Bravely Default

In Japan towards the end of 2012, Square-Enix released the Nintendo 3DS RPG Bravely Default, which they intended to be a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. The game would see a director’s cut version in Japan subtitled For the Sequel, this version seeing its North American release early in 2014, and proving to be a solid JRPG.

Bravely Default features random encounters, with the rate of fights being adjustable any time outside battle, players potentially able to avoid battles completely, though odds are that they’ll want to fight enemies to some degree in order to stand a chance against bosses. The game further features a class system akin to third and fifth Final Fantasies, with the player able to mess around with jobs outside battle and equip a certain amount of passive abilities based on the number of crystals they’ve revived per the title’s storyline, up to five slots, some skills consuming more than one slot.

In battle, the player’s party of four characters has a number of options, including attacking with their equipped weapon or weapons, “defaulting” to both reduce damage taken during the following round of battle and earn a Brave Point, consuming one or multiple Brave Points to grant a character extra commands (a feature somewhat derived from Xenosaga Episode II’s Stock system), using an MP-consuming skill, using an item, or attempting to escape, an option that naturally doesn’t always work.

Once the player has inputted commands for all their characters, they and the enemy exchange blows in an agility-determined turn order, with annoyances ever present in traditional turn-based RPGs such as enemies beating the player’s characters to healing allies low on health, and since enemies apparently don’t decide their commands until they reach their turns, they can kill revived characters during the same round of combat.

Fortunately, battle speed is adjustable, and when the player wins a fight, each character that is still alive acquires experience for occasional level-ups and points for their current job, mastered at fourteen levels, alongside money and occasional items. The battle system works well for the most part in spite of repeated boss fights galore during the latter part of the game and tough endgame bosses, some fights especially dependent upon specific job abilities.

Control in Bravely Default is well above average, with helpful in-game automaps, easy menus and shopping, skippable cutscenes, and crystal-clear direction on how to advance the main storyline. There are some minor flaws, however, such as no quicksave feature and some occasional vagueness on how to advance sidequests, but otherwise, interaction is well above average.

The story is the game’s weakest link, focusing on a quest to revive the world’s crystals much akin to the original Final Fantasy, although the translation is more than serviceable in spite of some occasional stiffness with characters sometimes addressed with titles prior to their identities such as “Dark Knight.”

One of the highlights of Bravely Default, however, is its aural presentation, with plenty of excellent tracks and decent voice acting in spite of some annoying squeaky characters such as Airy.

The visuals are also superb, with gorgeous prerendered environments that sometimes show movement in sync with the 3DS’s three-dimensional capabilities, alongside nice character and enemy models, although there are occasional palette swaps, and the player’s characters don’t actually contact the enemy when attacking them.

Finally, the game is modestly lengthy, taking somewhere from thirty to forty-five hours to complete, occasional sidequests and a New Game+ potentially boosting playtime.

Overall, Bravely Default is for the most part a solid Japanese RPG that hits most of the right notes with regards to its gameplay, control, aurals, and visuals, although it does leave some room for improvement in the area of gameplay, particularly with regards to the repeated boss fights and tough endgame fights, and its derivative storyline. Those that can look past those flaws and are in the mood for a good JRPG will likely enjoy the game, which has a sequel in development as of this writing.

The Good:
+Solid battle and job systems.
+Great control.
+Excellent audio and visuals.

The Bad:
-Repeated boss fights galore.
-Tough endgame bosses.
-Derivative plot.

The Bottom Line:
A good spiritual successor to games like Final Fantasy V.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable (Slightly Hard on Easy Mode)
Playing Time: 30-45+ Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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