Back in January, while I was busy making money off the seasonal blind-bag purchase bonanza, I lucked into a copy of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy at roughly a third of the regular price. Unlike most of the games I got that week, I held onto this one. the plan was to start it in August so I could have a review ready for its one-year anniversary, but fate and Square Enix conspired against me by announcing an overseas release in just a few months (next year, for North America). To celebrate, I booted it up early so I could give you all my impressions.
"Yes, the Nostalgia is strong with this one."
And my first impression is... the last two initials in BDFF are the most accurate. For all intents and purposes, this is a Final Fantasy game. A classicly styled one at that. You couldn't get much closer to form if you had a point-by-point list to work from — which for all I know, the developers had. It even has those attack multipliers that I don't remember seeing since FFII or III.
The game begins with a cinematic introduction to the four main characters. There's Agnes preparing for a religious ceremony. In a pub, Ringabel is checking his journal and flirting with girls. Edea faces off against her fencing instructor for one last match before leaving on assignment. And Tiz is watching over the sheep near his sleepy village, his little brother playing nearby.
Then the bottom falls out of the world, all too literally. As Tiz stares in shock at the giant hole that has just swallowed up his town, family, sheep, and brother, the story gets into gear. In a fairly short span, we find that Agnes is a wanted fugitive, that Ringabel suffers from memory issues so bizarre that his journal works in reverse, and that Edea's homeland is waging war in the name of Anti-Crystalism — the belief that the world's four elemental crystals are intrinsically evil and subjugative in nature.
So, four crystals? Check. Invasive imperial forces? Check. At least one character with serious amnesia? Check. Chocobos...? Well, three out of four ain't bad. Do we have anything else to add to the list?
The job system. Much like in Final Fantasy III or Four Warriors of
Hats Light, the job system takes center stage while playing Bravely Default. This time around, the heroes must obtain strange crystals called Asterisks, each of which contains the skills of one job class. Unfortunately, pretty much all of these Asterisks are in the hands of the invading Eternian forces, so some beat-downs may be in order. Oddly enough, a lot of the jobs are considered extra material, as it's possible to make progress on the main plot (events marked with yellow tags on maps) without touching the sub-quests (marked in blue) or getting the jobs associated with them. The list of jobs includes most of the classics, as defined by Final Fantasy V, though with a few name changes and additions as well. Anyone with experience in FFIII, FFV, or Tactics will find it quite familiar.
Yes, the Nostalgia is strong in this one.
What's with the title, though? Bravely Default? It's been explained before, and probably will many times more, but this isn't quite a case of an S-E employee doing some dictionary diving. "Default," in this context, means to defend. This is the primary means of stocking up Brave Points (BP) during battle. BP can be used to buy extra turns for a character do stuff in battle. More interesting is that a character can "borrow" BP against the future, going up to negative three BP in debt in order to do tons of damage up front. In exchange, the character will have to sit out the next few rounds until he or she is out of the red.
I'm not digging the graphics as much, though I knew that when I started. Most of the character models look too samey to me, to the point of being androgynous. There are characters who are completely out of the mold, so it's not an issue of how the models are generated. However, most of the "unique" body types belong to enemy commanders, which means that I'm finding the baddies to be far more interesting than my own party. It also doesn't help that Ringabel's voice acting is rather out of sync with his physical appearance. On the other hand, I can't complain about the music at all.
If there's anything I could really whinge about in this game, it's the Town Reconstruction sideline. Tiz is really intent on restoring his hometown, but he needs warm bodies to populate and rebuild. The game provides exactly one such warm body. The rest must be obtained using Street Pass of BD-specific friend codes. Each project in the town takes time, the amount of which decreases as more people are put on the task. These projects provide special attacks for weapons as well as improve the selection of items and equipment for sale at save points. Basic stuff doesn't take too long, but some of the higher shop upgrades take forty hours to complete with one person. It's like a perverse merger of Zynga with Brownie Brown's Amigo system, and about as convenient as either. The project timers only count down while the game's running, but continue even if the 3DS is in sleep mode. Suffice to say that I haven't powered down my 3DS in over a week now. In fact, I've spent more time not playing this game in order to advance.
So, is this the Second Coming of FF Greatness? I wouldn't say that. Bravely Default has plenty going both for and against it. What we have here is an attempt to relive the glory years of the franchise, and on a much smaller budget than has been seen out of S-E in a long time. It's not perfect, but it deserves our encouragement.