Nintendo handheld consoles have always been a solid source for great Japanese Role Playing Games, with Square Enix releasing the majority of the classics. Well this time around on the Nintendo 3DS Square Enix has done it again with Bravely Default. Originally released back in December of 2013, North Americans get their chance to finally play the game. Bravely Default is everything you want from a JRPG with a few added features that set it apart from other games.
Bravely Default’s storyline centers around a party of 4 characters. The first member of the party is Tiz, a shy young villager trying to rebuild his hometown. Next there is Agnés, the Vestal of Wind on a quest to free the 4 earth crystals. The third member of the party is Edea, a swordmaster’s understudy. The last member and the one who provides the most entertaining dialogue is Ringabel, a self proclaimed Casanova with a serious case of amnesia. These 4 make for an interesting group and there is plenty of side dialogue called “Party Chats” that give you a little background information on each character and a few laughs as you progress through the game.
The most unique feature of the game is the Brave/Default strategy element in combat. During a battle you have what are called Battle Points, which can be gained by a party member “defaulting” their turn. Having BP will increase your characters defense and can be used to chain up to 4 attacks in one turn. This can be done by choosing to “Brave” for a turn with a character. If you are feeling risky you can spend BP that you don’t have and put yourself in the negative, but that also puts your character out of commission for as many turns as it takes to bring your BP balance back to zero. The flip side to this feature is enemies and bosses are in the same boat, which means they can raise their defense and chain their attacks on you as well. Strategy becomes a big factor when picking the key moments to plan your attacks and when to defend. Each boss will come at you a different way, whether it be aggressively chaining attacks or conservatively waiting for the right moment to take you out.
One of the most entertaining aspects of Bravely Default is mixing and matching abilities you recieve from leveling jobs. There are 24 jobs in total which you gradually unlock as you progress through the game. The job feature is very similar to some of Square Enix’s previous titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics. After each battle you will receive gold, experience, and job points. When you level up your jobs for each character you will unlock a variety of abilities. Some abilities are passive support abilities that you can equip into a limited number of support ability slots. Other abilities can be powerful attacks that capitalize on your character’s job classification. The real fun starts when you unlock a decent amount of jobs and you begin to experiment to see which abilities work best with each character.
Of course to unlock all of these abilities you will have to do what is a key component in all JRPG’s: Grinding. Bravely Default has a few nice features which makes grinding your party not as much as a hassle as the conventional JRPG. The first feature is the ability to set up your turn and then put the battle in AUTO Mode. Just sit back and relax while your party repeats the actions of the previous turn until the enemies are defeated and you’re raking in the experience points. You can also fast forward the battles with two game speeds to make battles last a fraction of what they normally would.
Throughout Bravely Default you will also be in charge of restoring Tiz’s village, Norende. All the restoration is done behind the scenes while you carry on through the game, all you need to do is assign villagers to each task. These tasks are all completed in real time, ranging anywhere from an hour to 99 hours depending on how many villagers are assigned to the task. For completing these tasks you will unlock new items and equipment that can be purchased from the mysterious man who acts as your save point. You can gain villagers through StreetPass, connecting with friends locally, or through the internet. The downside to this is they can send a Nemesis to your village, which is essentially a mini boss for you to defeat.
To find something bad to say about Bravely Default you’d really have to nitpick. The game does contain a very small dose of something that is an unfortunate new trend in the gaming industry these days: Microtransactions. But before you get scared off by the idea you should know that these microtransactions are completely useless and you’ll never need to use them. During a battle you can use what are called “Sleep Points”. These points can be used by simply pressing the start button which will perform a Bravely Second. When performing a Bravely Second time will freeze for everyone except you, letting you attack or use an item out of turn. You can obtain SP in two different ways, the first being spending your hard earned money in a microtransaction, or by simply putting your 3DS in sleep mode for 8 hours. You can only stock up 3 SP at a time and since you will most likely have your 3DS in sleep mode while upgrading shops in Norende the microtransactions are useless. The only other noticeable flaw in Bravely Default is the AR Reader sequence at the beginning of the game can be a little buggy, but that is quickly forgotten once the game gets underway.
If you’re a fan of classic Japanese RPG’s with turn based combat you will not be disappointed with Bravely Default. With plenty of job classes and abilities to mix and match you’ll be sure to get a minimum of 30+ hours of gameplay. Square Enix has done an excellent job of taking an old game format and adding enough tweaks and features to make it feel like a fresh and exciting gaming experience. If you’re looking for a new RPG on the 3DS look no further than Bravely Default.
Title: Bravely Default
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: February 7th 2014