Wow. This review has been a long time coming. I purchased this game when it was released in February and I’ve been slowly grinding away at it ever since. Now, after almost 70 hours of game time I have finally finished this beast. Here are my thoughts.
First, let’s talk about what Bravely Default is; here we have a classic JRPG style game by none other than the legends of the genre, Square Enix. I should state that this game is the “spiritual successor” to the previously released DS title “Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light”. While it is not a direct sequel, there are apparently a few throwback easter eggs scattered about this game for fans to discover. (Note: I have not played Four Heroes, but it is now on my to-do list). That being said, this game is pretty much a pure Final Fantasy title in all but name. It’s very Final Fantasy-like in terms of storytelling and gameplay. Several classic Final Fantasy character classes and artwork are present in the game as well. One small element of controversy worth mentioning is censorship. The western release of the game included some censorship in terms of the character’s ages (to avoid teenage romance) and a few adjustments to character costumes to make them a bit toned down (less sexy). Personally, I find this overall silly. I’ve seen the uncensored images from the Japanese game, there’s very little difference. Don’t feel like you’re missing anything important.
The game revolves around four young heroes on their journey to save the world from chaos. To do this, they must restore light to four dimmed elemental crystals. The stars of title are:
Tiz – A young orphan who’s hometown and brother we’re swallowed up by a massive chasm that was caused by troubled Earth Crystal.
Agnès – The young Wind Vestal (priestess), who along with her fairy companion intends to restore the failing crystals to their former glory.
Ringabel – A mysterious ladies man with no recollection of his past. He carries with him an unusual journal that seems to predict the future of our heroes.
Edea – Daughter of the Templar of Eternia, the nation currently terrorizing the homeland of the other three heroes. Disgusted with the actions of her own kingdom, she has joined the others.
As the game progresses and our heroes continue to awaken the crystals they inch deeper into the web of ancients secrets that make up their very existence. The game is very rich on storyline and it’s much better to experience it firsthand than to read a summary of it here. But the info above should be enough to give you the basic idea.
First off, let me start by saying that this game takes full advantage of the 3DS platform. Moreso than any other game I’ve played. Naturally, the game itself is available in 3D. There are also pre-game and post-game movies that feature augmented reality. Meaning, the movies are seen through your eyes, and you can move the 3DS in a 360 degree range of motion to change the perspective of the action.
In many titles, the Streetpass feature of the 3DS is either ignored or poorly implemented. Not in this game. You see, early in the game, Tiz sets out on a mission to rebuild his hometown. To do so, you must collect residents. This is accomplished through the Streetpass feature. Every time you tag another Bravely Default player, you get another resident for your village. As your population increases, you can assign villagers to clean up the area and rebuild shops. The ultimate goal here is to have the town completely restored. Thus, unlocking exclusive items and equipment for sale.
Aside from the village mini-game, other players that you encounter can also be summoned to help in battle. Likewise, you have the ability to send special moves and tactics out to help your friends as well. If you don’t have very many real-life friends that play the game, the Nintendo Network will send four players to you daily. So no matter what, you’ll be able to use the online features to participate in this functionality.
Aside from this, there’s also one other online feature worth mentioning: Nemesis monsters. Also included with your daily Nintendo Network transmissions are special optional monster battles. These beasts invade your town and you can battle them at will. These creatures are actually modeled after boss monsters from the Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light game. Defeating them will often grant you rewards that increase character stats. Upon receiving a Nemesis in your town, you can choose to lock it in place to fight later, or send it back out into the wild to be caught by another player.
All of this player summoning and Nemesis monster business may not seem to make much sense at first. But as you approach the end of the game storyline, you come to realize that it all does tie in well with the story of the game.
Important note: there is a free demo of the game available for download from the 3DS shop. The demo really serves mostly as a tutorial for the game’s unique combat system. But by completing the demo, you can also unlock some nice little bonuses in the retail game. None of these are exclusive in any way. So there’s no need to feel obliged to play the demo first if you’re ready to jump right in.
So, you might be asking yourself; What up with that name, “Bravely Default”. What does that even mean? This is reference to the combat system. For the most part, combat in this game is handled just like you’d expect from a JRPG title. Turn based combat; you can choose to either use a physical attack, cast a spell, or use a recovery item, etc. The difference here is, you can also choose between two additional options: Brave or Default.
Brave allows you to add an extra move to your turn. You can choose to use up to 4 Braves at a time. So in theory, you could make 5 attacks in a single round. The downside to this is if you blow all your moves in one round, you will be defenseless until you have earned those moves back. So, spend 5 moves now, you have to wait four more turns before that character can move again.
Default is just the opposite, you forego a move for one turn. Doing so raises your defense, but also adds an extra move to your bank. So using these methods you can expend and reserve extra turns per combat round. I seems confusing at first, but you figure it out pretty quick. Learning how to master the Brave and Default system is a big part of the game. Good players will learn to make the most of these options to overcome challenging boss monsters.
Another important mechanic of this game is the Job System. This will be familiar to fans of Final Fantasy. As you play through the game, you will have the ability to unlock new jobs (classes) to equip on your characters. All the classics are represented here, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, Ninja, Summoner, etc. Each job features certain abilities and weapon specialization. As you progress through the game, your characters earn both Experience Points and Job points. Your character and jobs level independently of each other. As your job levels up, your character will learn unique abilities that can be used even if you switch to another job later on. For example, you can be a Pirate who can also use White Magic (assuming that character learned the ability previously). Mastering the job system and learning to mix and match abilities is just another secret to overcoming all the obstacles that the game will throw at you.
I know that’s quite a lot to digest, but I feel it’s important to touch on what makes this game unique. Bravely Default is quite an interesting title. It’s presented in a classic JRPG style, with a new twist on time-tested game mechanics. Graphically, the game is beautiful. I’m not a big fan of the 3D option so I don’t use it for daily play, but from what I saw – this game implements the 3D feature elegantly.
When it comes to audio, Bravely Default also earns high marks here. The game is almost completely voice acted, and very well done at that. The music is simply stellar. So much so that I went out and found a imported copy of the soundtrack.
If I have any complaints about the game at all, it would have to be with the length of the title. As I mentioned earlier, I completed the game at right around 70 hours. Now, of course I took the time to unlock every job, level everything to the max and explore every dungeon. The game has two endings and I made sure to experience both. But even so, the game feels a bit drawn out. I thought that I was coming close to the end about 40 hours in. Only to find out – nope. Not even close. – You see, it’s hard for me to explain the problem without spoiling the story somewhat. But you get a point in the game, where you find yourself forced to repeat the same process over and over and over. For a total of four times. Now while this does factor into the game story, it feels a bit excessive. Regardless, it’s safe to say that you certainly get your money’s worth.
Overall, Bravely Default is nothing short of a masterpiece. If you’re a fan of the genre and you own a 3DS, there’s no reason not to own this title. It’s a no-brainer.
Difficulty: Variable– The game features a number of ways to customize the difficulty. There are general Easy, Normal and Hard modes. Additionally, you can disable certain features of the game such as quest indicators. You also have the ability to control the monster encounter rate. Making random battles more frequent or eliminating them all together.
Story: This is real reason you will want to play the game. The storyline here is nothing short of epic. All the elements you’d expect from a JRPG are present here: otherworldly evil, magical crystals, ancient sages and young heroes. It’s all here and it’s done just as brilliantly as ever.
Originality: Square Enix has done a great job of taking a time-tested formula and giving it a new life. This accomplished both due to some fresh ideas and due to the unique features of the 3DS.
Soundtrack: The music and voice acting in the game are superb. I cant praise the soundtrack enough. It sounds excellent through 3DS speakers, but even better if you’re able to use headphones. Seriously, it’s that good.
Fun: I really enjoyed this game a lot. I do admit, that about halfway through some fatigue started to set in. I feel like the game is a bit long in the tooth. But once you manage to get past that hump, it’s back to having fun again. Despite the long hours invested into the game, I was still wanting more when it was all over.
Graphics: The graphics are very well done. The environments are excellent and the spell effects really awe inspiring. I’m not a big fan of the 3D capabilities, but as I said in the review, they are implemented quite well in this game. So if that’s your cup of tea, you’ll be sure to be pleased.
Playcontrol: No problems here at all. The game controls feel natural and I did not experience any issues here at all.
Mature Content: No Concern – Fantasy violence, some occult-inspired monster names, suggestive themes are few and far between and would likely be overlooked by young players.
Value: At the time of this writing, the game retails for $30. Well worth the price. Especially when you take the time to consider the number of hours of entertainment this game provides.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – A game this perfect doesn’t come along often. When the only complaint I can think of is that there’s too much game to play, you know that the developers have scored a win. That being said, this is really a title designed for the hardcore JRPG player. Casual players will probably find the game too big and too complex. Be warned going in.Currently available on: Nintendo 3DS
Other Reviews In This Series:
Bravely Default – Bravely Second
Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light