Bravely Default is a spin off from the Final Fantasy series and is also a spiritual successor to the Final Fantasy 4, Heroes Of Light on the DS. However, it ended up becoming its own independent game. Bravely Default is set in the same universe as in the Final Fantasy world but it has its own scenario completely separate from the other games. While it shares many of the themes and story elements from other Final Fantasy games, it also has it’s own lore and gameplay. The game was also heavily influenced by Western Media and by Hirgashi When They Cry and the Dragons Quest series. There are some familiar themes like self sacrifice and inner struggles. The 4 Heroes of Light also makes a return in this game as seen in previous Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy 3.
The story was written by Nakota Hayashi, one of the story writers from Stein’s Gate and just like Stein’s Gate, parallel worlds and universes are key elements explored in Bravely Default. Hayashi was also responsible for the dialogue and he also worked together with Square Enix and Silicon Studio to help create the backstory and world of the game.
The game is set in Luxendarc which is protected by crystals that prevent corrupting darkness from affecting the world. The crystals are protected by Crystal Orthodoxy which serves as the main religious force in the world of Bravely. Somehow, the crystals have been corrupted by darkness and this presents a great danger to the world. This results in a great turmoil and destruction. Tiz is the sole survivor from his town Norrende which was destroyed as a result. He eventually wakes up in an Inn in the town of Calidsta where he learns the catastrophic events that resulted in so much death and destruction.
Tiz sets off to investigate the incident and discover the cause of the disaster. On the way, he meets a mysterious girl name Agnes who serves a vestal to the crystals. She is a crystal vestal of the crystal duchy who reveres the power of crystals. Crystal Vestals are those who have the power to commune with crystals and to tend to them in order to keep them balanced. Each Crystal represents a different element water, earth, fire, and wind and they are vital in keeping Luxendarc balanced.
Tiz and Agnes eventually encounter Edea, a Templar who joins them. Edea leaves her order after she realizes the dangers and tries to help Tiz. They meet up with an amnesiac, Ringabell, who joins them in the hope of finding out who he is. Airy is a Cryst fairy which are helpers to Crystal Vestals in tending the Crystals. She tags along with the group in order to protect the crystals and to stop the coming evil. Airy also serves as an information holder to give you hints on how to complete objectives in the pause menu. They eventually learn on how many different events are all tied towards this one massive evil and they go off to protect the crystals and also stop evil from corrupting the world.
There is a large variety of weapons and equipment you can find and unlock, some of which are seen in other Square Enix games like the Masamune from Chrono Trigger. You can learn new spells and leveling up the black, white, time and sword mages will give you more powerful spells to use. Equipments have their own strengths and weaknesses like increasing one stat such as defense while lowering health. You can dual wield weapons if you wish to. Visiting Inns can restore health and cure all status aliments like poison or death. You can also go to shops to buy and sell different items.
The Adventurers shop that is marked “S” is where you can buy items on the go and the higher quality items become available as you continue to rebuild the town of Norrende and its also where you go to save before fighting bosses. There is also the mysterious journal “D”s that is carried by Ringabel in order to find out who he is. The journal archives many of the team’s adventures and it gives more in-depth and extensive information about the lore of the game and strategies on how to defeat enemies. It also contains a massive encyclopedia about the characters you encounter as well.
The games anime styled artwork from the characters, world and graphics look very highly detailed. The character designs were done by Square Enix veteran artist Akihiko Yoshida and Soul Eater mangaka Atsushi Okubo. The world is very big for a 3DS game with a variety of unique locations. It uses an overhead view while exploring, and a more up-close view while visiting dungeons or cities. You unlock more dungeons and cities to explore as you progress.
Dungeons are maze like and are filled with many different traps and treasure and the occasional puzzle solving like flipping switches to open and close another door. Occasionally, you find a rare blue chest that can only be opened by a special key which you have to find. The chests contain powerful items you can utilize.
There is a dynamic day and night system where only certain objectives can be completed during that period. You can travel from place to place with an airship that can also be used on sea or in the skies traveling freely. However, you also have to be careful as enemies can be at sea and attack you at any time. You can even set the craft on autopilot pointing to the quest location on the world map.
The games story can very cliched at times and the voice acting and humor was cheesy. Many of the elements and lore from the story were very interesting and unique from the Final Fantasy franchise. The characters can be seen in other types of Fantasy and JRPG type games. Ouroboros was really a carbon copy of Lavos from Chrono Trigger. He just wants to destroy the world and create a cycle of destruction just like Lavos. Alternis Dim is a carbon copy of Cecil Harvey in Final Fantasy 4 but more impulsive and brash. Airy was very annoying and her squeaky high-pitched voice can easily get on your nerves and she was very similar to Navi In legend of Zelda. She can also be quite clingy to Agnes as well. Agnes was the typical modest priestess type character seen in other media. Edea can be way too brash and impulsive at times and she charges in to situations without any plans on what she intends to do and this can have disastrous consequences. Tiz is the stock type protagonist seen in many other games.
The gameplay mixes in elements from turn based Final Fantasy games while also adding features and mechanics from its own. The controls are easy to learn and straightforward. The game has a mixture of Final Fantasy enemies and also its own original enemies as well. Combat is methodical and strategic. You have 4 party members and you can sort them around to which should go first. You always play as the one you placed first.
In the game combat, is done by either brave or defaulting. Brave means the turns you can use in combat from performing different actions, you do not need to default frequently. You can still use braving liberally as you see fit by using multiple brave points to perform actions. However, when they are used out, this prevents the party from doing anything and the enemies use whatever actions they can to defeat the group. You can use it to your own advantage to end battles quicker.
Defaulting is on the defensive and reduces the damage you take and also increases the turns you can use.
Defeating enemies occasional drop items like potions. Depending on how well you did in battle, you can receive extra PG which serves as currency in the game, and extra job points and xp to level up like defeating the enemies in just one hit and in one turn. You can change the encounter rates as well from not encountering enemies with the exception of boss fights or by making combat very frequent. There are special encounters where either you or the enemy can get the advantage such as extra bp points or striking first.
Each weapon you have has its own special ability to use during combat. After performing a string of successful or critical hits, you can use the special ability when available to deal massive damage to enemies. You can unlock more special abilities for your weapons as you continue to repair Norrende and also select the dialogue for what you can say after delivering a critical attack. You can also assign different types of enhancements for a weapon special abilities like elemental damage such as fire. You are able to escape from combat in most situations. Enemies can inflict status aliments and also you can do the same vice versa with certain spells or weapons enhancements.
Bravely Second is another feature in combat where you drink sp drinks to slow down time and freely attack enemies you select. You can also refill your sp drinks by putting the 3DS in sleep mode or waiting for a certain amount of time to pass while playing the game.
With the street pass system for the 3DS, you can send or summon friends to aid you in battle. As you progress through the game, updating your data for summons gives you different types of summons based on the classes you have in the game like the black mage. You also share your summons with friends as well. The more people you find on street pass, the faster it can take to repair buildings. As you repair buildings and bridges, you have more stores that open up and you can upgrade them to provide you with higher quality items.
Job classes make an appearance in this game and each job has its own special abilities and perks to use in combat. You earn new jobs by defeating bosses that hold certain asterisks and defeating one will give you a new job. A dark knight class plays highly, like Kain from Final Fantasy 4 with sacrificing health in exchange for more powerful attacks. Support ability slots can be unlocked after awakening crystals and you can hold up to 5.
Each job class has its own support abilities that you can unlock as you level up. The game has a lot of job classes with over 30 to choose from. Side quests also reward you with new job classes when you successfully complete them. One support ability from the ninja class transience is after evading a physical, attack you can deliver a powerful counter attack to an enemy. You can also borrow and install in different job commands and abilities from the classes you have while also using your own class as well. A freelancer class for example can borrow the abilities from the dark knight class. Job classes also has many different passive abilities. The ninja class increases the power of dual wielding weapons and the freelancer class has a late bloomer ability that increases the stats for each of the jobs you mastered at higher levels.
Through the ablink you can share your abilities with your friends. The game can also simulate generated friends to share your abilities with too with the ai summons in case you do not have friends or if Nintendos wi fi is down.
The games combat and class system are very dynamic and customizable and it is one of the biggest highlights of the game as you can change them anytime you like. The music was meant to replicate retro JRPG games like Saga and Dragons Quest and it was one of the highlights as well. Each battle had its own feeling to the sound track such as a faster paced and intense tempo during boss fights.
New game plus and special costumes are available after beating the game. You can rewatch cutscenes if you want and there is a lot of in game cutscenes and party chats between members talking about the events happening over the game. You can even select the language for either voice acting or subtitles. There is also a special AR movie focusing on Agnes that takes full advantage of the 3DS AR features. You can view and watch Agnes in any direction because of this feature.
In chapter 5, you can unlock renaming your characters if you like. Occasionally you can find hidden items scattered in the towns you visit. Secret bosses are well hidden in the game and defeating them will unlock special bonuses and items.
There are some flaws in the gameplay design and not just in the story. SP Drinks can be acquired through another method by using real world money to purchase it. This is useless and it would actually work better if it was an in-game item you acquire through the shops you visit. There are random difficulty spikes that would try to coerce you into buying SP drinks just to defeat boss fights. The games social features are mediocre as they feel more like a last minute add on. It is heavily reliant on you to use street pass instead of just organically growing your population while rebuilding Norrende.
I also found a few technical issues in the game. One enemy casted a Reflect spell and another enemy casted a Curada spell which ended up bouncing back from the enemy to my party members healing them. Yet if you tried that with your own party members, it damages the enemy instead. I had a few items that were meant to prevent death not work and my party members would be killed instead of the being protected by the charms.
The final boss Ouroboros was heavily reliant on cheap and underhand methods leaving you with no chance to find an opening to attack him. Disaster and Armageddon were overpowering tricks which can kill your party in just seconds even when in full health.
Convergence was also one of the cheapest moves I have seen in a boss fight where he casts a spell that prevents you from doing anything and there is no cure at all for it except to be killed and revived again. The audio also tended to cut out and the lip synching did not always match at times. You had to refight the same bosses that are enhanced and not at all different than when you originally fought them and you had to reactivate the crystals over and over again 5 times. It was very repetitive and also the sub bosses you fought from the side missions also make a reappearance. The dungeon layout was also recycled very frequently and the dungeons were not that different from each other with just cosmetic variations. The soundtrack was also sort of repetitive and did not used that much in selection of songs.
Overall this was a good spin off.
It gets 3 stars out of 5.
This game had a lot of potential into becoming its own complete series while also keeping in touch with its Final Fantasy gameplay and story design elements.
I look forward to playing Bravely Second End Layer and eventually other potential future media such as games, manga and anime.