love the first half of the game. Like a true FF game, if you choose to see and do everything, it will take anywhere from 60-80 hours. The lame repetitiveness, lack of further plot development, and the seeming Alzheimer's afflicting all of the main characters means that by the end of the game, it had really overstayed it's welcome. Sometimes less is more.
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