Bravely Default, or perhaps known as Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, comes from the minds of Square Enix as they desperately try to re-invent the Final Fantasy franchise to a point where the fans will all love it again, and they’ve done this through a clever nod to the very old Final Fantasy games, and including newer elements. With an all star staff team on board, is this a game that’s not up the sum of it’s predecessors?
The short answer is no. Bravely Default does a ridiculous amount of things right, starting off with the setting. Taking place on a vast, sprawling world,the story suits this old fashioned tale, with the cast of heroes meeting through a fateful encounter and coming together to save the world…or, that’s what looks would tell you, as a plot written by Naotaka Hayashi of 5pb fame (Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate, to name some) takes you through some cleverly written plot twists that you’ll either love or hate.
However, Hayashi isn’t the only significant cast member on board – you’ve got a significant composer, producer, developer and character designer. They all work together to bring out the amazing points of the game, through the wonderful soundtrack that’s both modern and delightfully retro, with catchy tunes dotted around and through the art direction and style, where towns and significant locations function look like a storybook, with wonderful pop-up 3D mechanics using the 3DS’s unique features wonderfully.
No RPG is complete without a cast of characters, however, and the main characters consist of a country bumpkin, a priestess of sorts, a pompous amnesiac and a warrior’s daughter. The cast is a wonderful balance between being lovingly fleshed out and a blank slate, allowing you to put personalities to the characters in your head through many occasions, which, whilst being a risky tactic, it works perfectly, thanks to the characters having enough of a personality to be significant.
Whilst saying that the characters are designed to spawn fanfictions is a little far from the truth, the sheer amount of customization that goes into the game is yet another subtle nod to this. The job system, a fan favorite in a large portion of RPG’s making a very fitting return, with outfits, skills and abilities all being linked to different jobs. You can mix and match them all to your hearts content, creating characters that are unique to other peoples characters; a point proven by the Ablink and Friends feature, where you can see for yourself what abilities other peoples characters have by calling them like you would an old fashioned summon.
Through moving across the world and saving it, you’ll encounter several monsters who are out to defeat you…obviously. The monsters are found through the tried and tested random encounter mechanic, but by going into the settings, you can adjust the encounter rate to suit you and the difficulty that you’ll be playing the game on – a much appreciated feature when you’re out and about collecting chests and hunting down secret passages…or additional bosses. They take the form of sidequests, and well over half of the games bosses are encountered in this feature. They often reside in their own dungeon, be it a forest, an abandoned cave or even a clock tower, and defeating them is heavily encouraged throughout the game.
Why? Well, the EXP gain and money that you get from it plays a large role. It’s near impossible to make the level cut without lowering the difficulty or through putting in significant grinding time, as the demo on the eShop displayed by putting the players in a situation where they where over ten levels lower than they needed to be. It’s a pretty cheap tactic, and thankfully that’s not the only reason, as the bosses are the holders of almost all of the jobs that you can get. The system and idea is simple – defeat the holder of the job to acquire it and use it yourself. Using this as motivation, they bring the player through several additional scenarios, like a corrupt merchant or an immortal vampire. They flesh out the world around you and give you jobs to use; the perfect rewards for sidequests.
More on jobs, though. There are over 2o of them, and each of them functions differently. You have the bread and butter starter, then the thief, white mage, black mage and knight. You branch out to more common ones like monk and red mage, and then include a few jobs which the fans love, like a summoner, a ninja and a pirate. However, the best part is that they’re all perfectly viable in their own way.There will obviously be a “best setup”, but all the jobs have a unique selling point to the player, and they’re all perfectly useable. It’s a wonderful balancing display, and that’s really nice to see in the age of overpowered characters and games that play themselves.
There’s a dictionary which allows you to record and collect data, for which the hardcore player will go through and record everything, a minigame which heavily affects your special moves and gives you killer equipment if you put the time into it, a secret dungeon and several challenge battles, and the ultimate boss for the hardcore within you. It all comes together to create an amazingly polished package, and whilst it isn’t re-inventing the genre, it’s certainly breathing fresh air into it by simply being an outstanding game which I fully suggest to most gamers.