Impressions: Bravely Default

Bravely DefaultHey everyone! Back at the start of this year, I decided to download the Bravely Default demo, because I’m a sucker for free stuff! But I just got hooked by the gameplay and the world, so on launch day, I decided to trade in some old games (most nearer the bottom of this list) and bought it, making it only the second game I’ve ever gotten on launch day, after The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (8th here). An impulse decision, but this time, not one I regret. This game is absolutely stellar. Here are some of my impressions. I’m only partway through, after the Ancheim story. Perhaps I’ll write a full review later.

I’ve never played a JRPG before. No Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger or whatever other JRPGs nerds like me should love. (This is, of course, excluding Pokémon which, depending on your view, could be considered a pseudo-JRPG.) But late last year, I got Fire Emblem Awakening (3rd here), and although this is not really a JRPG per se, it introduced me to the depth of story and gameplay that RPGs from the Land of the Rising Sun have. And I’d been curious about Final Fantasy for a while, but the internet warned against many of the newer games, and I don’t have any older consoles, so that was out of the question.

So here it was: Bravely Default. Touted by some as the best Final Fantasy never made, and the first in a new series. So I had to try, right? And not a morsel of remorse for doing so. The story is long and interesting, the characters are extremely likable, and the visuals and sound are simply stunning.

First off, the story. Now I’ve heard that this is a rip-off from older Final Fantasy games, but seeing as I’ve never played those, I’m really enjoying it. You really feel like your actions are meaningful to other characters in the story, and the premise isn’t too far-fetched. Basically the crystals which protect the world have somehow apocalyptically malfunctioned, and Agnès, the wind vestal, must fix them to restore balance in the Force, or something. Anyway, it’s cool and seems creative enough for me. Along the way, you meet these anticrystalists, people who have lost faith in the crystals’ power and wish to eradicate the vestals.

But the characters’ stories are interesting too. Agnès has the weight of the world on her shoulders, as she has the power to end the sufferings of its people. Tiz is a shepherd who lost his home to these not-so-natural disasters. He is courageous and wishes to rebuild his village. Ringabel is a philandering amnesiac who decides to tag along because of a diary which tells his future. And Edea is the daughter of the bad guy (at least I think), who’s deserted her country. All the characters have their own flaws and strengths, and they really complement each other. In particular, Ringabel, whose inappropriate remarks do not often generate amusement from the two girls.

On to the graphics, man. The world is beautifully hand drawn behind a cast of chibi-style polygonal characters. Really, there is no complaining to be had here. When you stop for a couple of seconds, the camera zooms out, allowing you to see just how much detail the producers have put into really immersing the player in a stunning world. The music is also amazing. The overworld music never gets tiring, the towns each have themes that suit each of them, and the battle music is great. Not to mention the boss music, which really gets you pumped up as you white-knuckle your 3DS for the extremely difficult ones. Lastly, most of the conversations are fully voiced in English and Japanese, really showing the emotion of the characters as they progress throught the world.

We haven’t even touched on gameplay yet. The Brave and Default system, after which the game is named, adds a risk-reward dimension to the battle system. I really couldn’t imagine playing a JRPG without this, it’s so intuitive. Basically, you can Brave to take extra moves in a turn, but this leaves you vulnerable for one turn per every additional move you made. Or you could Default, saving your move that turn, taking a defence boost, then using the moves you saved in Brave later without leaving you vulnerable.

There really aren’t many bad things about the game, but here are a couple minor things. The game is pretty grindy, but not too much, and you could just switch to Easy if you didn’t want to grind (though shame on you if you do). Also, the characters talk a lot. Many conversations can go on for five to ten minutes. But these are all skippable and if you want them to go faster, you could turn off the voices. People also do complain about the localisation, but I haven’t noticed this because I switched the voices to Japanese as soon as I figured out how!

Something I was really grateful for was how newcomer-friendly this game is. Every mechanic is well explained by a tutorial system that isn’t too obtrusive. The encounter rate can be changed at any time, as can the difficulty, so you’re never really stuck if you don’t want to be. And you can’t get too worried about dying, since the autosave feature saves the game every time you enter a new area. Of course, these are all options you could just turn off, if you wanted a truer, more challenging experience.

In conclusion, this game is recommended, from a fellow newbie, for anyone who is looking for a good entry into the JRPG genre. It is intriguing enough to keep you entertained for dozens of hours, the gameplay and controls are intuitive, and the level of challenge is accessible enough for anyone (including my little brother, who is only eleven and enjoying this game immensely). That said, I’ve seen many JRPG veterans around the interwebs praise this game as well, so it’s not to say that this game holds your hand too much.

What do you think? Have you played Bravely Default yet, or are you thinking of doing so? Tell us in the comments!

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