Bravely Default is the latest RPG from Square Enix, and the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light. It’s been a highly anticipated game amongst fans of the JRPG genre and amongst our staff, as well. The version we got in the West was known in Japan as For the Sequel; similar to the original, but with some alterations and expanded content. The game has even done well enough in Japan to warrant a sequel. I think you’re all aware of the hype surrounding this game in the build-up to its release, and the hype still being felt across North America as they wait for another month. The question is: Does Bravely Default live up to it all?
The game is set in the world of Luxendarc. The world’s four crystals have run afoul of monsters, and it falls to our four heroes to restore them to their former health. They must fight the forces of Eternia, who seek to control the crystals for reasons unknown. Agnès Oblige is the vestal of wind; vestals guard each of the crystals of wind, water, fire and earth. As you may have guessed, Agnès is tasked with the protection of the wind crystal. Tiz Arrior’s village of Norende was swallowed up by what was dubbed the “Great Chasm” in the game’s opening cutscene, and journeys with Agnès to both protect her and restore his village. Ringabel lost his memories a week prior to the game’s beginning. He carries only a journal which features a “D” on its cover, and tries to seduce every woman he meets. The daughter of the Grand Marshal of Eternia, Edea Lee starts the game opposing the party, but quickly turns against her commander, disgusted by his behaviour.
The party is a likeable bunch, and the plot is interesting. It can be predictable at times, but it still managed to throw out a few twists which caught me completely off-guard. It’s fantastic watching the development as each of the characters grows in their own way, especially Ringabel as he regains his memories. As a side note, Bravely Default supports dual audio. I am one who generally prefers to listen to English voices, but even I found myself swapping to the Japanese ones. The English dub is not completely terrible, but it’s still not very good.
I mentioned earlier the destruction of Tiz’s village of Norende. If you StreetPass with someone who also has Bravely Default data on their console, you can use them to help rebuild Norende. It can be viewed at any time on the world map or in dungeons by pressing right on the D-pad, which brings up a small menu. In Norende, there are stores to be built and obstacles to be cleared using your StreetPass buddies, so the more, the merrier. Say, for example, upgrading a shop’s level takes 10 hours for one person. Add a second person, and it takes five hours. Add a third, and it takes three hours and 20 minutes. Add 10 people to the job, and it takes just one hour. The timer doesn’t run while the game is off, but it does while it’s in sleep mode. I found it quite effective to leave it on while I was sleeping or at work. Upgrading the shops in Norende gives a wider inventory to the red traders scattered across Luxendarc, commonly found right before boss fights so you can save and resupply before the battle.
If you don’t get many StreetPasses, the game’s got you covered; chat to a red trader (you can also find one in every town) and hit “Update” to receive some people through SpotPass. StreetPassing and SpotPassing will also bring monsters into the town, which you can fight for more experience and rare drops. No more than seven can be in the village at any one time. Even if you’re like me and get quite a lot of StreetPasses, the Update feature is still a handy way to get a few more people or monsters into your town.
Battle in Bravely Default is turn-based, and the enemies and bosses can be quite difficult, so be prepared for some grinding. There’s your standard attack, and there’s your abilities. Also on the menu are special attacks, which do not consume MP. There are three levels of special attacks available to each character, and they can be customised to suit you. You can change your characters’ battle cries when they use it; this is basically just some text that appears on the screen when they use the special attack, and aren’t actually voiced. You can also add and alter bonus effects to each one. These bonus effects are found in various shops in Norende, so the more you upgrade the shops, the more you can change up your special moves. Each class has their own criteria which must be met in order to reuse their special attack; these can be checked via the game’s menu. Initiating a special attack will cause the music to change, and the effects will last until the music ends.
You can also choose to “Summon Friend”, which will allow you to summon the warriors you gain via Street or SpotPass in battle to use a single move. You can choose which move you send out by selecting “Send” on the battle menu, and then choosing the move you’d like others to receive via Street and SpotPass.
In addition to all of these are the Brave and Default options from which the game draws its name. Default works just like “defend” in other RPGs, but also gives your character one BP. Brave will consume this BP in exchange for an additional attack that turn. Up to three BP can be stored up or consumed in a single turn, and, if you lack the necessary BP, you can still have an advance turn or two or three. Should your BP drop below zero, however, you’ll have to wait for it to return to zero before you can attack again. So, it can be quite risky, but well worth your time once you master it.
Bravely Default does have a microtransaction feature, and the first thing I’ll say about it is that it’s not at all necessary. Paying $0.99 will earn you one SP. Using SP will freeze time for a short period, allowing you to land a whole host of attacks with zero retaliation. You can have no more than three stored, and there is another, free way to earn them. Spending eight hours in sleep mode will earn you one SP; I found that I had three fairly early on due to my habit of leaving my 3DS on for StreetPasses while I’m at work. I never once used it in the game’s main story, just so I could assure you that it’s not needed to complete the game. Bravely Default is entirely playable without microtransactions.
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