Code, games, and sarcasm
Matt Soucy

Review: Bravely Default

in games by Matt Soucy - Comments

So, most of my blog posts so far have been about code, with the occasional discussion of things I do (concerts, hackathons). Today, I woke up with a weird urge to write about something different: a game.

Recently, I finally caved in and got a Nintendo 3DS, for a couple of reasons. Of note, one of the more surprising games that I’ve found myself loving is Bravely Default. This game manages to feel like an old-school RPG with some new twists.

This will have some spoilers up to at least Chapter 5, I’ll try to hide them when possible.

First off, the title of Bravely Default is broken into two parts, representing the most obvious additions to the battle system:

By default, each action takes a single Brave Point. Characters can store up to 3 (4 with a special ability) BP at any point, and can Brave up to three times, which means at most four actions. When a character defaults, they don’t use any brave points and increase their defense. BP can go negative, but you can’t act until your BP is 0. Different abilities use more BP, or give extra BP, which means that even this seemingly simple concept changes how one thinks about battles: “OK, so if I default, I’ll absorb the worst of their damage, and then I can brave to hit them while they’re unable to act”.

Next, the story harks back to the classic tropes, even to the point of being over-the-top about it:

So stereotypical… There’s even a fairy that helps guide them to the four crystals they’re meant to awaken, named Airy, who is possibly the most annoying character in the worlds that you find yourself pulled through. Luckily, it turns it on its head fairly well in later chapters.

Airy is quite possibly the most annoying character ever. Her voice, her attitude, she doesn’t care about the heroes, just about the mission. After the Pillar of Light, she seemed to be confused, but some of her wording has me concerned. Also, the full title of the game is “Bravely Default: Where The Fairy Flies”. The Fs are larger than the rest of the text. As we know, Airy is a Fairy…get rid of those Fs, and you get “Where the Airy Lies”. Also, her wings look different, and I think I know why…

The job system also feels “old but fresh”. You can level up different classes for each character, but you can also choose a “secondary job” to use skills from, as well as use passive skills for any number of jobs. This lets you mix-and-match to create balanced characters that can heal and defend, or focus on a specific aspect. Anarchist and Black/Red magic is a great combo, as is Spiritualism and White/Red Magic, and using the Summoner’s ability to gain MP from being attacked helps the Vampire or a Mage. This allows one to create new, interesting combinations and encourages the player to think outside of the box. Even old-school classes such as Final Fantasy’s Blue Mage get a revamp, in the form of the Vampire class, which lives up to its name, draining HP and MP, and using powerful moves collected by being hit with them from an enemy.

One of my favorite underrated aspects, though, is the social component. The 3DS finally brings a unified Friend Code system, allowing you to add friends once and have them available in all games. Bravely Default uses this rather well - StreetPass mode allows you to gain additional people to help rebuild the village of Norende, but friends allow more. Friends have the option to Send an action, which you can then use. This allows you to use actions from a class that none of your characters are currently using, but also use attacks that are much more powerful than your own. It also has another purpose - you can equip friends onto your characters, allowing you to use class abilities at the friend’s level, instead of your own. That way, your friend can focus on mages (for instance), while you focus on melee, and equip each other to have a character with maxed-out classes in both. It feels like an ingenious way to get players to work together even in a genre as single-player as the typical JRPG.

There are a few downsides, however. The concept of Bravely Second is neat, but is annoying that it rather obviously flaunts the Pay-to-Earn SP Drinks, that enable you to recharge SP to stop time and take actions even in the middle of battle. The occasional grind can get annoying, though that’s really only relevant when leveling up new classes. What, you mean I have to awaken the four crystals AGAIN? At least it’s giving me more backstory.

I picked up Bravely Default because it looked like a game that could keep me occupied while I waited for Smash to come out…I’m still playing it all the time. I plan on playing this one a lot - perhaps not to 100% completion, but certainly as far as I’m able to. I’d rate it a solid 9.5/10, deducting only for the above points and “innovating, but maybe not enough”.