Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Nintendo, Square Enix
It’s been a while since I last sunk my teeth into a good old JRPG. The last one I had played up until Bravely Default was Final Fantasy XIII, and although I liked it’s world and story (even though it was super confusing at times in the end) the gameplay was rather lackluster. I didn’t actually care so much about the endless hallways that funneled you through the game, but more so the battles which seemed to just play themselves out. For me, a good rpg needs both a great story and engaging gameplay in order to keep me invested through the full thing, so Final Fantasy XIII didn’t really hold my interest very well. Bravely Default on the other hand has me coming back day after day to grind through enemies on my quest to restore the elemental crystals and bring peace back to the world.
As I said above, a good JRPG needs both a good story and gameplay to keep me invested. The story of Bravely Default is rather simple and generic on its exterior, as the world has been plunged into chaos after a darkness has engulfed the elemental crystals that keep the worlds elements in check. With the crystals corrupted, the seas have become corrosive, the winds have stopped, and a giant sinkhole engulfed an entire village. Of coarse, it is up to our four heroes to save the day and restore the crystals to their original state. It ticks every box in the “generic JRPG storyline” that countless games have used in the past. Once you get a bit deeper into the game though, themes of corruption in the ruling class and breaking away from religious backgrounds arise. As it turns out, the crystals and their vassal’s have been worshiped for generations in order to keep the balance of nature in check. It is the goal of the Eternian Sky Knights to break away from this “crystal orthodoxy”. So far the story is passable, with the aforementioned themes spicing up the otherwise generic JRPG story featured in Bravely Default.
The gameplay of Bravely Default is like the story in the fact that at first it seems like a rather generic JRPG battle system, but a few changes to the tired and true formula help make it interesting. It uses a classic turn-based battle system where each character takes a turn attacking, defending, using items or spells and abilities. The main difference is the fact that blocking (called a “default” in the game) doesn’t only reduce damage dealt to your character, it also gains you an addition battle point to spend in a future turn. Basically, defaulting lets you take extra turns later on in the battle by using a “brave” allowing for explosive turns for damage or a turn to buff everyone and heal up all in one go. You can store up to 3 battle points, so it is up to you on how you want to make your moves.
This battle system proves to be incredibly interesting in battles, as figuring out when it is safe to move on your opponent and what you should do with your moves is different for each enemy. If its a weaker enemy, you can brave past the battle points you currently have available (making your character do nothing on turns afterwards until their battle points return to 0) in order to try and close out an early victory. Against bosses, it is usually smart to have everyone heal up and default until you have an opening to attack. Some classes even benefit from storing up battle points for big turns. The monk for instance has an ability called invigorate which boosts attack by 25% for only 2 turns, meaning if you use it with a full meter of battle points, you can start dishing out serious damage. The knight has an ability called ironclad, maxing out his defense for a single turn, making it a useful ability when facing an enemy that deals a lot of physical damage and you need to heal up your other characters or deal a little bit of damage to chip away at them. There are countless strategies to take in any given fight depending on your character classes and how well you stack up against your enemy.
A great feature included in the North American release of the game was the inclusion of the original Japanese voice acting. I have nothing against dubs in general, but in this case I just couldn’t stand the voice of one of the main characters, Agnes, so I just had to switch it over. The voice acting on the Japanese side has been great so far, so for those of you who are purists and love to play your games in Japanese, Bravely Default has you covered. I wish I could tell you guys how well the English cast stacks up to the Japanese, but I didn’t get to hear much of the English dub before switching over.
Bravely Default is the game that totally scratched the JRPG itch I have been having lately. It is some good fun, and should be something super easy for any JRPG fan to get into. It doesn’t really bring much new to the table, but sometimes you just want to play a classic JRPG that sticks to its roots. Bravely Default is totally that game, so for those wanting something to sink your teeth into while you wait for the awesome looking Final Fantasy XIV, then give Bravely Default a try. Bravely Second is actually coming out rather soon, so now is a great time to jump in and try it out.