Bravely Default

Bravely Default: Where The Fairy Flies (or “Flying Fairy” in Japan) for the Nintendo 3DS is a throwback to the original Final Fantasy, originally meant as a spiritual successor to the original tale from long ago. It contains all the familiar lore of a classic Final Fantasy game: the medieval fantasy setting, the classes and spells we’ve all grown to love, and of course, the Warriors Of Light whose sole duty is to protect the world and interact with god-like crystals in some fashion.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments online from players who praise the game as what the Final Fantasy series should be, as opposed to more “modern” spins on the series like the recent incarnations of Final Fantasy XIII and XIV. It’s a classic case of nostalgia and excellent game design that’s been making players cry out for a “back to basics” to Square Enix.

But what’s so great about the game, anyway? Let’s find out!

Nostalgic Gameplay

Bravely Default is a pretty easy game to pick up and play, and that’s because they’re not desperately trying to reinvent the wheel. Their target demographic was fans of the classic Final Fantasy, so they made sure the game worked exactly like that.

Bound by a relatively linear storyline, players arrive at a town with a main objective in mind: Revive the local crystal to restore balance to the element it aligns with (calming the local volcano with the Fire Crystal, that sort of thing). They’ll need to run around a dungeon or two to do this, collecting information on how to accomplish these goals and defeating monsters along the way.

When not exploring a city, players run around a huge overworld map on foot, by sea, or by air. Random battles occur every couple of steps, and defeating monsters gains you money, character experience, and job experience.

Brave Or Default? The Combat System

Fighting enemies is relatively simple and nostalgic, too, running on the classic turn-based style of combat. Players can choose to attack physically with their weapon, use an ability/magic spell that is available to them, use items, flee…and “Brave” or “Default”.

Honestly, I wasn’t very blown away by this system. Not to say it isn’t enjoyable, but it just isn’t something I find revolutionary. Again, that probably isn’t what they were going for. But I digress.

When a battle begins, a little 0 is shown beside your character’s name. This dictates the number of actions your character can perform in their turn.

Using “Brave” decreases the number in exchange for an additional action, whereas “Default” increases the number while placing your character in a defensive stance. Determining when to use either adds a significant amount of strategy to the combat, seeing as how ending up in the negative Brave Points leaves your character unable to do anything until they’ve returned. Still, it’s not a very hard concept to grasp.

You can check out an example of the Brave/Default System in this video! 

There’s also the use of “Special” moves, the types and effects of which depend on your characters’ weapon, which can deal a lot of damage (or heal a lot of HP) as well as add a boost to a particular stat of the entire party. These Special boosts last for about a minute long, accompanied by some unbelievably catchy music unique to the character who brought the Special on. Oh, and did I mention Specials can stack?

Jobs & Abilities

Bravely Default features 24 different jobs. Aside from the “Freelancer” job, which every character starts out with, players must earn these jobs by defeating certain enemies and obtaining their “asterisks.” Once obtained, characters can switch between these jobs as any time outside of battle. As to be expected, these jobs grant its users both passive and active abilities.

  • Job Example: White Mage
  • Passive Example: +10% Magical Defense
  • Active Example: The offensive light-spell Holy

What I really liked about this system, however, was that I could grab secondary active abilities from another job as well as a bunch of passive abilities from every job that character had leveled.

  • Job Example: White Mage
  • Comes With: White Magic (Healing Spells)
  • Secondary Ability Set: Performer (Buff Spells)
  • Passive Abilities: Abate Light (from Templar), See You In Hell (Dark Knight)

The possibilities are practically endless, encouraging players to level up all of the jobs in hopes of finding the perfect combination for every team.

That being said, not all of the jobs are “Main Job” material. You’ll quickly figure out which ones you immediately want to equip after obtaining them, and others which you’ll check out once…and then kind of forget about them (*cough Merchant cough*).

Customize ALL THE THINGS!

But speaking of endless possibilities, let’s dive into what I felt was the coolest part of Bravely Default’s game design: You can turn off the random encounters!

You can also rename and change the effects and elemental damage of your special moves, summon your friends’ characters to help you in battle (which is a great way to cheat if your friends are a lot more powerful than you), and link your abilities with your friends so that you can have access to moves you haven’t learned yet…

But my favorite part of all this fantastic customization will always be the ability to adjust your encounter percentage. This means can just shrug your shoulders and say “I DON’T FEEL LIKE FIGHTING MY WAY THROUGH THIS DUNGEON” and just run through it with ease, collecting items out of treasure chests at your leisure.

Of course, you can’t do this the entire time. Even the game warns you that leveling will be “difficult” if you never turn the random encounters on, and that’s completely fine. But having the freedom to choose is wonderful, and when you are ready to grind, you can double the encounter rate! Paired with the auto-battle feature (which repeats last move you chose for each individual character), level grinding has never been so easy. And I love it.

Look & Sound

I’m going to keep this simple because it really is just my humble opinion: Bravely Default is beautiful. The soundtrack by Linked Horizon is phenomenal, and the world of Luxendarc is brought to life through vivid, fantastic artwork. You’d have to play the game to properly judge this for yourself, of course, but at the very least you need to check out Linked Horizon’s Bravely Default concert, which debuted in Japan with vocalized versions of almost every song in the game.

The Story

Bravely Default is a long game. Longer than I expected it to be, which was actually pretty refreshing since my gaming binges often left me with nothing to do after a week or two. The story itself is pretty stereotypical as far as fantasy games go, but again — that was kind of the point!

It’s the characters and their development that really steal the show and make the humdrum fantasy plot all the more enjoyable. They even added in random optional party conversations (just like the Tales series uses!) that allow the player access to further insights on the characters’ interactions, silly shenanigans, and overall development. And the adult-oriented writing makes the game feel mature, despite its super-deformed character models.

But Then After Chapter 5…

I’m going to keep this part vague and conclude my review here for those who don’t want any spoilers: There are two endings to Bravely Default. The “Normal” Ending and the “True” Ending, which unlocks the trailer for Bravely Default’s upcoming sequel, Bravely Second. Although I enjoy both endings (and they are relatively similar) and encourage others to go for the “True” Ending, I have mixed feelings over how the story progresses from Chapter 5 on.

But that’s a rant I’ll save for below the cut, for those of you who only wish to read it. Regardless of whether you do or not, I definitely recommend checking out Bravely Default!

Thoughts On The Ending

Spoiler

I’ll try to keep this short: Repeating the Crystal revival over and over beyond Chapter 6 felt like it was discrediting the characters I had fallen in love with. Once Ringabel remembered that Airy was evil (I am proud to have figured that out a chapter early when I stared at “Flying Fairy” for too long), I immediately ran straight for the normal ending and had Agnes blow up the Earth crystal because that just felt like the sane thing to do.

Yet to get the true ending, Agnes has to…do what? Ignore what her friends say and trust in this strange little pixie, who grew pushier and angrier as time went on! It felt really unnatural, and watching the group go quiet and look worried with every botched attempt made me feel unbelievably guilty.

And then, at the end of it all, they still looked kind of shocked at the big reveal! Why?

I feel like the writing could’ve been handled better in that respect. Put off the big reveal of Ringabel’s memories, build it up more — don’t just bury it away like Agnes and company are in the worst form of denial. I mean, can you imagine how Ringabel must have felt? Swearing to follow Agnes the whole way, meanwhile watching the numbers on Airy’s wings countdown like a doomsday clock? Wouldn’t that have driven him to stab Airy in her sleep or something?

And another thing: Would it really kill the game developers to change more than just the optional enemy fights with every new world they explored? Most of the dialogue and voice acting is reused, and although I really did like seeing how the “villains” were portrayed as just normal people with different beliefs, I was so unbelievably frustrated at having to do everything again and again.

…Well, to be fair, you don’t have to fight them repeatedly. All those fights were optional. But what’s the point of redoing the world over and over if you don’t see anything new?

It really did start to feel like a chore at the end, which drove me crazy because the first four chapters are so good and engaging and fun. Getting to the final boss was so damn refreshing, and I’ll admit, how it all ended was very satisfying and just the right hint of dramatics to keep me excited.

But the road to get there felt unnecessary, and I wish they would have cut down those extra chapters and just really expanded 6-8 into a solid single chapter. That would’ve made the game undeniably perfect.

Here’s hoping Bravely Second doesn’t make the same mistake!

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