“Square Enix” is the type of company that instils a sense of hope in fans all around the world, their track record of absolutely fantastic games have made them one of the greatest gaming developers and publishers to ever exist and it is all because of the success that “Final Fantasy” gained from being such a well-rounded game/series. Despite the popularity and majesty of “Final Fantasy”, “Square Enix” has done so much more so so many different games, all of which fill a spot in the hearts of players everywhere. From franchises like “Final Fantasy” and “Dragon Quest” to contemporary titles such as “Hitman” and “Tomb Raider”, “Square Enix” has done it all. I’d now like to introduce you all to “Bravely Default”; a brand-new title and hopeful franchise developed by “Square Enix” that mixes both the old school style of traditional JRPGs with some brand-new gaming mechanics thought up specifically for a title of its kind, it has fans of older “Final Fantasy” titles in a frenzy and has already landed itself a sequel in the works. Could “Bravely Default” be the next branch of “Square Enix” royalty? We’ll soon see.
“Bravely Default” hosts a very traditional style of “Final Fantasy-esque” storytelling that is actually quite reminiscent of the earlier titles of the massive series. It revolves around a worldwide catastrophe and four humans destined for greatness. Agnes the holy vestal, Tiz the farm boy, Ringabel the amnesiac adonis and Edea the spiteful traitor are the four main characters that are introduced before you even begin to play the game yet join you throughout the events within the first hour or so in the game. The world has been thrown into desolation, the four elemental crystals that once kept the world in a constant state of peace and equilibrium have now all been, for lack of a better term, “turned off” making each of the elements they control erratic and unpredictable; the winds are at a standstill, the oceans have begun to decay and corrupt and if something isn’t done soon the world will be sink into a destruction that can never be undone, and that’s where our main characters come in.
Agnes who is the vestal of wind tasked with keeping the wind crystal as powerful as possible is the first to set off on the quest of reconstruction closely followed by Tiz whose village and all its inhabitants (bar him) was destroyed and sunk into what seems like some sort of endless chasm, I found it very clever that this story element directly involves a piece of constant gameplay but I’ll get into that a little later on. Ringabel is a man who has amnesia, he knows not his true name but seeing as people call him Ringabel that is what he calls himself. The only thing he has of his past life is a thick book that seems to contain pieces of crucial information that come about throughout the story, little is known about this book but it does help the team through some sticky situations. The last member of the “rag-tag” bunch to be introduced into the story is Ringabel, a girl who just so happens to be a part of the royal family that is after Agnes and the vestals but betrays them when she comes to her senses and realises that what they are doing is wrong.
As I mentioned above; each of these characters has a good enough reason to take part on this journey and throughout the story they develop as friends and then as a makeshift family to the point where they continue with each other because of the bonds between one another and not their individual reasons. These characters seem one-dimensional but they truly aren’t, you understand this the more you play through the game, a great example would be Ringabel; though he’s a skirt-chaser and a casanova, he’s quite intelligent, chivalrous and has never been shown to back down. Agnes on the other hand is a character that has lived her life as a priestess, she knows barely anything of the outside world and is constantly stricken with shock or confusion as well as a great deal of stubbornness, luckily this only happens close to the start of the story, you begin to notice that the more story you play through the more Agnes loosens up and turns into a character with a somewhat “worldly” frame of mind.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how well-written these characters are yet it’s done subtly, it doesn’t throw it in your face. At first glance the “Bravely Default” storyline seems quite generic but it doesn’t hurt to look into it more and think about all the events that transpire under the cover of this “generic” storyline. “Bravely Default” is essentially a story made up of a smaller stories and while the larger story of “the world is in darkness and we must bring the light” has been done time and time again, I believe it’s the stories in between that make the game what it is. Every town you go to and every side mission you do has characters and storylines that, while sticking to the overall theme and adventure of the game, twists and turns down different avenues to give players a bit more to sink their teeth into. Going on a search mission for a young sisters will not be just that by the end of the mission, the game finds ways to transition between seemingly meaningless side quests to informative developments of backstories for interesting characters, I found it engaging and it kept my attention so how could I possibly complain about that?
“Bravely Default” has all the fundamental mechanics of a traditional JRPG; it’s turn-based, there are a whole bunch of different classes to master, characters can execute both physical and magical attacks, etc…but the game DOES indeed do something to the genre that actually fits in quite well and, to my knowledge, I don’t believe it has ever been done before. It’s all in the name…”Bravely Default”, it refers to the two different and new options while in a battle; “Bravely” adds one more move to your turn for the character using it and “Default” almost works as a slight defence while also allowing you an extra move the next time that character is set to make a turn.
Now I wouldn’t say mastering this type of battle is THAT hard but there is a certain learning curve and one slip up could work in the enemy’s favour seeing as every time you use the “Bravely” option you gain one move but then have to give up a move to earn a point back so if you use “Bravely” four times and the enemy doesn’t die, well then you’ll have to wait for turns without a move to make up for the four you already used. It’s not really a system that HAS to be used but I would recommend it, not only does it add a bit of flair because enemies can also use it but it also puts a bit of a twist on typical JRPG mechanics. I quite enjoyed it and used it as strategically as I could every time I was tossed into a battle. Another thing that I really enjoyed about the gameplay mechanics in this game was the amount of classes that could be unlocked and used, not only was there plenty of them but they were all fairly unique unique and mixing classes could allow your characters to play in a variety of different ways that were suited to you personally.
As I mentioned; all the traditional “Final Fantasy” elements are here and it definitely feels like a “Final Fantasy” game, that’s not to say it’s a bad thing though, it’s a “Square Enix” game so I’m sure everyone expected it to be fairly close to a final fantasy game. It plays in an accessible way, the learning curve isn’t too steep at all and by the end of the first couple of missions you know exactly what to do and how to do it. This game really took full use of the 3DS’ odd and wonderful system mechanics like “StreetPass”, and the interesting thing is that the “StreetPass” side-game actually ties into the story. “Norende” is Tiz’s original home which is the town that was swallowed up into a giant chasm, this side-game has you collect villagers through “StreetPass” that will help you rebuild this village bit by bit.
It is a feature that you can get to through the side menu of the game and building it up awards you with many more items to use within the game so it gives you a reason to actually follow through with the rebuild though it is not essential to the game so those of you who dislike this type of thing can choose to ignore it. I, for one, really enjoy it and continue to use it time and time again. This game has so many great aspects, both traditional and brand-new, that keep me coming back to it even after I get killed over and over by the same boss and/or same enemy, I’m never too far away from playing “Bravely Default” and the fact that it is a 60+ hour game means that there’s so much to do, uncover and have fun with…and that’s just the gameplay.
Aesthetically this game is absolutely brilliant! When it comes to something like graphics and visuals, “Square Enix” has never been one to skimp on the time spent making it fantastic and it’s no different with “Bravely Default”. The game begins by both implementing great graphics and the 3DS’ camera alongside the use of an AR Card that comes with every copy of the game. Agnes literally pops out at you as she’s placed into whatever environment you have your 3DS pointed at, essentially it is used as a message to the player/hero of the story and it looks great. The graphics, both in-game and within a cutscene, are so smooth and fluid in motion – “Bravely Default”, as well as some other incredible 3DS titles from last year, have proven the high-quality capabilities of such a small machine in a big way. Environments look stunning, it almost feel like you’re travelling through paintings rather than physical environments and every town or area you journey through looks so unique and so different yet fits nicely within the world that the game has already created.
I was actually extremely impressed when I first started playing this game and the great thing is that I’m continually sent into a state of awe at every different area within the game, it’s amazing. The characters are also well-designed and the classes that each of them can be look even better. When it comes to varied designs, I truly think “Bravely Default” takes the cake, it finds ways to impress you over and over again simply by SHOWING you something that blows your expectations out of the water. The game mixes both simplicity and detail in a great way; characters within a battle are somewhat “chibi-esque”, they don’t have defined feet or hands and they’re quite cute-looking but the costumes they wear and the monsters they face are detailed enough for you to see the difference between the two styles, I would actually compare it much to the way “Fire Emblem: Awakening” looked which was, once again, a visually outstanding game.
Now this may come across bad but take it almost with a grain of salt because I will explain myself in due time: Compared to the Visuals and the rest of the game, the Audio aspect would have to be its weakest one simply because of the English voice acting of the game. “Square Enix” games don’t entirely have great reputations when it comes to the voice acting within them in my opinion and I feel as though their games could be so much better had they gotten a more talented English cast, we saw how good Troy Baker was as “Snow” in the “Final Fantasy XIII” games so I always wondered why that effort wasn’t put into every title. Unfortunately “Bravely Default” suffers from that same lacking element, fortunately for players there’s the option that allows you to switch to the original Japanese dub which is so much better than the English. While it’s great that players can switch back and forth and the Japanese dub is great, it seems like a shame to waste and English cast especially in a game that is overly European.
Having listened to both the English and Japanese dub I realised the overall vibe of characters change, I’ll once again use Ringabel as an example: In the English dub he is a man that has the voice of a boy, he speaks with a fairly high pitch and seems entirely too “up himself” and narcissistic whereas the Japanese voice for Ringabel is deep in tone and has a lot of range allowing the character to go from being a woman-loving beauty addict to battle-ready warrior who cannot afford to back down in a matter of words, something the English voice did not do. The music is great throughout the entire game, even the overworld map’s tune changes time and time again so not to bore players into submission. Battle music is more-or-less the same but it does get a huge change when jumping into a boss or sub-boss battle which is great. Every town and area has its own musical theme; some are quite whimsical while others are fairly dark and it gives you a greater depth of the environment and situation that you’re in. Audio really makes a game what it is to a huge degree and it was great to see the musical side take a step up, unfortunately the voice acting side really brought it back down.
“Bravely Default” has everything both older fans and newer fans of JRPGs have been looking for, it takes what it knows best from older games and mixes it with brand-new ideas to try its best in making it better than anything that came before it. That amount of dedication to a game shows itself in every single way through the entire title; in how it plays, in the way it looks and, for the most part, in the way it sounds. There’s nothing I wanted more from this game apart from some great English voice acting but unfortunately that’s not the case, though if you are even a little bit like me you don’t entirely mind listening to the Japanese language so I guarantee you’ll be fine with hearing it throughout entirety of the game. It looks beautiful, it plays fantastically and, all around, it is an incredible game that I will continue playing for weeks and months to come. “Bravely Default” has proven itself to be an absolutely fantastic addition to the already-marvellous “Square Enix” catalogue while simultaneously cementing itself in as the hopeful little brother to the big, successful sister that is “Final Fantasy”.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.