Bravely Default ReviewJustin Ling
Bravely Default is a Nintendo 3DS RPG by Square Enix and a spiritual successor to the 2010 Nintendo DS game Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. It tells of four heroes who must band together in order to revive the crystals that keep the world stable. There is Tiz, the villager whose home was swallowed up by a huge chasm; Agnes, the vestal in charge of keeping the Wind Crystal free of darkness; Ringabel, an amnesiac and flirtatious man who keeps a journal filled with all sorts of events that seem to be able to predict parts of the future; and finally there is Edea, a member of the Eternian duchy that seems to be hunting Agnes.
The story of this game seems to be filled with clichs at first glance. The game presents to us with the usual setup of several heroes having to move from place to place reactivating crystals to save the world while being hunted by a powerful empire. The villains seem to be very trigger-happy psychos with the occasional reluctant but honor-bound warrior who will not stand down despite not liking how their actions cause more suffering. However, as the game goes on, it soon becomes clear that there is much more going on beneath the clich-ridden surface and soon the game reveals that its use of classic fantasy tropes is there so that the same tropes can be subverted as players finish the first section of the game. The downside is that the middle part of the game can be a bit of a slog to play through for some folks, given its somewhat repetitious nature. However, if players can make it through the middle section, they will find that the endgame is very rewarding.
The gameplay mechanics are easy to understand and present players with several strategic approaches; the Brave and Default features make players pay attention to battles and their own abilities more closely, making them question whether they should skip a turn to build up more power or to go all out at the risk of being unable to do anything for the next few turns. Players also get more power by earning Jobs, which change character class and present players with more abilities to use in battle. These Jobs are gotten by defeating certain bosses who serve to introduce players to the capabilities of said Jobs; each of these bosses have certain quirks in battle that players will need to familiarize themselves with if they are to defeat them. Overall, this game is one that constantly encourages players to experiment in order to find the right setup for every battle.
The game also features a StreetPass feature: the rebuilding of Norende, Tiz's village. By StreetPassing others, more villagers come to Norende and can help with the reconstruction effort. As more of Norende is rebuilt, players unlock several bonuses such as new items for sale such as powerful weapons and armor, new customization parts for special attacks, and even new costumes. Occasionally, certain enemies known as Nemeses may pop up as well, and players can fight these enemies for bonuses such as stat-increasing items. The downside to this is that Nemeses disappear once you defeat them and only a few can be in the village at the same time. While new Nemeses can be sent by other players through StreetPass, it might take some time and luck for players to receive a specific Nemesis. This is also not helped by the fact that several Nemeses were distributed as bonuses for specific days and there is a good chance that some players will never see them at all. A feature that allows players to fight already-defeated Nemeses would have greatly helped out this particular feature.
The game's soundtrack is done by Revo of Sound Horizon fame, also known for his work on the theme songs for the hit series Attack on Titan. His music is very addicting to listen to and makes playing the game a great experience when the boss themes kick in. The backgrounds in the game are beautifully rendered and sometimes combines the 3D sprites with 2D images in a charming blend. The enemy designs can be a little repetitious, however, many of them just palette swaps of each other. This can be particularly jarring with certain dragon minibosses, all of whom share nearly identical designs with small minor differences in body features and color. The most unique-looking enemies are the cameo Nemeses from Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and the Ba'al Nemeses; the latter are particularly surreal-looking enemies that make for tense and exciting battles, especially when coupled with Revo's outstanding work.
Overall, Bravely Default is a game that any owner of a Nintendo 3DS should check out. While it does have a few flaws with its storytelling and StreetPass features, ultimately these faults are minor at worst and are outweighed by the game's strong points. It is a game that challenges players to think strategically and to constantly modify their party as they move through the game in order to tackle the challenges ahead. It is, in short, an experience that one is not likely to forget anytime soon.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.