Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Silicon Studio
Release Date: 10/11/2013
Available Exclusively On
I honestly don’t know where to begin. Bravely Default was one of the most anticipated JRPGs in years. I remember everyone playing the demo and progress would carry across into the main game. It’s good at luring you into a false sense of familiarity. You might think this is a typical JRPG with the only need to balance physical and magical attacks. There are over a dozen jobs in this game and they are crucial to getting through the many, and I mean many, dozens of bosses. Bravely Default is mostly a boss rush game with a few dungeons put in between to level you up.
The game starts out like any other typical JRPG. You have to solve a worldwide calamity, you are in a small town, you can visit shops, and you learn the ropes of the game. The main bulk of combat lies in Braving and Defaulting which allows you to borrow or save up turns. This is the key strategy this entire game and it takes trial and error to really learn when to do each of these during boss fights. You can bank up to three turns or borrow up to three. If you borrow turns in the negative you forfeit that many turns moving forward. This is great if you’re powerful and want to get the battle over with or need to heal everyone fast. In combination with the right jobs and equipment, you can overpower many foes. Half of the jobs are locked away behind optional “asterisk” bosses while some are acquired during the story. The jobs are well balanced ranging between offensive and defensive types with supporting roles as well. The downside to this many jobs is the trial and error of knowing what jobs are best against what bosses. There are 14 levels per job and they don’t level up super fast. You learn more job abilities as you level up as well.
It’s important to balance your party. You don’t want all offensive characters with none supporting you unless you’re insanely powerful. The goal of the first third of the game is to awaken four elemental crystals with four guardians you have to beat to get to them. These dungeons are full of red chests with items and equipment, but some dungeons and areas have locked blue chests which can’t be accessed until toward the end of the game. They contain some of the best equipment. There are save points usually before each major boss, and you can visit many towns to rest, and buy magic, armor, weapons, accessories, and items. The game consists of a large map that slowly opens up to you and eventually, you get a ship that can travel the entire map.
Now, I have to address the infamous final third act. These are chapters 5-8. Without spoiling anything you have to endure these chapters to see the true ending. You can skip this repetitive nightmare by breaking a crystal (I don’t want to spoil more) and ending the game there. I sucked it up and endured cleansing the same crystals 20 times (literally 20) to see this ending. This is one of those things that makes me really have JRPGs. We could have just gotten a cutscene explaining what happens during these acts instead of literally repeating the same dungeons and bosses 20 freaking times. It was insanely boring and I wound up listening to music to distract me from the frustration. A lot of gamers will most likely just quit the game here or end it early with a false ending.
On top of these repetitive chapters, you can also repeat the optional “asterisk” bosses multiple times to level up your jobs. If you missed these asterisks during the first four chapters you can get these jobs later on, but the bosses are leveled to you. The benefit of getting them as they come up early on is you can level past them and make the fights easier. If you already have all the jobs you can just use these bosses to grind XP. There are some options to ease the burden a bit which helped a lot. You can actually turn random battles off or increase them. This is great for exploring a dungeon fully and then leveling up near a save or near the entrance. I really loved this feature and used it a lot. You can also reduce the difficulty down to easy any time or increase it. These options help push JRPGs into a more modern feeling and setting.
With all of that said the graphics are pretty and the music is great if repetitive. The same world map and dungeon songs will repeat a lot, but they aren’t bad songs. The English voice acting is horrendous so I suggest the Japanese audio, and the story, while it does have a nice twist in the third act, isn’t worth the extra dozen or so hours it will take to get through that third act to get the true ending. It’s awful, boring, frustrating, tedious, and just plain not fun, and I can’t forgive the game for this. No matter how good the rest of the game might be, or how unique the combat is, this third act is abhorrent and an obvious excuse to pad game time. I really hate, I mean hate, JRPGs that do this. It doesn’t add anything to the game that a cut scene couldn’t solve. Shame on Square Enix for this.
On a side note, there is some StreetPass integration. You can pass buddies off to each other to summon during battles for extra help. You also have a village you can build to forge some of the better equipment in the game and this requires more helpers to reduce the countdown timer. I never really used these features much, and if you don’t use StreetPass you’re going to miss out on some content.
Overall, I’m not the biggest JRPG fan so others will like this more than I did, but that third act is unforgivable. I also felt there were too many jobs and the game’s difficulty is through the roof. Towards the end of the game, you need to be doing close to the 9,999 damage limit to finish the game. To really finish this game and see everything that’s here you will most likely need to hit the 99-level max at some point. This is an insanely hardcore JRPG and the casual Final Fantasy fans will probably quit during chapter 2 like I did when the game was first released. You will need to sink a good 100 hours just to see everything in the game including the bonus final dungeon that grants you the best stuff in the game to finish off the optional boss. While the graphics, music, and overall aesthetic of the game is pleasing this is a hate-it-or-love-it type of game.