A well told story, a cast of lovable but well developed characters, an addictive but challenging battle system, and a killer soundtrack. These are the usual ingredients of a memorable and well received game and it’s safe to say that Bravely Default joins that category of games.
RPG fans have been gifted with many wonderful titles for the 3DS in recent months and yet another gem comes to the handheld with Square Enix’s Bravely Default.
It was instantly well received by Japanese audiences after its release leaving us western fans to hungrily await its release and we all know how long those localization waits can be. The story is somewhat typical, revolving around a young man who initially needs to escort a young lady being chased by the bad guys to safety who then finds himself on a wild journey.
Tiz is the hero whose entire village has been swallowed up by a chasm. After losing every friend and family member he knows he makes his way to Luxendarc where he meets Agnes, the Vestel of the Wind who is being pursued by pirates. From there, the two set off on a grand adventure in classic RPG style.
A full English voice cast brings life to the characters but the option to listen to them in their original Japanese voices is also available. Both are excellently executed and make the story enjoyable.
You control your character through the various maps of the world, very reminiscent of early Final Fantasy games. The transition for point A to point B is very smooth and there are random encounters in the overworlds which can be adjusted if you no longer need to grind or just want to get somewhere quickly. Menus are very easy to navigate and easy on the eyes. Changing equipment and abilities is seamless on an aesthetically pleasing interface. Loading times from map to map are incredibly quick even on larger maps. The only issue I had was the walking speed on the overworld, but thankfully the access to an airship fairly early on in the game helps with the travel time.
The battles can be a bit tricky initially being multi-turn based with other mechanics in the mix. Players can choose to be Brave and get more chances to attack at the cost of BP (battle points) or they can Default which essentially puts them in a defensive position and allows them to store more BP. It takes a few battles to get used to but thankfully the tutorials walk you through the mechanics fairly well.
Bravely Default also includes an extensive job system with over 20 different types to choose from. Your party can be filled with anything from Knights to Mages complete with unique skills to match. The job system is probably one of the strongest I’ve had access to in any game.
The game doesn’t have very much in the way of multiplayer like team vs team battles but it does have street-pass goodies and for friends that are further apart, there’s an option to help out your pals by sending them strong moves for battles.
Square Enix accels at many things and visuals are one of their strongest points. CGI cutscenes in Bravely Default look as crisp and clear as can be on the 3DS screens which is a very good thing. The Inner cities and towns look as if they’re hand drawn which adds a nice classic touch to the game.
Outside of cutscenes, the characters all appear as cute miniature “chibi” versions of themselves, similar to the way characters appear in another 3DS title, Fire Emblem Awakening. This only adds to their charm however and even these pipsqueak models are wonderfully animated and even add to certain scenes although they are less detailed than their CGI counterparts.
Revo takes the lead on the soundtrack for the game and they’re no newcomers to the music scene and their compositions shine beautifully in the game.
The music fits every mood and moment throughout no matter how big or small the scene is. From the whimsical playful moments between your party members to the heat of the battle, to even the most emotional moments of Bravely Default, every tune is memorable and magical.
While it is somewhat known as a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy, Bravely Default stands out on its own. The game certainly has some ties to its predecessor like the use of certain item and spell names, but it doesn’t need them to solidify itself as an excellent game.
To get the full story at least 5 playthroughs are needed which is good for increasing replay value but it might be a tedious grind to challenge the tougher bosses. Thankfully this game is definitely one I would play numerous times over.
It brings a fresh breath of air to RPGs and handheld games with its own unique style and flavor. The characters, story and universe blend together to create and tell a captivating tale that kept me hooked for hours on end.