Square-Enix might market their best-looking RPG experiences on the most powerful hardwares in the market, but Nintendo seems to enjoy reminding everyone that they were, and are, the original home for the traditional RPG experience. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and Radiant Historia for the DS, Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii, and now Bravely Default for the 3DS, all of them offer a more traditional RPG experience less beholden to graphics then they are to traditional settings and mechanics . I just finished up the demo and, despite my poor batting average for enjoying JRPGs, I gotta tell ya, this one’s fantastic.
To put it simply, Bravely Default feels like a good old fashioned fantasy adventure. Yet that can’t be true, because I actually enjoyed the game.
It could just be me? It could be the media assault, what with its multiple Hobbits and their Game of Thrones that has made me open up to the fantasy genre in general. Or, it could be the Steampunk/Ottoman Empire main hub city the game just threw me into.
The game’s visuals basically sold the game for me ever since I saw the first trailer for the game years ago, and it looks even better now that I’m actually playing the game. The 2.5D graphics look stunning on the 3DS except the game might be too intricate for the 3D feature. The mix of hand drawn and computer graphics makes for an amazingly pretty city to explore, but once that 3D slider goes up, it’s like an attack on the eyeballs. Basically, keep the 3D off like you always do (probably) is what I’m trying to say.
Gameplay-wise, Bravely Default will appeal to a lot of the JRPG veterans with the whole package present. Grinding, almost a pre-requisite for success, random overworld encounters, intricate dungeons with mini-bosses, treasure, and traps, everything that makes for a good old fashioned adventure, are all present here. However, the complete overhaul in the job and combat system is something else entirely and probably most responsible for me liking the demo as much as I did.
No one character has a fixed class. They can switch between a whole bunch of duties (mage, knight, performer, with many more unreleased in the demo) at the player’s convenience, and through leveling these jobs, they gain skills which they can then use to mix-and-match with other jobs. For instance the “pierce” ability one earns as a valkyrie can be applied to the same character, only they are a knight this time.
Additionally, it’s the Brave Points that add an extra layer of strategy to the game. It’s a confusing system at first, but what it boils down to is that a player can accumulate these Brave Points by defaulting for a turn (oh look it’s the title of the game). By defaulting, a character basically goes on guard for a turn but gains a Bravery Point in the process. These points are necessary for special abilities or attacking so the more a character defaults and accumulates these points, the greater options for attack and support becomes available to them in any given turn. This is especially useful when facing up eight enemies at once and your party of 4 needs as many moves as possible to survive.
There’s a bit more to the BP then the example I’ve just given you, but what’s really interesting is the freedom from the rigid party system while keeping the traditional adventure roughly the same.
The last bit I’d like to talk about is the sort of mini-game found in the demo. Throughout the game, you manage the restoration of a town in a separate menu screen. You start out with one villager in charge of restoring various stores and areas in real-time. Clearing out the woods took 10 hours of my life. How do you decrease the time? When you street-pass someone with the demo, you’ll get another villager and cut the time required to accomplish tasks in half. Now if you don’t live near anyone then tough luck, it’s gonna take forever. This mini-game is seriously like those mobile strategy games I found popular in Japan while there. It’s pretty terrible.
So yeah, those were my thoughts on the demo. If you like traditional JRPGs, you are going to have a wonderful time with this game. Still, this game is looking to be quite hardcore but has a world compelling enough to bring in an ardent anti-RPG man like myself, and that’s no easy job.
Bravely Default will be coming out for the 3DS in a standard and collector’s edition on Feburary 7th, 2014.