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Bravely Default review

Bravely going where no JRPG has gone before

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet". Juliet had it spot on when she fluttered her eyelids nervously at a copy of Bravely Default. It doesn't matter what it's called. We'll love it regardless for what lies beneath the awkward moniker but for God's sake Square-Enix, you could've tried a bit harder.

As it turns out the name directly references the two main battle commands in the game, Brave and Default, two ideas that are just the tip of a delightfully rebellious little iceberg that has veered the rather staid Square-Enix RPG tanker into exciting new territory.

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At its core Bravely Default is a traditional, turn-based role-playing game along the lines of Final Fantasy, Breath Of Fire and Fire Emblem. Farmhand Tiz narrowly escapes with his life when his entire village is consumed by a vast sinkhole. Having watched his little brother slip away before his very eyes, he seeks an audience with the king in order to beg for help in his search for survivors. A foreign army is battering the kingdom, though and the only useful answers come from a timid girl by the name of Agnés who turns out to be the Vestel of the Wind, keeper and protector of the Wind Crystal. The sinkhole is a direct result of the failing crystal and so the pair join forces in order to put things right.

To summarise the story in such a way is to do a massive injustice to the scriptwriters, though. The scope and emotional attachment achieved through the ever-unravelling story and constant character development is extremely impressive. The volume of VO has a dramatic affect on the feel of the game and is so good you'll sit through all of it, despite being able to skip through.

Just The Job

The audio is complemented perfectly by gorgeous, hand-drawn cityscapes. Different areas within the city are made to seem three-dimensional by clever use of parallax movement and layers. Leave your character alone for a few seconds and the camera will zoom out, like some kind of desperate gasp for air, until your character is but a dot. It's an impressive technique that has functional benefits, as well as looking awesome.

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Bravely Default looks and sounds great, then, but as any budding adventurer will tell you, it's the battle system that defines any good RPG. This one takes its inspiration from many different places, but the main Job System is an obvious nod to Final Fantasy V. Initially you're limited to the bog-standard Freelancer job. You can only unlock new Jobs by securing Job Asterisks and, more often than not, these come from boss battles and side-quests.

With a Job Asterisk in hand you can then start learning a set of new abilities by gaining Job Points in battle. Jobs range from standard RPG fare (White Mages, Knights, Thieves) to more outrageous offerings (Superstar, Pirate, Vampire) and each of the 24 jobs specialise in a certain style of combat and command. The crux of the mechanic is that you can only ever assume the outfit, stats and development for one primary job. You're also allowed to assign a secondary Job Ability (utilise another job's main skills without assuming the main stats) and select a limited set of tertiary abilities that you've learned. The resulting system is both extremely satisfying and nigh-on impossible to explain.

These skills and abilities are accessed from the main battle menu, which appears on the touchscreen during battles and is headed up by the brand new system from which the game earns its name. Tap the L button and your character will be 'Brave', which means they'll get two attacks in the first round, instead of just the one. You can tap L up to three times in order to get up to four attacks per character straight away. Each 'Brave' uses one Brave Point (you'll go into minus figures if you use them straight away) and means that you won't be able to attack again in consecutive rounds until your BP is back to zero. Conversely, you can tap R to 'Default', which means that you miss a round and also become more defensive. Each Default earns you Brave Points.

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Comments

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  1. Balladeer Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:08

    Question, Chandra. You complement the VO work, but I've hated it in the trailers so far. Aerith-monochrome has sounded particularly cloying. Does it suddenly get better? Or is this just another case of strokes and folks?

  2. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:13

    Really cannot wait for this,loved the demo.
    Will be asking this for Christmas.

  3. ChandraONM Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:31

    Question, Chandra. You complement the VO work, but I've hated it in the trailers so far. Aerith-monochrome has sounded particularly cloying. Does it suddenly get better? Or is this just another case of strokes and folks?

    So, here's the thing.
    In the first ten minutes the VO was really annoying me and I was thinking "oh my god this is so bad!".
    But after 20 hours I was intently listening to it.
    I can't pinpoint exactly why that is.

    I mean, I've just started the game again and at the start Tiz in particular sounds pathetic, while the King and the Captain sound really forced. . . so that makes me think that it does get better as opposed to me becoming accustomed to it.
    Later in the game the character really develop and Tiz becomes far less pathetic. Edea is really feisty and I think the balance of characters and voices makes a huge difference.
    Just my personal opinion though.

  4. Balladeer Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:40

    Thanks for that reply. I think I'll start on Japanese, and maybe switch over to English later on, then.

    Otherwise, it's looking good. I particularly like the sound of varying the encounter rate. Character development is always nice too!

  5. LeoCantus Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:52

    Glad to see such a great score! Will pick this up when finished with the new Zelda and Ace Attorney games :D

  6. olrodlegacy Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 14:58

    I might get this, but I really don't see it selling that well here.

  7. HughPR Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 16:16

    I might get this, but I really don't see it selling that well here.

    Yeah, I have the demo and so far I've only gotten one streetpass hit in about 2 weeks, but hopefully they'll pick up. I'm glad it got a good score, I really enjoyed the demo. It seems to be a solid RPG and the ability to use commands from other jobs is nice (cue knight with white magic etc!). The brave/default works really well imo, and (maybe SPOILER, debatable) I like that it extends to enemies as you can stop them from attacking if you need to (Squeaky wheel) and other cool things.

    Nice review btw Chandra :)

  8. ChandraONM Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 16:23

    I might get this, but I really don't see it selling that well here.

    Yeah, I have the demo and so far I've only gotten one streetpass hit in about 2 weeks, but hopefully they'll pick up. I'm glad it got a good score, I really enjoyed the demo. It seems to be a solid RPG and the ability to use commands from other jobs is nice (cue knight with white magic etc!). The brave/default works really well imo, and (maybe SPOILER, debatable) I like that it extends to enemies as you can stop them from attacking if you need to (Squeaky wheel) and other cool things.

    Nice review btw Chandra :)

    Thanks :D
    The good thing with BD is that you can add friends via good old fashioned FC and then connect online.
    That gets around some of the StreetPass issues you might have

  9. Nintendo fan 1 Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 16:55

    I confidently assume this has been an excellent year for Nintendo fans (besides the hardcore wii u zelda fans longing for a new title). However I am in both a financial and 'moral', predicament. Should I either chose AlbW and pokemon x or ALBW and bravely default. I hope someone could get back to me on this. Additionally I have never played a pokemon game-outrage! So don't criticise the repetitive structure and neither a final fantasy game-outrage No.2! So essentially my question is Bravely default or pokemon x?

  10. MatthewONM Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 17:00

    I confidently assume this has been an excellent year for Nintendo fans (besides the hardcore wii u zelda fans longing for a new title). However I am in both a financial and 'moral', predicament. Should I either chose AlbW and pokemon x or ALBW and bravely default. I hope someone could get back to me on this. Additionally I have never played a pokemon game-outrage! So don't criticise the repetitive structure and neither a final fantasy game-outrage No.2! So essentially my question is Bravely default or pokemon x?


    Bravely Default is the more grown up game of the two - much prettier, too (I personally think Pokemon is a *bit* of an eyesore). Of course, Pokemon is massive and has the benefit of a far bigger audience for enjoying the online elements.

  11. ChandraONM Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 17:07

    I confidently assume this has been an excellent year for Nintendo fans (besides the hardcore wii u zelda fans longing for a new title). However I am in both a financial and 'moral', predicament. Should I either chose AlbW and pokemon x or ALBW and bravely default. I hope someone could get back to me on this. Additionally I have never played a pokemon game-outrage! So don't criticise the repetitive structure and neither a final fantasy game-outrage No.2! So essentially my question is Bravely default or pokemon x?

    Bravely Default would get my vote every time.
    I appreciate X and Y scored higher in ONM but it's down to personal taste.
    BD is far more rewarding, plus if you want a game that really get the most out of your 3DS, there's really no contest

  12. LewiiG Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 18:11

    Perfect. I was hoping this would turn out amazing and it sounds like it did. Another Square Enix RPG to spend many epic hours on. Cool.

    Japanese voices all the way.

  13. lrwr14 Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 19:34

    Loved the demo. Got all the play bonus and played it for 10 hours, not bad. Will be picking it up when it comes out.

  14. HughPR Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 19:40

    Bravely Default is the more grown up game of the two - much prettier, too (I personally think Pokemon is a *bit* of an eyesore). Of course, Pokemon is massive and has the benefit of a far bigger audience for enjoying the online elements.

    Yeah, at first I was unsure of the visuals in X and Y. It was Geomancy and Dragon Pulse that sold them to me. I just went 'Oh snap!' and have been pleased since then. Blast Burn is pretty neat too. Oooooh, and the sundial thing in Anistar!!!

    EDIT: DISCLAIMER I DO NOT WORK FOR GAME ( :P )

    I would pre-order if I were you as you get an artbook. Ooooh shiny...probably won't be as good as Fire Emblem but still, 1. Free stuff = pretty much always good, 2. Art is cool

  15. Cinaclov Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 23:00

    Pre-ordered the collectors edition about a week ago (half my pay gone in one moment there XD). I've been listening to the soundtrack for about a month now, I'm so excited for this. In fact far more so than Zelda ALBW.

  16. fisher2007 Wednesday 27th Nov 2013 at 23:14

    Glad to see such a great score and getting this next month.

  17. toffeeman30 Thursday 28th Nov 2013 at 13:06

    not my cup of tea but nice addition to the 3ds library

  18. LavaTwilight Thursday 28th Nov 2013 at 19:14

    What's wrong with the name? It's enigmatic and leaves questions. Perhaps questions with simple but logical answers which are easily found but not before delving deeper. It was the name that intrigued me about this game and if it had some generic-sounding name (legend of; tales of; <insert realm name here>) then I probably wouldn't have cared as much. Bravely Default? I love the name!

  19. ChandraONM Friday 29th Nov 2013 at 17:48

    What's wrong with the name? It's enigmatic and leaves questions. Perhaps questions with simple but logical answers which are easily found but not before delving deeper. It was the name that intrigued me about this game and if it had some generic-sounding name (legend of; tales of; <insert realm name here>) then I probably wouldn't have cared as much. Bravely Default? I love the name!

    Good! I'm pleased you like the name :D but for every person who is drawn to it by the name I guarantee you at least 100 others are put off by it

  20. kestrel150 Sunday 1st Dec 2013 at 19:27

    I cannot wait for this, and am intending to spend all friday playing it. I've already sunk over 10 hours into the demo, having maxed out all jobs, maxing all the characters levels, restoring Norende village, and generally completing every aspect available =P
    Hearing about the Bravely Second is interesting, as i wasn't even aware it exists. It sounds like it could make the battles much more exciting (although the music alone was enough for me to battle a dragon about 10 times.

    And voiceovers O.O i can't wait. Having been learning japanese for 18 months, i can confidently say i'll be going with japanese voiceovers.

    Ahhh, I really cant wait...

  21. silver2010 Sunday 1st Dec 2013 at 21:49

    Just tried the demo and kept dying repeatedly :s however I like what I saw so will try again really hope I can figure it out as it looks like my kinda game

  22. garywood Wednesday 4th Dec 2013 at 21:19

    Just tried the demo and kept dying repeatedly :s however I like what I saw so will try again really hope I can figure it out as it looks like my kinda game

    Me too at the beginning. It is a very good battle system though and once you start to figure things out, you improve drastically. Start by choosing classes and picking up some new weaponry!

  23. garywood Wednesday 4th Dec 2013 at 21:46

    What's wrong with the name? It's enigmatic and leaves questions. Perhaps questions with simple but logical answers which are easily found but not before delving deeper. It was the name that intrigued me about this game and if it had some generic-sounding name (legend of; tales of; <insert realm name here>) then I probably wouldn't have cared as much. Bravely Default? I love the name!

    Lol I'm mega-pumped for this game. But c'mon dude/dudette. It's a really crap name that has no linguistic balance to it at all. The whole point of the 'Brave' and 'Default' moves in the battles are that they're supposed to be kind of opposites. You might as well have called it 'Quickly Slow'. Whoever came up with it needs to read some Jane Austen or some PG Wodehouse and learn about the beauty of nicely flowing language. I'm guessing it just has a nicer ring to it in the Japanese and none of the translators had the guts to tell them that it sounds a bit crap in English.
    And I hope that the Brave and Default moves have some bearing on the story! If not, it's an even worse name!

  24. silver2010 Saturday 7th Dec 2013 at 17:09

    My problem was not noticing I could change jobs lol now I just beat the Minotaur and I am hooked ordered the game n recieved the art book cool! ... even though I won't play it til march time got a huge backlog to get through and this once is opened it will be the only game I play in a while :)

  25. garywood Saturday 4th Jan 2014 at 20:03

    I'm about half way through the game and I have to say, I don't get why your review said there weren't that many music tracks! Seems to be the normal selection! New track for each town, separate battle and boss fights and then added music for special attacks. The only thing that separates it from the older final fantasies, after which it's clearly modelled, is the fact that the dungeons are generic and use the same track.

  26. tim453 Monday 13th Jan 2014 at 12:49

    Having finished Zelda Link between Worlds, I was looking for another new 3ds game to play but things are now looking a bit slow game wise, unless you are thinking of the new Mario board game, which I'm not.

    I thought I would give Bravely Default a try and went into my local Game store to get a copy. 'Available to order only'. So they don't seem to have much confidence in stocking that title. I looked in Tesco and Asda but they don't stock it either.

    Looks like this Game will slip under the radar, without the support of these stores. Although for £39.99 the price the Game is asking for a hard copy once ordered, maybe it's not worth giving it a 'go'.

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