[Bravely Default logo]


[Just searching a pub...for information of course]


System: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Square Enix
Designer: Square Enix/Silicon Studio
Release Date: February 2014
Genre: RPG
Players: 1 (but with Streetpass capabilities)
Save Feature? Yes! Anything else would be UNACCEPTABLE!

Bravely Default, at its essence, is a love letter to fans of the classic NES/SNES era of RPGs...with a few modern gimmicks to keep next-gen gamers satisfied as well. The revolutionary Brave/Default abilities add a whole new element to battle, the meaty class system harkens back to the glory days of the Final Fantasy series, and the StreetPass features enhance the whole experience. It hasn't happened very often but, for once, Square Enix actually did something right!

Overview: Let's face it...it has been a very long, mostly mediocre stretch for Square Enix. While they have had a few fleeting moments of greatness (Dragon Quest VIII and Kingdom Hearts II immediately come to mind), those games were released quite some time ago. We live in a "What have you done for me lately?" society and this is especially true in the video game industry.

The reason I bring this up is that, when Square Enix announced Bravely Default in 2013, I wasn't exactly jumping out of my chair and dancing in the streets. No...with Square Enix's plodding history, I was skeptical to say the least. Mediocrity will do that to you.

All I can say is thank goodness for the influential power of friendship! I credit my friends Josh Bryan and Jon Pursel for encouraging me to give Bravely Default a chance. Josh preordered the game and he gave me the juicy details on how enjoyable it was while Jon took it to the next level and essentially "forced" me to play Bravely Default by buying it for me as a gift (the nerve!) ;) Sometimes, it is good to be pushed into something though because Bravely Default is a fantastic game!

What makes this game unique is that, while it looks and feels a lot like a classic Final Fantasy game, it incorporates elements of newer games as well. This keeps the whole experience fresh so don't go into this game expecting a vanilla, retro RPG and nothing else. That would be a huge mistake!

One of the first questions I had about Bravely Default was in regards to its battle engine. I had heard from Josh/Jon that it was quite original for a turn-based battle system which certainly piqued my interest. On the surface, it does look rather typical as you can choose to attack, cast magic, and use items. However, the Brave and Default abilities are what truly give battles a whole new strategic element. Essentially, these options allow you to either stock/build-up turns or expend them in a hurry respectively. Imagine if you could attack an enemy, use magic to heal yourself, and use a powerful elemental item...all in the same turn and with the same character. Well, in Bravely Default, this is actually a possibility! By selecting the Brave option, your character(s) can literally execute two, three, or even four turns in a single go-round! You can also use certain abilities (depending on your Job/Class...we'll get to that shortly) that consume Brave Points (BP) if you desire. These are usually very powerful attacks/abilities that have the potential to devastate your foes if used correctly.

So what's the catch you ask? Well, if you get greedy and abuse the Brave option (admit it...we have all done this), you could find yourself in a bind as each use of Brave sacrifices future turns for the current turn. As a result, if your Brave Points are in the negative at the start of the next turn, you will literally be a sitting duck and will be unable to do anything. You can't "cheat" and receive all these extra turns without giving something up, right?

This is where the Default option comes into play. In contrast to Brave which consumes Brave Points, Default increases your BP with each use. On top of that, your character(s) will get a defensive boost and will take less damage during any turn that involves Default. You can think of Default as a glorified "Defend" option if that helps. Whatever the case, achieving a healthy balance between using Brave and Default is key. Conventional wisdom would tell you to Default a few times before unleashing havoc on your enemies with Brave. However, each particular situation might call for a different strategy.

In addition to the Brave/Default options, a little nuance of battles worth mentioning are the ultra-powerful Special Attacks. These are full-fledged movie-like attacks that can only be used when specific requirements have been met in battle. The weapon you are using is the catalyst too. Depending on what you are wielding, you might want to use Brave or Default X amount of times or attack a certain number of enemies or even use items in order to access these powerful attacks. In addition to skewering your foes, these attacks can also increase certain stats like attack power or defensive ability. These stat increases affect everyone in your party and they can stack which is important to know. What is unique about this is that, while the Special Attack music plays, the stat increases are in full effect. However, once the music stops, the stat boosts go away. By carefully timing things and having a second/third/fourth character use a Special Attack before the first one ends, you can literally stack stats and keep your party uber-strong for a long time! This creates a unique element of strategy that can really get the adrenaline pumping...especially in big boss battles where these stat boosts can save your bacon. As you can see, Bravely Default has a remarkably deep battle system that strategists/tacticians will gobble right up!

Speaking of deep, any discussion involving Bravely Default would be egregiously devoid of substance if it didn't at least touch on the job/class system. I have always been a big fan of RPGs that include some variation of the job/class system for a multitude of reasons. It creates an almost unlimited amount of potential in terms of battle tactics and strategy which is one reason why I found Final Fantasy Tactics so appealing. Would you like to be a strong fighter and join the ranks of the Knight, Valkyrie, or Monk? No problem. How about a White Mage who can learn to heal the party in battle? Check! Conversely, why not choose the Black Mage or Archanist occupations and discover ways to truly blow your enemies away with powerful magic? Yes indeed!

As you progress through Bravely Default, you will gradually acquire jobs (called asteriks) by fighting and defeating some of the main bosses in the game. This was a very clever idea too because it creates a natural progression in the game and rewards you immensely for overcoming some of the game's more difficult boss fights. I mean, how can you beat receiving a brand new job/asterik with all of its idiosyncrasies and special abilities? Now that is a real perk!

The various jobs themselves are a lot of fun to learn/level up too! In addition to experience, you also earn job points in battle which in turn allow you to level up your present job! You might learn a new physical/magic attack or a special ability of some kind. And believe me...there is a tremendous amount of variety that this element gives Bravely Default. Leveling up a new job is so much fun and this system really keeps the gameplay fresh since there are a lot of jobs to choose from by game's end. There is nothing boring or stale about the job system in Bravely Default...that I can assure you!

The last nuance of Bravely Default's gameplay that I want to touch on before moving on is the myriad of StreetPass features found within the game. If you enjoy this personable element of 3DS gaming, then you will love what Bravely Default has to offer. First off, you can send and receive Special Attacks which may not sound like much, but is actually a very cool feature. Whenever you are engaged in battle, you can elect to send your best, most lethal attack (or something as simple as using an item on yourself) out into cyberspace. By doing so, anyone you StreetPass who owns a copy of Bravely Default will be able to use the exact same attack/ability that you sent them! This is not limited to your local environment either. You can easily send these same Special Attacks into the internet so that someone in Australia or Japan can use your way-cool moves. How cool is that?

You can also send out Nemeses through StreetPass which are essentially special bosses that offer up loads of experience and job points. Think of them as free battles that can help you grow stronger. Just be careful because you can elect to fight these enemies at anytime and some of them are extremely strong. You don't want to get a quick Game Over so definitely save before fighting them!

[Beautiful artwork!]
[Ringabel being...Ringabel]

Graphics: Aesthetically, Bravely Default soars! The visuals have a very pleasant, hand-drawn feel about them and are absolutely superb for a handheld game. They possess that simple old-school charm too as this game could easily be mistaken for a classic SNES RPG. Everything from the character and enemy graphics to the overworld and dungeon scenes are very pleasing to the eyes and the amount of diversity is certainly more than adequate. I like how the appearance of each character changes depending on their job as well. Some of the costumes/outfits look fantastic! Also, while I rarely had the 3-D effects turned on, what I did see from a 3-D standpoint was very impressive.

The animated effects are also a highlight in terms of Bravely Default's visuals. The character/enemy animations look very lifelike and some of the special attacks are pretty freaking awesome. Not to be forgotten are the memorable character expressions either. Seeing Agnes and Edea scowl at Ringabel is so funny and Sage Yulyana literally moved me to tears on one occasion with his pervy jokes. This game does get serious when necessary but it is refreshing to have a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Music: Along with the visuals and the intuitive gameplay, Bravely Default can certainly hang its hat on one of the better musical scores in recent RPG memory. While only a few tracks really stick out as great and memorable, most of the music in this game fits into the "very good" category which is certainly not a bad thing.

The main title theme with its catchy melody and heroic feel is a real favorite of mine. I could listen to this tune over and over...it is so good! The main overworld tune is very pleasant with its almost Celtic feel and the various town/dungeon themes are all very appropriate. Speaking of towns, Edea's snow-covered hometown features one of the best tunes in the game. It is both beautiful and sad and fits that particular area perfectly. And some of the battle music, particularly the Special Attack themes (which are different for each main character), are wonderful! You might even want to use these Special Attacks just so that you can enjoy the music.

Also worth mentioning here is that the music that plays throughout the various cut scenes is very good overall. Some of the more contemplative/emotional tunes really stand out and a few of them are quite touching actually. I like the mysterious nature of some of this music as well.

As far as the voice acting goes, it is actually quite good although there are a few hiccups present. I thought that Tiz, Ringabel (especially Ringabel!), Edea, and most of the NPC's sounded very good. However, Agnes and Airy both grated on my nerves a bit. Agnes just sounds so wimpy although she does get a little better later in the game. And Airy might take the crown for the most annoying voice in the game. She honestly sounds like a spoiled little brat whenever she doesn't get her way. I literally wanted to strangle her! Once again, the voice acting is actually pretty sound in Bravely Default but, as you can see, it certainly isn't flawless.

[Battle 1!]
[Special Attack!]

Play Control: In all honesty, there really isn't a whole lot to report here. Like with any well-made RPG, the controls in Bravely Default are easy to pick up which is really all you want from a game that relies on strategy more than cat-like reflexes. I like how you can elect to use the D-pad or stylus depending on your personal preference. I chose the standard D-pad but having multiple options is always a good thing.

Moving your characters around within the game as well as navigating through a seemingly endless amount of menus is standard stuff really. Everything is laid out very well and you will be going to and fro like a pro within minutes. The battle controls are very easy to learn as well. I appreciate the inclusion of shortcuts like the L and R buttons for the Brave or Default commands. Little things like this save time and keep the game from becoming too slow and cumbersome.

Challenge: Don't let the somewhat childish/innocent look of this game fool you. Bravely Default can pack quite the wallop at times and is probably moderate in terms of its overall difficulty. This is due in large part to the simply unreal amount of bosses littered throughout the game as well as the intricate strategies needed to defeat many of them. The job(s) you choose for your characters will have a direct impact on the game's difficulty as well. While every job in the game is useful in some way, the combination of jobs (and your associated job levels) can make or break any given battle. This is particularly true when fighting some of the late game bosses or simply trying your hand at an overpowered Nemeses opponent that has an ungodly amount of HP. This is not a brutally hard game but it isn't for RPG noobs either so beware!

Due to the depth of its gameplay and sheer length, Bravely Default has a healthy amount of replay value. The fact that this game has multiple endings will keep you coming back and the intricate job system is so much fun that you will probably spend time simply mastering a plethora of jobs. The Streetpass features are a blast and you can literally spend hours fighting Nemeses. Granted, there is a very "grindy/redundant" section of this game that has turned off many gamers (you'll know it when you come across it) but that aside, this game is very engrossing, addictive, and hard to put down!


[Agnes]


Storyline: Although it probably isn't one of those world class, incredibly thought-provoking stories, I still feel that Bravely Default came out a winner in this area nonetheless. Final Fantasy vets will definitely experience feelings of nostalgia since the story in Bravely Default feels like a love letter to the Final Fantasy games of old. It is so obvious that you almost have to wonder why this game wasn't called "Final Fantasy." All you need to know is that the world in Bravely Default is balanced thanks to the presence of the four crystals (wind, water, fire, and earth). However, some mysterious/evil force is negatively affecting these crystals and your job is to purify and restore them to their original glory! Or so it would seem...

The game starts out with your typical young man (Tiz) living peacefully in a remote village until suddenly, the ground begins to shake and literally cave in on itself! This tragic event virtually destroys the entire area leaving a giant chasm behind. Miraculously, Tiz survives and is rescued by a good samaritan from the nearby kingdom of Caldisla. Once Tiz recovers, he sets out to discover what caused the Chasm and what, if anything, can be done to undo this disaster. It isn't too long before Tiz encounters the other "Warriors of Light" who all have different motives but one singular purpose. Agnes is the Vestal of Wind whose job is to guard and to pray to the crystals. Ringabel is a young man with no memory of who he is or where he came from but he certainly doesn't have a problem hitting on the ladies. However, he feels strangely drawn to the final main character, Edea, who happens to be the daughter of the Emperor and has a strong desire to search for the truth...even if it means having to fight her father one day. Together, these four characters will embark on an amazing and epic journey spanning the entire world (and beyond!) in the hope that they can save the world from impending doom.

What makes Bravely Default intriguing is that it does have a pretty deep backstory (so much LORE!) and, despite so many obvious Final Fantasy references, there are a few twists late in the game that might or might not surprise you. It depends on how...observant you are. There is some originality to be had here and some of the character background stories (most notably Ringabel, Sage Yulyana, and the Vampire King) are quite good. You can certainly tell that Square Enix put some effort into creating a good story...and the end result isn't too shabby either.

Funfactor: At the end of the day, Bravely Default comes out a real winner and is easily one of the finest RPGs of the modern era (2010 - Current Day). Right from the start, I found this game to be an engrossing, captivating experience. While the battle/job system is the true meat and potatoes of this game, it doesn't hurt to have pleasant visuals, touching music, and (mostly) good voice acting as well. Granted, I did feel that certain aspects of the game's main story were too predictable (and even frustrating!) but still, it's a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.

The bonus StreetPass features in Bravely Default really add to the game's funfactor as well. The fact that you can literally give and receive special moves/attacks/Nemeses to friends throughout the globe was such a great idea! Trust me...some of the abilities that you receive might even save your life. Overall, you just couldn't ask for a whole lot more than what we got with Bravely Default. It isn't a perfect game mind you but, from a gameplay standpoint, it is sensational!

Negatives: While there are no glaring flaws in Bravely Default, there are a few minor gripes here and there worth noting. Despite the fact that I do like the main characters in this game as a whole, I can't help but feel that they are still somewhat generic. This is particularly true of Tiz and Agnes. It's nothing terrible but I can't quite shake the feeling that these characters could have been a bit better. In Agnes' case, her voice acting did her no favors...I can at least mention that.

Although it didn't bother me as much as it has other gamers, I should mention that there is a section of this game that will really frustrate most of you. This is chiefly the result of it being incredibly redundant where you find yourself fighting the exact same bosses over and over and over again! I wouldn't consider this a gamebreaker but I'll admit that it does take away from some of Bravely Default's thunder. It just feels like unnecessary "filler" content to be honest. This wouldn't be so bad if it was at least fun (which admittedly it isn't). Square Enix did so much right in this game but this is the one real head-scratcher.

[Battle 2!]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.7 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.4 Funfactor: 4.5 Overall Score: 27.1 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!

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Last Updated: July 6, 2015
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