Developer: Square Enix
Medium: 3DS Card/Digital
If you have fond memories of spending entire school breaks playing SNES or PS1 era Final Fantasy games from Square, then I have a feeling that Bravely Default on 3DS will be right up your alley. This is an RPG that feels a lot like classic Squaresoft prior to the merger with Enix, right down to the job system that evokes Final Fantasy V.
In Bravely Default you’ll have control over a party of four adventurers, set out to reignite the defused magical crystals that hold sway over the primary elements on their world. You’ll travel across a large overworld map, complete with optional side-quests, bosses, towns, NPC’s, and random encounters to contend with. This is, very much, a classical RPG experience in every way imaginable. There’s definitely some modern conveniences added in, like the ability to adjust difficulty whenever you want, or even turn off random encounters completely. But by and large this is the type of RPG that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place.
The name of the game, Bravely Default, stems from the unique combat system. While everything is turn-based, you’ll be able to either Default, banking turns by guarding instead, and then Brave, allowing you to expend multiple turns at once. This strategy is a little underutilized with basic enemies, but there are certainly multiple boss encounters throughout that require you to know when to guard and when to attack. It also offers a certain element of risk to combat, because you can spend turns before you save them, but will then be left defenseless while you wait for your turns to build back up so you can act.
The Job system is the other big mechanic of Bravely Default. There are 24 different jobs to uncover, a lot of which are tied into optional side-quests that are well worth completing. The job system is pretty eclectic too, allowing for not only your standard White Mage, Black Mage set-ups, but also Valkyrie, Salve-Maker, Merchant and many more. Each job contains its own unique abilities and skills that evolve as you level up, and you can choose to equip abilities from any job class in conjunction with the class you’re currently trying to level, provided you’ve learned those skills previously. This allows for some interesting combinations in battle, so you could potentially have a White Mage Ninja, or a Red Mage Monk, essentially crafting a party that is wholly unique to you.
Bravely Default also makes use of StreetPass and online features in an interesting way. At the onset of the game you’ll be tasked with building up the town of Norende, which puts you in charge of building shops and clearing hazards to gain access to more shop options. As you interact with other players, either through StreetPass or by connecting online, you’ll build up citizens for your town that you can put to work building things. Each shop built, or hazard cleared, takes a certain number of hours to complete. But the time to complete can be lessened by the number of citizens set to the task. Building up Norende will eventually give you access to unique items, weapons, and gear, along with special attacks that act a bit like Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy, but are customizable right down to their name.
Another interesting online feature is the ability to summon friends into battle, allowing them to perform their own special attack once in a fight. You can also link a friend to one of your four party members, giving you access to any job skills they’ve already learned, regardless of whether you’ve leveled up that job or not. This can be a bit broken depending on who you link up with, potentially giving you access to skills far earlier than normal, but I think it’s a neat feature that alleviates some of the grind inherent in maxing out 24 different jobs.
Bravely Default also features a really solid story that only falters at about the midway point, but manages to pick itself back up again towards the tail end of the game. It’s a lengthy adventure as well, easily surpassing the 40 hour mark without maxing out all jobs across all characters. I also found the difficulty on Normal provided a fair challenge, certainly something that was harder than I anticipated. The art style compliments the graphical abilities of the 3DS quite well, and the soundtrack is pretty fantastic. Even the voice acting stands out as mostly exceptional here.
I’d highly urge you to check out Bravely Default when it launches on February 7th, it’s certainly one of the best RPG’s I’ve played in recent years, and stands right alongside the excellent Shin Megami Tensei IV on the same system. This is the sort of RPG that I think we all want to see Square Enix make, and it’s nice to see that the company that built Final Fantasy still has it in them to produce something of this caliber. If you have any affinity for the Final Fantasy brand, you’ll absolutely love Bravely Default.