NS Review: Bravely Default (3DS)
Oh Square-Enix, where did you go so wrong? You began as the apple of my eye, one of the god-tier developers, and then you managed to ruin Final Fantasy some how. However, with that little rant out of the way, let’s look at Bravely Default. It’s a JRPG in every sense of the word: huge, expansive world; turn-based battles; a job/class system; and archetypal “world in jeopardy from darkness” plot. So far, so good. But, this game does subtle things differently and that’s its major draw.
The story, as mentioned above, is a typical one of its genre. However, the writers have constructed a world that you a drawn to care about, the characters are believable whilst still being ridiculous, the dialogue and script (almost entirely voice-acted by the way) is punchy, funny and emotive. In short, the whole narrative is close to a masterpiece of story-telling arguably being let down a little by the fact that you have to play to get to the next bit of story. Or it would be if it weren’t for …
The gameplay, and Bravely Default is wonderfully classic JRPG fare. You visit towns, talk to everyone, buy stuff, go to the nearest cave/dungeon, beat it and then move to the next town. However, in battles, the game has a few wonderful tricks up its white mage sleeve. One is the Brave/Default system that allows you to defer a turn, raising your defence temporarily, and then being able to attack twice in the next turn. This can be stacked up to three times, allowing four consecutive attacks, and adds a level of strategy to every battle. Do you all-out attack your enemies, or hold back for a more calculated flurry of hits? Bravely Default gives you that option. The other is Bravely Second, a state acquired by leaving your 3DS in sleep mode whilst the game is running. Eight hours of sleep gives you one SP and that allows you to break the turn-based structure to perform a single attack at any point using that SP. Believe me, using Bravely Second to heal your party at the last second is very satisfying.
In terms of presentation, this game is breathtaking. With both visuals and audio, Bravely Default simply and easily defeats most of its rivals. Square-Enix have used a partially isometric perspective, similar to their remake of the third Final Fantasy, and paired it with beautifully realised fantasy visuals that look (even if they aren’t) hand-drawn. The soundtrack of this game is one of the best I have heard since Xenoblade Chronicles (an incredible accolade, especially from me); it perfectly suits the world that it fits in, maintaining a whimsical feel but simultaneously adding other feelings like urgency, malice or joy with ease.
Should you buy Bravely Default? If you like JRPGs and have a 3DS, I am surprised that you don’t already have it. If you aren’t a fan, I don’t think that this will be the game to sway you. However, it is one of the best games that currently resides in the 3DS back catalogue, and stands as proof that Square-Enix still have the ability to be the kings of the JRPG genre.