Bravely Default Review
If you haven't heard of Bravely Default in the past couple of weeks, then you my friend, have been living under a rock. There has been so much chatter surrounding this spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. The closer February came, the more I saw Bravely Default on almost every social media site and just the internet in general. I admit, I knew only the bare essentials concerning this game and figured it would be in my best interest to download the demo. What I found was a Final Fantasy experience, which gave me a reason to believe in the franchise again. Once, this franchise used to excite me with every release but now, I'm more disappointed than anything. Bravely Default grabbed my hopes from the pits of darkness and made them shine like the iconic crystals. So what exactly captivated my attention? Was it the combat system? The visual direction? Those two points and much, much more.
Firstly, I found myself gawking at the background artwork. As I walked through various towns and fields, a sudden appreciation for the art blossomed in my mind, leaving me to gawk some more. The background art looks as if they are hand-drawn and magically imprinted in the game. It gives Bravely Default a very unique look. The characters models remind me heavily of the characters models of old; I want to say Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy V could have been the inspirations involved. With artwork this good, it's gratifying to know the animations are smooth and fluid; be it during combat, in the middle of a cutscene or navigating the environment. The game just looks great in motion and I'm afraid screenshots do not serve Bravely Default properly.
However, just what is Bravely Default? Is it merely a Final Fantasy title? The answer to that question is no. The words "Brave" and "Default" are extremely important when it comes to the combat system. You see, combat is standard turn-based with a few twists thrown in for good measure. Turns are dictated by Brave Points or more commonly known as BP. BP determines whether a party member can attack or be forced to remain idle. It's important to keep track of how many BPs you have and to manage them in battles. The main twist to combat arrives once players are taught how to "Brave" or "Default". Brave allows for party members to stack BP and use multiple turns in that member's one turn. The cost however, is the use of BP and if used haphazardly, could leave members vulnerable to attack. For example, if my Ringabel (one of the party members) used Brave twice, he could cast two magic spells and then use an item all within his one turn, but his BP score would be -3. This means I have to wait two full turns before Ringabel could engage in combat again. Brave is pretty handy for when you want to go on the offensive, you just need to keep an eye on the BP to avoid unnecessary damage.
Now, Default is a whole other matter. Whereas Brave uses up BP to stack turns, Default uses a turn to stack BP. Going completely on the defensive, party members forgo their turn in order to store up BP and reducing any damage they take in the process. This is an excellent way to ease into using Brave since you won't have to worry about going into the negatives with BP. Only downfall is the voluntary skipping of that member's turn. I found that Defaulting was extremely useful during boss fights. By using both Brave and Default in tandem with each other, I became a force to be reckoned with even when going up against bosses. Learning to master these two mechanics will greatly improve your survival rate but that's not all there is to it. The job class system makes a glorious return.
Similar to Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy V amongst others, Bravely Default also allows party members to switch job classes at any time. Doing so results in changing of stats, how effective certain weapons and armors will be, special moves and of course, appearance. In some respects, job classes are the main attraction for combat. I found myself looking forward to grinding up levels, so I could learn more moves for a specific class. As someone who isn't quite fond of grinding, I was a bit shocked to suddenly realize I was doing it. The game also has a sneaking habit of making the player want to explore other classes. Even while some may stick with just their favorites, others will surely experiment with the multitude of jobs. As of right now, my team consist of Tiz as my Spell Fencer, Edea as the Hunter, Agnès heals the party as White Mage and Ringabel rains magic on foes as my Black Mage. The fun, however, really begins when you find out jobs can be spliced together, creating a hybrid of sorts.
Each character has an Ability menu that can be accessed to tinker with commands and abilities. While the Fixed Command and Specialty options are locked, the tab for Job Command allows for customizing jobs. For example, Edea is my party's Hunter and she can hit weak spots on various enemies for boosted damage. That is her Fixed Command but under the Job Command, I have her with the Thievery skills. So, not only can Edea attack with Hunter moves but also moves from the Thief class too! But wait folks because that's not all! In addition to the two command tabs, Support Abilities take job managing further. These support abilities are used to help support (duh) characters and each class has abilities that can be unlocked as the job levels up. These abilities can also be mixed and matched between the different jobs, just as I have done with all my characters. So just because you chose the Spell Fencer class, doesn't mean you have to be limited to Spell Fencer commands and abilities. Mix it up!
Did you know Bravely Default could be played with friends? No? Well, you do now but it may not be the kind of cooperation you are thinking about. Players all around the world can trade moves that act like summons on the battlefield. Suppose a friend of yours has a special which deals over 1000 damage, you can upload his/her data to yours and have access to the powerful move. The same can be done with any move of yours as well. Know a friend that's stuck and could really use a hand? Upload the strongest move you have and all they have to do is receive the data. Hopefully, that move helps out! Along with sharing moves between friends and strangers, a minigame of sorts is available from the beginning of the game. Without giving away Spoilers, after a groundbreaking event (literally), players are tasked with the rebuilding of a town called Norende. By utilizing the touchscreen and streetpass built into the 3DS, players must build shops to make life habitual again.
With each person you pass using streetpass, that adds another villager to Norende and they can be used to help with the reconstruction of the village. Basically, villagers are essential to the rebuilding process. For your efforts, new items such as weapons and accessories are given to the player after each completed building; this should be more than enough incentive to fix Norende. Another way friends can help each other out is through Abilink. In my opinion, Abilink makes beating this game easier than it already is. You see, Abilink is the linking of characters to a friend's character, giving said character more abilities. So, if my friend had the Monk, Summoner, Merchant and Freelancer jobs higher than my own respected jobs, I could link with his/her character of my choosing to get his/her abilities. Not only would I have my own commands and abilities I earned through battling, I would also have their moves by simply using Abilink. While this mechanic increases player interactions, it also doesn't encourage exploring other classes and ultimately, causes Bravely Default to be just way too easy. I haven't played a Final Fantasy title this easy since Mystic Quest for the SNES.
With every Final Fantasy game I've played, with the exception of Mystic Quest, I found the protagonists to be very likable and always had that one character who resonated with me. Bravely Default is no different but more than anything, I wish this game had a better plot to it. For me, I felt the story was too weak to capture my full attention. I often found myself tapping through dialogue quickly just to get back to the task at hand. Quite upsetting especially with such a mixed, but thoroughly enjoyable main protagonists. Tiz is the do-gooder of the group, Edea is the sassy, sweets loving character that must discover truths and Agnès, the naive but strong willed female character tasked with restoring order back to the world. As for Ringabel, well, Ringabel caused me to laugh more than a couple of times. His smooth mannerisms and the way he words his sentences made him my favorite character. Luckily, the strong characters help propel the lackluster story forward.
+ Excellent Job system
+ Art direction is well done and unique
+ Combat is a blast
+ Online interactions with friends & strangers is handled nicely
-Plotline is weak and uninviting
-Game is just too easy after awhile
All in all, Bravely Default accomplishes a lot. Sure, it hits a few snags along the way but at the end of the day, this is a must own for 3DS owners and RPG fans. I would suggest testing out the demo before committing yourself to a purchase just in case. My relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise has been like a roller coaster. As of late, I've seen more dips than rises but Bravely Default encouraged me to have hope again.