Bravely Default Review
While many may furl their brow trying to make sense of the title, Bravely Default, JRPG fans will be bouncing up and down with excitement.
If there’s one thing veterans of the genre love more than the well established, long running series that have whisked us of to fantasy realms for over 30 years it’s bizarrely titled unknowns made by studios with little experience of the genre.
While Silicon Studio did a great job with 3D Dot Heroes, we couldn’t possibly guess how well they’d handle creating the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light for Square Enix.
It’s these divergent titles that often offer the most exciting and freeing experiences.
While well-established series are bogged down, inheriting series norms and exhausted genealogy, once you drop the brand licence from the front of the title, both developers and gamers’ minds open up to new possibilities.
Games like Infinite Undiscovery, Radiant Historia and Xenoblade Chronicles have been able to push the possibilities of the genre without breaking the fantasy cosiness that the fans live for and, of course, they all have stupid names.
Bravely Default – 4 Heroes of Fight
The story is nothing special, following the usual “Find the four McGuffins planted around the land with spiky orphan teen, princess poshy, amnesia guy and soldier lass” theme.
The combat though is hugely engaging and clever. It’s everything you’d expect; turn-based, random battles against a variety of slathering gits in dungeons.
However the brave/default system (ahh, so that’s where the stupid name comes from) turns the whole thing on its head.
You’ll have to think about every move with the option to default to defending which builds up your brave meter, or use up a brave point giving you two hits, risking running out of turns leaving you standing there like a plum, taking a beating you can’t do anything about.
This risk/reward system really makes a huge difference to your strategies. You can’t ever fall into a mindless pattern either because the enemies are wildly different from one another.
Battles are never a grind. You’ll be up for a fight the whole way though this forty-hour adventure.
The ability to increase the battle frequency, decrease it, speed up the battles or switch them off altogether means you’ll never have to wade through low-level enemies that you’re bored of or hunt for fertile grounds when you want to level up.
It’s the best combat customisation in a JRPG we’ve ever seen.
Bravely Default – Fantastic Fantasy
The role-playing systems, like the combat, perfectly marry brave new ideas with comfortable traditions.
A classic Final Fantasy V job system lets you develop your characters to suit you but you can combine job skills, and their variety such as Pirate, Ninja, Superstar and Vampire make them great fun to try out.
There are plenty of side quests but they feed well into the main story and offer worthwhile rewards, such as new jobs. There’s a good old-fashioned town building mini-game but it utilises Streetpass to enlist helpers.
Even AR Cards are included, bringing special content to the game and if you leave your 3DS in sleep mode you can build up SP points that give you a big boost in battle.
You can purchase the SP points for real world money too, which although very much an evil, micro transactional, dick move by Square Enix is actually quite handy if you’re stuck.
Bravely Default Review
While the game is fully voice acted the quality is ropey at best with mismatched acting styles and overly lengthy dialogue.
It’s a different story in the looks department though.
Characters are fairly basic in design but the backdrops are spectacular. The way the camera zooms out to survey the huge landscape if you leave go of the controls for a few seconds is never anything less than breath-taking.
Silicon Studio gives you everything you expect and want and throws in brand new concepts that it never occurred to you to want. Bravely Default is both familiar and unusual. It’s brave but not to a fault.