Bravely Default has everything I ever wanted from an RPG, an intricate and yet simple battle system, solid writing, an incredible soundtrack (especially for a 3DS game), and with a lot of very nice details and extras that are the icing on the cake.
If you own a 3DS, you really owe it to yourself to give this game a shot. That being said, this game isn’t for everyone. There is a big hurdle (which you can entirely skip over) that made a lot of people drop this wonderful game. I personally enjoyed that part of the game a lot, but regardless, I’ll be addressing it in this review as well.
I’m going to try and avoid as much spoiler-material as possible while writing this, but just in case…
Spoiler warning! This review contains some light but direct references to story and game play elements that are integral to the plot, so continue reading at your own risk!
Bravely Default is actually just that. In a world convoluted with Action RPGs, with complex and non-standard battle systems, Bravely Default takes us all the way back to Final Fantasy 3, to the beloved turn-based battles of classic RPGs. This is a move that was probably regarded as risky, although it was very well received. I loved it. This game does also address a lot of the issues with that system, by adding some tweaks, which really make grinding a lot faster and more rewarding. Let us quickly take a look at how Bravely makes random encounters fun.
Adjustable difficulties – Every game should have this, seriously. For those people who just wanna take it easy, you can fly through the game without much worry on the easiest difficulty, but personally the more I got into the game, the more I became likely to want more of a challenge, by the end of the game I had resolved to complete it with max difficulty.
Creative team builds – Bravely Default, as I alluded earlier, has a similar job system to Final Fantasy 3, allowing you to choose “Jobs” for each character in the party, and have their stats built accordingly. The classics, White Mage, Black Mage, Warrior, Thief, Ninja, they’re all there, as well as a few very unique classes like Merchant, Performer, and Pirate. The jobs can be leveled up, independently of the character, and as you do so, you earn skills that you can equip even when you aren’t using that class anymore. For example, Sword Expertise can be equipped while being a Merchant, giving you a better offensive option for that class. I really spent a lot of time thinking up neat ways to use the abilities and jobs in this game, it was really something special, making leveling really rewarding.
Speed modifier – This is also something that should be added to every turn-based RPG. You can literally fast forward through attacks, (you can also slow them down for the awesome animations) and you can even set attack macros, allowing you to perform the same action you just set up. This actually even allows you to play one-handed, meaning you can expertly grind while you eat your lunch. Something I did quite often.
Random encounter slider – This was really the icing on the cake. Sometimes, you just don’t want to deal with the enemies in an area, you just want to run like a little girl, and sometimes you want to get in a fight every three seconds, like some kind of drunken gladiator. With Bravely Default, you can! I made very good use of this feature in a certain vampire castle full of evil dogs and bats and skeletons and things that would frequently wreck my day. Also, it made grinding everything to max level (which is pretty much necessary for end-game on hard mode) much more enjoyable.
These features, although subtle, made the game very playable. Without them, I’d have spent about a bazillion more hours having a lot less fun. At the very least, I would still enjoy the music. Composed by Revo and Linked Horizon (A.K.A. Sound Horizon, see Attack On Titan OP song), how could it not be epic. Feel free to listen to this amazing boss music (Youtube link). If you like it, you should seriously check out Sound Horizon’s other works. They’re all very magical in different ways, but it’s really good storytelling music. It gets you pumped.
Okay, we can stop obsessing about how the game plays for a second.
I want to talk about the big scary thing. The reason a lot of people dropped this game. I also want to talk about why I loved that part. So here’s a second, mini spoiler warning.
Still reading? Okay good.
The first part of the game plays just like you’d think, going around the world, meeting people, four elemental crystals, and their accompanying bosses, and just when you think you’ve beat the game, BAM. Time Travel. A spoilery thing happens, and you end up finding out that everything you did in the entire game pretty much didn’t happen, and you need to do everything again. Okay, fine, a second look at this awesome game surely won’t be the worst thing in the world.
And then, it happens again.
And again. Repeatedly.
The game does end, but at times, it feels like it never will, and you’ll be trapped in an endless time loop.
Now…. it’s not exactly the same, and during this repetition, there’s a lot of nice little side quests as the main characters learn a lot more about the characters. I won’t spoil the details, but each timeline is slightly different, and so you learn a lot of different things about Bravely Default’s very deep and very rich world.
The downside is, after a few times, it becomes less and less unique. I feel like they could have cut one or two of the repetitions out. A lot of the dialogue between the main characters is even the same, which is a little bit of a downer. I can definitely see why a lot of people would get frustrated with this. Keep in mind, I’m writing this article in my “Best Of Gaming” series, because I think it’s one of the best games of all time. As someone who played through every side quest, on the hardest difficulty, I feel greatly satisfied that I did, because of how much I learned about this world that I came to love, and the challenges that I felt awesome pulling off. I really want to express that if you want to drop the game here, I totally understand, but you shouldn’t.
If you just can’t bear it, there’s a way out. It’s as simple as breaking a crystal during the repetition, when you’re repeatedly told not to. This will trigger the alternate ending sequence, and you can put the game down after fighting a slightly dumbed down end boss.
If you manage to power through all the repetition and keep yourself entertained by grinding and fighting the optional bosses and side quests, you’ll be treated to the true end, and an amazing final boss. It was totally worth it, just so you know.
The story was amazing, and I’m really excited for it to continue in Bravely Second: End Layer, which was just released in Japan. Even without a sequel though, this game really does feel like a complete experience, beginning to end to end to end. One of my favourite parts of the story, was learning about all of the asterisk holders. Each of the jobs you obtain comes from defeating one of these bosses, some of them are optional, but all of them have a unique and charming personality.
This article was long, just like the game, so I feel like I should thank you for reading this. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, you should probably go out to your nearest video game store and pick up Bravely Default, or order it. You’ll be glad you did.