|Dev: Silicon Studio/Square Enix|
|Release: February 7, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes , Use of Alcohol|
by Becky Cunningham
There isn't a lot of fantasy left in Final Fantasy. As that series drifts ever further into the realm of technomagical science fiction, many fans have found themselves wishing for Square Enix to publish some games that more closely resemble their classics. The company has complied with Bravely Default, a high fantasy RPG with a job system and turn-based battles.
The game's setup certainly recalls classic JRPGs, with a young shepherd named Tiz whose village is destroyed by a catastrophe. In a typical hero's journey, Tiz gathers friends and overcomes many obstacles and foes in order to save the world. Those friends are Agnes, a determined and independent young mage; Edea, a passionate former knight; and Ringabel, a flirtatious amnesiac. The characters may not stray far from the standard JRPG playbook, but they're supposed to be a likeable bunch.
Where Bravely Default adds interesting twists to its formula is in the combat system. It's turn-based, but includes an element that allows players to control the turn order in a strategic way. This system is where the game's name comes from. Characters can choose the Brave option, which allows them to take several turns at once, unleashing a barrage of attacks at the enemy. The downside to this is that the character must then wait several turns before attacking again. The other option, obviously, is to Default. This means the character skips a turn, saving up to strike more times later on. Since every character can choose these options separately, the player can use these strategic options to make the most of battles.
A classic job system is also included in the game, giving the party of four twenty-four possible character classes that are unlocked by defeating enemy bosses. As usual for job-system games by Square Enix, any character can choose any job, and jobs determine statistic bonuses and character abilities. Available are standard-issue jobs like Knight, Thief, White Mage, and Black Mage, as well as more unusual options like Spell Fencer, Vampire, Pirate, and Templar. Each job has its own levels, so fans of a grinding up experience can go to town, while gamers looking for a more streamlined experience can choose to focus on a smaller number of jobs.
The adventuring section has quite a bit in common with prior Rune Factory games. In Bravely Default, you'll venture into new areas to advance the story and learn more about not only your roots, but also the town and areas. A character can wield standard hero or heroine equipment such as swords, axes, lances, or magic as well as regular farming tools. The monsters encountered can be befriended if you're willing to take enough hits while petting them to prove your love. Befriended animals can be tended like livestock for items such as eggs, milk, or wool, or they can join your character in a dungeon as an AI-controlled partner. Players can also have a capable townsperson join them in dungeons.
Summoned spirits are a Final Fantasy classic as well, though the usual cast of FF summons such as Ifrit and Shiva have been replaced by all new beings such as a flaming train, a clockwork spider and a black-clad female warrior.
A major side activity in Bravely Default will be the restoration of Tiz' home village. The player will need to recruit workers via StreetPass, which fortunately is easier these days since Nintendo implemented its new Nintendo Zone system. The more workers that are assigned to a particular building project, the faster it will be completed.
Other side activities and gimmicks include some augmented reality play and special Sleep Points that store up when a 3DS is put in Sleep Mode. Sleep Points give the player an extra turn in combat, and players who really want to shell out extra (real life) money can buy a potion that immediately restores Sleep Points. This should be unnecessary, however, since the game has selectable difficulty modes and extra turns shouldn't be necessary to win battles.
Adding to Bravely Default's classic fantasy theme is its watercolor-style graphics, which look absolutely lovely in the trailers we've seen. The music has been composed by Revo of Sound Horizon, a group that is responsible for several popular tracks from the Final Fantasy series. The one thing about Bravely Default I'm not yet sold on is the English voice acting. What I've heard of it is too childish for my tastes (the characters are teenagers, not little kids!), but there's an option to switch to the Japanese voice track for those who strongly dislike the English vocal direction.
Is Bravely Default the new Final Fantasy? The game has been out in Europe since early this month, and has been quite well-received there. European reviewers and players have particularly enjoyed the game's job system, battle system, and graphics. Square Enix has already announced a sequel, Bravely Second, for Japan, and has suggested that the series become a new pillar for the company. Here in North America, we'll be able to get a taste of the game when a large demo is released on January 2. Certainly, fans of classic fantasy JRPGs are hoping that Bravely Default is as good as it sounds and starts a trend of similar game releases.
Date: January 3, 2014