|Dev: Silicon Studio/Square Enix|
|Release: February 7, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol|
With so many jobs, it's natural that certain professions are more useful than others. The Salve Maker profession is absolutely vital in the mid-game, where several boss fights require the item-based attack and healing skills that the profession provides. The ninja profession is also almost mandatory for one important series of side quest boss fights late in the game. Still, there's a lot of room for players to pick class combinations that work well for them, and the game's challenges also push the player to change things up and use new cross-class strategies for different situations.
This wouldn't be a modern JRPG without various side activities and sub-systems to dabble with. Fortunately, they're streamlined well and worked logically into the gameplay. There are no MMORPG-style fetch quests like the ones seen in the game's demo, just the main quest and the “optional” adventures which result in gaining new jobs for the party. The only major side activity is rebuilding Tiz' hometown of Norende, which involves collecting villagers via StreetPasses or by connecting to the Internet once per day for three free villagers. Norende gives players a nice selection of items to purchase, as well as providing special attacks that can be customized and sent out over the Internet.
Collected StreetPasses, SpotPasses, and online friends who play the game can be summoned into battle and can also be linked to characters, giving a player access to abilities they haven't yet earned. None of this is necessary to beat the game, however. Job choice and strategy is usually more important than sheer power in battle, so smart players won't need or want to rely on summoning powerful allies from parts of the world that received the game several months ago.
Bravely Default's story and combat take place against a richly illustrated world with a hand-drawn look. The character and monster models look fantastic on the 3DS, and part of the joy of getting a new job is checking out how its outfit looks on each of the four characters. The world itself boasts gorgeous, highly imaginative cities, although the best of them are seen early in the game. Sadly, the dungeon environments aren't nearly as interesting or imaginative as the world above, but they at least boast the occasional puzzle and are easy to navigate with the maps on the bottom screen.
The music and sound design are also nice, with appropriately evocative musical tracks and battle sound effects that give attacks extra impact. The English voice acting sounds better in the context of the full game than it did in the demo and previews, though some performances are notably better than others. Players can switch to the original Japanese voice track if they find the English to be grating.
All of the game's elements come together in an impressive whole that lasts for a good, long while. It's a meaty experience set in a lovely world with an entertaining battle system and an endearing cast of characters. It's been some time since we saw a worthy successor to the turn-based fantasy JRPG tradition, but we have one here.
In short, Bravely Default is the Japanese RPG that we've been waiting for. As many JRPG companies cram increasingly bizarre gimmicks, half naked underage-looking girls, or overly convoluted plots into their games, Bravely Default reminds us that it's possible to go back to basics without feeling stale. This classic Final Fantasy-style game is beautifully executed, fun to play, and not to be missed by anybody who has ever loved the JRPG genre.
Date: January 29, 2014