Bravely Default might win a prize for the oddest name, but does it deserve a place in your gaming library? Those who are fans of Japanese RPGs and also owners of 3DS handhelds should rejoice – here is an RPG in the mould of old-school Final Fantasy that has the potential to become a series and breathes new life into the old formula.
What You Need to Know
If you’ve never played Final Fantasy III or Dragon Quest IV, then Bravely Default is something like this: Four individuals, each who have trodden a different path, are thrown together by the fates to save the world from impending doom. There are also Crystals involved, some slightly cheesy, melodramatic dialogue and turn-based random battles, but here’s the amazing part: The characters are not terrible, the voice acting is not always bad, the story is not completely ridiculous and the game doesn’t take itself overly seriously.
Other than actually realizing it’s a game and thus to be taken lightly, Bravely Default innovates in a few other ways. The battle system is where the name comes from: On any turn a character can select ‘Default’ or ‘Brave.’ Default builds up one BP (Brave Points) and defends, and you can store up to three BP. Brave uses up BP to make multiple actions in one turn and you can Brave up to three times to make four actions, and even go into the negative BP – a great strategy to wipe out weak monsters before they get a chance to attack for quick battles.
When in negative BP you can’t do anything and are prone to attacks without defending. It’s a fun system because there is more to do than simply press ‘A’ lots of times – do I Default and build up BP or just Brave and hope to kill the enemy? Do I Brave to use a Phoenix Down and heal my party multiple times, but open up my White Mage to damage? It adds a lot of tactics on top of an already-interesting battle system.
The skills system, on the other hand, is job-based. As you go on your quest you collect stones by defeating enemies that give you the power to change ‘jobs.’ Each character starts as a ‘Freelancer,’ but soon you can become a White Mage, Monk, Black Mage and many more. Each job can be levelled up, giving you access to more abilities to use in battle or as support abilities. Even while a job is selected you are also able to choose an ability from another job as a secondary ability, which allows for huge amounts of customisation.
Bravely Default is also a full-production RPG made for the 3DS with cut-scenes, voice acting, a huge backstory, many jobs, StreetPass features and meta-games.
What’s the Same?
The tropes of turn-based Japanese RPGs that Final Fantasy pioneered are here: Four teenagers saving the world. Potions, Phoenix Downs, Ether, all the standard items. White Mage, Black Mage, all the well-known jobs. Summons! It’s all very familiar, but couched in a brand new world and story, it’s fresh again.
You’ll Enjoy Bravely Default If You Liked…
… Final Fantasy III – A similar style to the DS remake of this game is used (albeit much nicer looking on the 3DS).
… Dragon Quest IV – Turn-based battles, big world map, epic story.
… Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – If you haven’t played those old games but might have tried this Japanese RPG and enjoyed it, then Bravely Default will probably hit a chord with you too.
What I Liked
- 5) The mysterious book that Ringabel has, that seems to update whenever you meet a new enemy, get a new item or reach a new place. It contains all sorts of backstory, lore and statistics that are infinitely interesting to keep track of.
- 4.) Homage to classics in an up-to-date way – features like battle speed-up, auto-battle and even being able to change encounter rates make it possible not to have to push ‘A’ too many times just to defeat goblins for the thousandth time. It has that classic feel but with novel modern mechanics and options.
- 3.) Beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds make walking around the environments a pleasure, and the aesthetics are complemented by some great music.
- 2.) Some hilarious dialogue and well-delivered comic voice-acting that shows the developers realise they are making a piece of entertainment and don’t need to make every enemy (or protagonist) brooding and mysterious.
- 1.) The tactics inherent in the battle system keep things engaging, and levelling characters and their jobs is interesting in its variety and reward – twenty-four different jobs with some really interesting names like Evoker, Performer and Time Mage.
When I realised that pressing ‘Right’ on the D-Pad sped up battles by two and even four times, I was just stoked. Now I can slow it down when I want (like for big, momentous battles) and speed it up when I don’t (like fighting goblins).
What I Didn’t Like
- 3.) The augmented reality segment in the beginning was very confusing. I guess this should be noted as a feature – it was meant to be dream-like – but it took me almost the entire sequence just to find the character standing next to me.
- 2.) The strange way in which the entire future of the world is entrusted to sixteen year-olds, and the way they happily take on responsibility like it’s all in a day’s work. Yes it’s normal for the genre, but I wish it wasn’t.
- 1.) Some poor choices for voice actors – in particular the one fairy’s pseudo-cute style grates on me.
Least Favourite Moment
There is a feature that allows you to build up SP (Sleep Points) by putting your 3DS in sleep mode while you have Bravely Default loaded (one SP for every eight hours). This gives you the ability to pause battle and perform attacks without retaliation. My least favourite moment was when I realised you could buy Sleep Points with cash. I guess buy-to-play games are no longer safe from free-to-play mechanics. Fortunately you can completely ignore this ‘feature’ without any effect on your game.
The quest is long for a handheld title, and middle-length for its genre – about forty hours of play. I always find I struggle to get past the twenty-five hour mark in RPGs, so I’d say that’s plenty, but you might be expecting more.
For completionists there is a bestiary, item list and more to tackle, and a side game where you rebuild Nerende, the main protagonist’s home town, hour by real-time hour (although you can get friends to help build it quicker).
The Bottom Line
Bravely Default is a classic Final Fantasy-inspired that’s quality, modern and crisp – an adventure to indulge in.
- Eurogamer Review – 8/10
- IGN Review – 8.6/10