Monday, September 29, 2014

Game Review: Bravely Default

RPG; 3DS; Square Enix; 2014
SORRY, SORRY, SORRY! I'm so sorry I'm very VERY late. See I wanted to get Bravely Default finished like a WEEK ago, so that I can move on to other games before Smash Bros destroys what little free time I have, but I under estimated how long it would take for me to beat the game... like majorly underestimated. It took all of Saturday and Sunday to beat it, and when I did it was 11 O'clock and I had work in the morning so no way in hell was I going to write my review right then and there. So finally I have enough free time to write my review, and then play something else (hopefully something shorter) until I devote my soul to the pursuit of Smash. So how is Bravely Default? Well that's what my review is for.

Agnes Oblige, the Vestal of Wind and devoted servant of the Four Crystals that maintain the world. Ringabel, a young man with no memory of his past but a strange journal depicting the events of the future. Edea Lee, daughter of the Grand Marshal of the Duchy of Eternia. And Tiz Arrior, a young shepard boy living a quiet life in small village of Norende. One day, the Four Crystals turn dark, and their protection halted. The air grows stale, the seas rot, the fires of the earth rage, and where the quiet village of Norende stood, a Great Chasm formed. And these four children, each ignorant of the world outside their own, must journey together, guided by the fairy Airy, to awaken the Crystals and expunge the darkness from the world. To save the world, they must follow where the fairy flies.

If this all sounds familiar, then it should. Four Crystals, Four heroes, this sounds like classic Final Fantasy, and that is precisely what Bravely Default is. Bravely Default is Final Fantasy back when Final Fantasy WAS Final Fantasy and not some weird pseudo sci-fi story. And while everything seems like it is just repeating the same story that was in Final Fantasy I, III, IV, and V, Bravely Default takes it in it's own direction. The story manages the near impossible feat of both being so familiar that it is nostalgic, but also fresh and new enough to warrant it's own identity. The story is on the whole excellent with a fantastic cast of both heroes and villains and manages to perfectly capture that old school flavor. There is ONE major down fall to the story, but since that is also a major gameplay failure I'll leave that for when I talk about the negative.

Well said Agnes.
If the story was any indication, Bravely Default is an old school RPG, namely a cross between the gameplay mechanics of the old NES Final Fantasies with a good helping of Final Fantasy V thrown in. Like any RPG you go from town to town, dungeon to dungeon, and battle against monsters, fiends, and foes alike in good old school turn based combat. No quick reflexes, action based, hide behind something until you have all of your health back mechanics found here. Just menus and selecting your actions and seeing them played out. HOWEVER, Bravely Default completely twists this traditional combat system with want seems like a minor change, but it alters EVERYTHING about combat: The Brave-Default system. Every character and enemy has want is known as Brave Points or BP. Every action (except one) costs at least one BP, and you will gain one BP at the end of each turn. Essentially, BP is how many turns you have stored up, and while you can go into negative BP a character can only act in a turn if they have at least Zero BP. So how do you use up BP? Other than using skills that consume BP, you can Brave, which will give you an extra action for that turn. But why give yourself only one extra action? You can Brave three times to give youself FOUR actions in a single turn. The cost however is that with that much negative BP, you'll be sitting out for several turns doing nothing. Unless you Default. Defaulting is the only command that doesn't consume BP, and you will defend of that turn, BUT you can Brave afterwards and still be ready to go next turn. It may seem confusing at first, but once you get use to thinking that each BP is a turn you have saved up by Defaulting, and burning by Braving, it becomes a key component to your strategy, whether to go on the defensive and launch an all out attack when you are good and ready, or blitz right at the beginning and hope that you take out all of the enemy before they can finish you in the turns to come, or some combination of both. But be careful, because enemies can Brave and Default as well. But if you are in trouble, don't worry you can always break the rules of turn based combat by using Bravely Second, and interrupt ANY action (including enemy actions) to do an Hail Mary attack or a last minute heal. That's the easy part, the HARD part is getting the Sleep Points (or SP) to use a Bravely Second.

Remember when I mentioned the good helping of Final Fantasy V? Well as I said, Bravely Default is classic Final Fantasy, and what is classic Final Fantasy without a robust Job System (Well, it would be Final Fantasy IV or VI, be besides that). Building on the foundation laid by previous FF games (namely V), Bravely Default boasts a sizable 24 jobs including classic jobs such as Knight, White Mage, and Black Mage, but also new jobs such as Merchant and Templar. Each job not only have it's own proficiencies and stats, but also abilities that you can mix and match with other jobs. For each job there is a command list associated with it, and you can assign another command list from any other job as a back up, as well as fill in slots for all the passive abilities that you learn as you level up with each job. While some are okay on their own, the real trick for this system is to find wicked combination of skills, like combining a Red Mage's BP gaining passives with a Valkyrie's BP burning attacks. When not fighting monsters, you are building a town with help of people you street pass, gaining items and new Special attacks along the way. You can also call on the help of people you street pass to unlease their special attacks.... or just throw you a potion. There is a LOT in the game, and a lot of use of the 3DS's features, including AR movies and a sequence where you have to move your 3DS around to look around a room..... Also, there are hidden passage ways that you enter by walking into walls. Everyone who has played the original Final Fantasy IV is now smiling.

Unfortunately, the game isn't perfect. SP is one of the biggest, sticking points of the game given how you accumulate them. See in order to gain SP you have to keep your 3DS on, and in sleep mode..... for 8 hours.... for only ONE SP. I get that this is too keep the extremely powerful Bravely Second under control, as it can make any boss in the game a walk in the park for those willing to burn through their SP, but seriously EIGHT HOURS! But don't worry if you use an SP drink you can get maximum SP instantaneously, you just need to buy one..... for real world money... MICROTRANSACTIONS! Everyone loves those right!? However, the worse part about the SP isn't the cash, or the EIGHT HOURS, but the fact that if you use up SP and still die, you DON'T get the SP back, which puts Bravely Second into this nebulous zone of only use it when you NEED it but also when you know you can beat the boss afterwards. However, one of the biggest problems with the game is what I eluded to while I was talking about the story, and that is that the game goes on for WAY TOO long. To explain what goes wrong is to go into HEAVY spoiler territory, but after a certain point, you begin to revisit old locations in the game, and do this frequently, while fighting the same bosses again and again. The game has a story reason why you have to do this and it is very neat the first time, but it becomes really repetitive, really fast.

Despite the SP debacle, and last leg of the game going on for WAY too long, Bravely Default is still one of the best RPGs to have come out in a LONG time, especially from Square. Lately, Square has gotten it into their heads that they need to pioneer RPG into the next gen by doing away with archaic mechanics like random encounters and player control, and that mind set has made for some very polarizing games and an overall lack of vision from the series that had come to be synonymous with RPGs. And finally we have an RPG that reinvents the genre, but rather than build something new from scratch, it takes the solid foundation of RPGs of the past, and adds to that. It has been said before, and I will say it again: Bravely Default is the BEST Final Fantasy game in a long LONG time, and if it wasn't for the microtransactions and the overly lengthy final act, it would have gotten a Must Play. As it, it is Highly Recommended.

Until Next Time.

-Crescent, umm game? You had me at 'GORGEOUS!'

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