Bravely Default had every opportunity to be a success, coming from Square Enix, well known for series like Final Fantasy, Kingdom of Hearts and Dragon Quest. Although it has been described as a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, it was designed to be a brand new IP, developed by Silicon Studio. Originally it was intended for the Japanese market only, but great sales from launch October 11 2012 and high demands from fans, made Square Enix change their mind. English was added as a language option, and as they had an improved version ready, they released it for 3DS in Europe and North America early in 2014. In late July the same year, they revealed on their official Twitter account that the game had sold over a million copies worldwide, more than half of these outside Japan. This made them rethink the market, and they are now focusing more on heavy JRPG’s to please their core fans, rather than creating games that cater to the global audience.
I had little to no prior experience with JRPGs from the past, and when a friend let me borrow his 3DS with a copy of Bravely Default not long ago, I realized that I have been missing out. Big time. With beautiful graphics, eminent character design, varied music and an interesting, deep and polished battle system it was an experience that catered to ears, eyes, mind and heart alike.
An unknown power has devoured the entire village of Norende in Luxendarc. The village disappeared into a giant hole, and Agnes, the Priestess of the Wind Crystals had turned up to try and find the source of this. The village's sole survivor, Tiz, a boy that just witnessed his brother's demise, manages to convince her to let him join her quest. You start the game playing as Tiz, when you meet up with Agnes, you will get access to new roles, skill and functions. In not too long you are 4 companions, including the amnesiac Ringabel and the former soldier Edea. All four with their own motivation to solve the mystery of what happened to the Norende, they set out on an adventure that will let you experience the beautiful world of Bravely Default with them. The characters might seem simple at first, but as you progress, you will find that many things are not what they seem. The game looks beautiful, but it is dark, and as layers are peeled off, every action, decision and part of the dialogue is cause for suspicion. You have no idea what to expect next.
It seems like the battle system differs from other JRGPs on the market, although following the genre by being turn based, they added a twist to it. You can choose between two functions, “Brave” being the offensive choice, and "Default" is a more defensive approach that also awards you with BP, -Brave Points. When you have enough BP, you can effectively lash out 4 attacks, dealing an immense amount of damage upon your foes. You are able to use BP even if you don’t have any, but that leaves you with a minus on your BP account, and you will have to deal with the consequences. When the enemies attack next time, you will have to take all the damage dealt without any chance of “heal”, “default” or spending any of your resources. All of this is not really much you will have to worry about to start with, but as you progress through the game, be sure to think through your actions. Or you might regret it dearly.
By defeating key opponents in the game, you will unlock "asterisks", magical objects that will open up "Job" classes, all with a unique skill set, strengths and weaknesses. Like in any RPG, your strength lies in diversity and the synergy between skills and traits, but everyone tends to find some favorites. It is a good idea to try every class you unlock though, as it might be areas in the game where some characters have skills that can be crucial. You are able to mix and match classes, and create your own specially tailored set of skills. Every class needs to gain JP – Job Points through battle to unlock more skills and moves in their specific area. By adding friends online, you can borrow skills you have not yet unlocked, this adds a nice little touch to the game as a whole, and can also be really helpful in some of the tougher battles.
A draw back for me was the voice acting and the quality of the dialogue. I have been told it was awesome in the original Japanese version, with well known voice actors for every character, but in English it is just not up to par. Sometimes the sarcastic tone is really amusing, and suits the game well, but they sometimes go to heavy in with clichès, or seem a little too sentimental, and that ruined the experience a fair bit. The game is so well made in almost all other areas, so it makes for just a minor scratch, but I do think the otherwise strong cast of characters deserve better.
All in all, Bravely Default was a pleasure and a joy for me to experience, as a newbie in the JRPG world. The flexible and tactical battle system, the vast array of available combinations in classes and the beautifully designed universe kept me hanging on to my friend's 3DS for a lot longer than he expected. I actually think I need to buy one myself for “Bravely Second”, the up coming sequel. It is in development, but has no release date as of yet.
Anyone else looking forward to the sequel?