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Video Game Review: Bravely Default

Updated on February 11, 2014
Bravely Default
Bravely Default | Source

There was once a time not too long ago when Square Enix was the undisputed king of the JRPG genre for video games. While those days are sadly behind us, Square’s latest game Bravely Default is a masterpiece that shows us just why they were once kings of the genre, and serves as proof that when they really put their effort into it, Square Enix can still create spectacular games. This is an absolute must-own title in your Nintendo 3DS library, even more so if you’re a fan of JRPGs. Disclaimer: I’ve actually owned the Japanese version of this game for over a year. I figured that now that the US version is out, now would be a good time to present my thoughts on this great game.

Explore the vibrant world of Luxendarc.
Explore the vibrant world of Luxendarc. | Source

Story

Since this review is spoiler free, I will not be going into too much detail about the plot. That said, Bravely Default takes place in a world called Luxendarc. The game centers around four heroes who have gathered together: Agnès Oblige the Wind Vestal who seeks to save the crystals from an encroaching darkness and is accompanied by the Cryst-Fairy Airy, the charming, amnesiac rogue Ringabel who is guided by a mysterious journal in his possession, Edea Lee the daughter of the Grand Marshal of the Eternian Forces who initially set out to capture Agnès only to instead join the party, and Tiz Arrior the sole survivor of Norende who is haunted by his failure to save his brother’s life.

Initially, the story starts off in a fashion that’s reminiscent of a basic JRPG: “Eternia is an ‘evil’ empire, go defeat them then awaken the crystals to save the world.” At least that’s how the game plays out for the first four of nine chapters. After this however the game introduces a completely unexpected plot twist which at the very least I did not see coming. I won’t spoil the plot twist but I’m going to declare that extensive consequences of this twist is what sets Bravely Default apart from all other JRPGs that have come before it. This twist is absolute brilliance and it is what defines the game. There are definite clues scattered throughout the game as to what the twist is going to be, as well as other smaller related twists though I suppose it might vary from individual to individual on whether they figure them out or not. For example, I had accurately figured out rather early on who Ringabel’s true identity was, but I was completely off on the way that particular twist was implemented.

An example of what the 3DS screens look like during combat.
An example of what the 3DS screens look like during combat. | Source

Gameplay

In terms of gameplay for the most part Bravely Default is a common JRPG with all of the common JRPG conventions. You’ve got a world map, towns, and dungeons to explore. You have random encounters with enemies and you fight them in a turn based combat system. That said, it is in this turn based combat system that Bravely Default implements a new combat style: the “Default” and “Brave” systems where the game gets its name. While in combat you have the option to select “Default”, which in addition to acting as a guard also allows you to store battle points which can be used for later. These battle points are accessed when you use the “Brave” option which allows you to unleash multiple attacks in a single turn. On the flip side if you use “Brave” without having stored battle points with “Default”, you will be unable to move for the number of turns that you decided to use “Brave” for. Deciding when to use “Default” and when to use “brave” is a key aspect in the strategy of this game.

Much like the older Final Fantasy series, Bravely Default allows you to choose your characters’ job classes: twenty-two standard jobs and two hidden ones adding up to twenty-four jobs in all. You unlock each of these jobs by defeating a corresponding boss. Each job class has particular strengths and weaknesses and proper utilization of these jobs is often the key to defeating the bosses more easily.

Other than combat, Bravely Default offers a number of things to do through the wireless system. One of these things is the rebuilding of Norende which is done through the 3DS’s spotpass system. If you successfully rebuild the town, you’ll have access to new weapons and equipment that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

Pros

  • A deep, excellent story with a twist.
  • Lovable characters and an extensive world to explore.
  • An innovative combat system utilizing the "Brave" and "Default" systems in addition to an extensive array of available job classes.

Cons

  • Becomes highly repetitive later on.
  • Excessive grinding.

Flaws

No video game is perfect and Bravely Default certainly isn’t an exception. Like I said above, Bravely Default’s plot involves a spectacular plot twist that redefines the entire game and your quest’s purpose. Unfortunately, this plot twist also leads to what I personally consider to be the game’s single biggest flaw—it’s sheer repetitiveness. You see, by the time you reach the end of chapter four, you’ve pretty much explored 90% of the world map, visited every single town, cleared 90% of the dungeons, and defeated 90% of the bosses. And that’s at the half-way point. Beginning with chapter five, the plot twist essentially has you visiting all of the same dungeons over and over again and fighting the exact same bosses over and over again, though they do get progressively stronger. At least the monsters you encounter are different although that really only involves chapter five—the later chapters involve you fighting the same monsters over and over again post chapter five.

European Box Art
European Box Art | Source

Bravely Default features two endings—a standard ending and a true ending. You can get the standard ending any time after chapter five (in terms of plot, it fits into the end of chapter six). However, to receive the true ending, you have to play all the way to the eighth chapter to access the true final chapter. That means that all throughout chapter five through eight, you are exploring all the same dungeons again and again and fighting all the same bosses again and again. To be fair, most of these bosses are optional but it is recommended that you do fight them because they drop certain items only in these later chapters and once you defeat them in chapter eight, you can never fight them again.

Bravely Default also features a lot of grinding. This is especially true when you unlock a new job class. Often times, you may want a particular character to master a certain job before taking on a boss and that will end up requiring a lot of grinding. Furthermore, when you change your job class, you also end up losing some of your stats. Thus, you need to grind some more to make those stats up. Fortunately, there is an item that lets you double the amount of exp you receive, as well as double the gold, but only one character can use it at a time.

How would you rate this game?

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Bravely Default

Final Verdict

Despite those flaws, the game is undeniably a masterpiece and certainly deserves a spot in your 3DS library. Square Enix has delivered just the way the used to in the past and I for one cannot recommend this enough, especially for old school JRPG fans. On a scale of ten, I give Bravely Default a 9/10, losing that point due to the repetitiveness and the grinding. So if you own a 3DS, go and get the game, or at least check out the demo and see if you like it.

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Bravely Default is available at Amazon

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