'Bravely Default' Puts The Fate Of The World In The Palm Of Your Hands

February 5, 2014

When it comes to Japanese role playing games, there are two big names that typically come to mind: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and everything release ends up falling into the "everything else" category. Those two franchises have dominated the genre since game consoles were advanced enough to deep, story-driven, role playing experiences. Both games share a publisher in Square Enix, have storied histories, and have produced some of the greatest games ever released, which have lead to some of the most dedicated fan followings in all of the games industry.

Both franchises started off in the same realm of turn-based battle mechanics, but in recent years the two games have gone down very different paths, with Dragon Quest holding more firmly onto its roots. The very specific turn-based combat that's spurred on by random encounters can feel very antiquated, that is, at least, until Bravely Default came along. Bravely Default takes the best parts of classic JRPGs and blends them with a modern day sensibility to create a truly unique and wonderful adventure for the 3DS.

Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Nintendo

Silicon Studio may not have the reputation that some of the other developers that Square Enix (who original published the game in Japan) has worked with in the past, but that should, in no way, discount the quality of their work on Bravely Default. Their last release 3D Dot Game Heroes was an amazing adventure game that was heavily inspired by the classic adventures of yesteryear, especially The Legend of Zelda. The end result there was Silicon Studio creating an updated experience, and one of the most unique and memorable games on the PlayStation 3. What they did in 3D Dot Game Heroes is not unlike what they did with Bravely Default; taking classic mechanics, and introducing them to a new generation of technology, and gamers.

Bravely Default is the story of four adventures who are out to save a misguided world. The once prevailing beliefs in the world of Bravely Default centered around four crystals that helped strike a balance between wind, earth, fire, and water. These beliefs have come under attack, and so have the women who have devoted their lives to keeping this balance. Each generation four young girls are each selected to serve the crystals as Vestals, and their devotion is the only thing that keeps the elements in check. However, an anti-Crystalist faction has risen up, and put the world in danger by trying to pollute the crystals and take their power from them. The fate of all mankind falls into the hands of the young Vestal of Wind, Agnes, and a group of three others that believe in her cause. Tis, a boy whose entire town was swallowed up by the earth, largely in part due to the pollution of the crystals. Ringabel, a capable fighter and ladies man, who seems to be suffering from a bout of amnesia. And, Edea, a rebellious youth who is the daughter of the man behind the anti-Crystalist uprising. This intrepid group of four must travel the world together and cleanse the crystals in order to restore balance and faith throughout all of the land.

If you've ever dabbled in a classic JRPG game, particularly anything that was ever released by Square, Enix, or Square Enix, then you've likely played Bravely Default before. This release plays out like a classic, turn-based JRPG, and feels straight out of the 1990s, but with a couple of welcome twists. The most important change comes to the game's battle system which features the option to play defensively by selecting "Default," or aggressively by selecting "Brave." Default increases a warriors' defense, and stacks an additional move for future turns. Alternatively, brave cashes in those additional moves, but it can open up your team to a series of unopposed attacks from foes. This risk/reward system helps define this game so clearly that it's been named after it.

Other updates to the standard JRPG gameplay can be seen in almost all facets of the game. For example, Bravely Default includes some nice features like an auto battle system where your four warriors will repeat the commands from the last battle if you want to reuse them for newly encountered enemies. There is also a meter that allows players to set their encounter rate, which can be set high if you're grinding to get to the next level, or really low if you just beat a boss and have to slink back through a dungeon by the skin of your teeth. There's even a city building mini game that takes advantage of Streetpass, and allows you access to higher level weapons, items, and components once certain shops are rebuilt.

Bravely Default was developed exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, where you can get it either at retail, or in digital form. The game makes use of almost all of the 3DS' unique hardware features like StreetPass and in-game micro transactions. It also looks amazing with the 3D turned on, if you like to enjoy your games like that.

If you're still not sure whether or not an old-school style JRPG is for you, the Nintendo eShop currently has a demo available, which gives players a chance to play a side quest that isn't included in the regular game. As an added bonus (and something that every demo should do), Bravely Default allows you to carry over certain items and rewards from the demo into the final game, giving you to get a head start on saving the world.

Now, if you're at the other end of the spectrum, and want to go all in on Bravely Default, there is also a Collector's Edition of the game that comes with a host of bonuses. If you opt for the slightly more expensive retail version, you'll net yourself an artbook, a soundtrack sampler, and a set of 30 AR cards to go along with your game.

Bravely Default brings together some of the best aspects of old school JRPGs, and updates them for modern day players. Whereas some players don't have the patience for, or enjoy the strategy that comes with turn-based JRPGs, this release helps alleviate some of those pains. The tweaks to the battle system, from the brave/default options to the auto play, along with a completely new story, and some fresh faces really make Bravely Default feel like a new JRPG experience with classic sensibilities.