Review

Bravely Default Review

  • First Released Oct 11, 2012
    released
  • 3DS

Brave days of old.

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Let's not kid ourselves. While Bravely Default may not officially be part of the Final Fantasy family, it's only in name that it's not. From steampunk airships, to Phoenix Down revive potions, to enemies named Cait Sith, Bravely Default has got the unmistakable stamp of Japan's most recognisable and venerable role-playing game series plastered all over it. And yet, despite the baggage of both expectation and suspicion that accompanies anything associated with said megafranchise, Bravely Default manages to carve out a place for itself amongst the impressive roster of Nintendo 3DS Japanese RPGs.

It says a lot that this game has come not from the hands and talents of Square Enix, but from those of 3D Dot Game Heroes developer Silicon Studio. Things don't start off well, however. Take away the beautiful art style, and the first few hours provide little we've not seen before and little incentive to continue. The story of wholesome hero Tiz Arrior seeking answers to and revenge for the apparently random destruction of his homeland is hardly a new one, and while the near fully voiced handheld RPG demonstrates impressive production values, the ear-splitting pitch of each character's dialogue is excuse enough to abandon dialogue scenes altogether (or at least mute the volume).

While Bravely Default may not officially be part of the Final Fantasy family, it's only in name that it's not.

The hand-drawn images are gorgeous to behold and greatly increase the sense of scale in the world.
The hand-drawn images are gorgeous to behold and greatly increase the sense of scale in the world.

Get past those opening sequences, and you're gifted with a game that gets close to rejuvenating a stagnating formula, expanding and altering ideas that have been detrimentally unyielding for too many years. Silicon Studio has been wise in highlighting which areas to refresh, and given that the game so heavily relies on it, it's apt that the battle system should be Bravely Default's greatest asset.

A few additions to the turn-based combat keep Bravely Default from ever becoming predictable. Alongside the normal attack, magic, and item commands sit options to "brave" and "default." Select brave, and you can unleash up to four moves in a single turn, the risk being that if your enemies are still alive after your assault, you must wait for them to execute the same number of turns until you can act again. Conversely, default allows you to forfeit your current turn in exchange for banking an extra move to use later.

Each member of your four-person team can brave and default independently of each other, allowing some to stay aggressive with all-or-nothing flurries of four moves at a time, while others take a step back and store moves as a safety net in case of trouble down the line. It can be wise, for example, when you're faced with a formidable enemy, to make sure one character (preferably a healer) stores up moves by defaulting to allow him to restore the entire team to full health if things start getting out of hand.

Take away the beautiful art style, and the first few hours provide little we've not seen before and little incentive to continue.

Stats and equipment slots are no different than in your average JRPG, but job classes force you to think about the best combinations.
Stats and equipment slots are no different than in your average JRPG, but job classes force you to think about the best combinations.

It's essential that you master this core dynamic of putting yourself in credit and debt if you harbor any desire whatsoever of making headway once the hand-holding stops. Certain enemies, especially bosses, have been designed to make victory incredibly difficult to achieve without intelligent use of brave/default. In particular, many tougher enemies are in the habit of healing themselves when on the verge of death--the only way to overcome them being to attack multiple times with brave at the right moment. In short: ignore the brave/default system at your peril.

If you are finding things too difficult, you have the option of altering the difficulty when, and as often as, you like. Yes, this means you can tone the challenge down for a single battle, only to go back to normal once you've progressed. An adjustable random encounter rate allows further customisation of the difficulty level, letting you do away with nonessential battles altogether or increase them to the point where it feels like you can't take a step without being assaulted. How interested you are in leveling up your characters determines how you approach random battles.

A robust and diverse job system broadens combat by bestowing each character with a well-defined set of abilities and stats. With 24 to choose from (although unlocking them all is easier said than done), there are a wide variety of combat styles to experiment with and potentially master. Indeed, a lot of the fun comes from testing out different combinations before you settle on a formula (or two) that you feel best suits a team of four. You're free to swap a character's job as often as you want, so if a particular mix isn't working for a certain boss, there's nothing preventing you from approaching it from a completely different angle until your next attempt. It's to Bravely Default's enormous credit that both the job and brave/default systems work so well in tandem.

If you are finding things too difficult, you have the option of altering the difficulty when, and as often as, you like.

The brave/default system lets you launch multiple attacks (or defenses) in a single turn.
The brave/default system lets you launch multiple attacks (or defenses) in a single turn.

It's a good thing that the core gameplay is so enticing and engrossing, because the story never manages to rid itself of the tedium and convolution of those opening few hours. While the characters, cliched though they are, give off enough charm to make them entertaining (the pantomime-grade villains are especially amusing), the moment-to-moment plot points lack much in the way of intrigue or surprise. Much of the narrative feels like filler designed to lengthen the game rather than elaborate on the story or provide added insight to events or a character's motivations.

A wide variety of well-crafted side missions are available and act as decent distraction, while an equally wide-ranging number of StreetPass integrations are also worthy of your time. In particular, a minigame akin to something you might find on Facebook has you rebuilding Tiz's destroyed village of Norende. This is achieved by clicking on buildable portions of a map screen and assigning workers to start construction--the more workers a construction zone has, the faster it will be built (including when your 3DS is in sleep mode). New workers are acquired with every registered StreetPass, allowing you to build faster and farm the reward items completed structures provide. Less welcome is a sleep point system; each spent point lets you freeze time and launch a free attack. One sleep point is gained for every eight hours your 3DS is in standby mode, or you can part with extra real-world cash and purchase points via a microtransaction.

Despite that unwelcome intrusion and the lacklustre storytelling, Bravely Default is one of the finest RPGs Square Enix has been involved with in recent times. While it's a stretch to call its battle mechanics groundbreaking, they certainly represent a welcome level of innovation that has a palpable effect on the way you approach combat and makes Bravely Default a highly entertaining adventure.

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The Good
Innovative battle system adds depth and complexity
Striking and engaging art style makes exploring new areas exciting
Job system is diverse and tempts you into trying new character builds regularly
Some clever StreetPass integration results in interesting minigames
The Bad
Much of the story is throwaway and derivative
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

John's time on the 3DS is dominated by the many quality Japanese role-playing games found on the machine, and he lives in the hope that one day something even better than Chrono Trigger will come along. Over 30 hours was spent in Bravely Default's world for this review.
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ewokachu

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This game is spectacular. I fully immersed myself in the games world simply because the story, characters, art and music made it come alive. If you are uncertain about this game, don't be. Play it and enjoy! You won't be disappointed.

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negativeions

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Edited By negativeions

It'd be nice if all RPGs were real-time with pausing. Turn based seems dated, archaic.

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LeFeverBeaver

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Edited By LeFeverBeaver

@CaveManCobb @cjtopspin lol that's like in the military: you can say anything you want to anybody of any rank if you preface it with, "With all due respect..." lol

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baldy40

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Review system should be like Kotaku. Simply YES or No :)

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Diegoh1212

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Edited By Diegoh1212

@baldy40 It would be like rating a game 100 or 0. Changes nothing. It is still some way to rate a game, but without numbers.

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NightScreamX

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Edited By NightScreamX

The gameplay featured in this game plus the graphics shown in FF XIII-3 and a well written story that comes close to FF V, VI or VII and SquareEnix may bring back to life the now awfully boring and linear FF Franchise.

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toffifee

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To be honest, I haven't played it, but from every gameplay video I have watched this looks like every other JRPG out there.

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Erebus

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I (barely) got through the intro to this game and shut it off. The intro isn't Final Fantasy X-2 levels of pain, but I found myself cringing at least a couple times.

In the first three minutes we get poorly-directed melodrama about saving the world, anime fan-service ass-shots, an amnesiac named RINGABEL (oh dear God), and a young boy whose village is destroyed and family (presumably) dead. The lack of originality is not what gets me here, it's the lack of originality AND some of the most repeated gaming tropes all rolled into one.

I think I've lost touch with what qualifies as good. It gets a 9.4 user score and all I can think of is how I many times I'm going to cheer at Ringabel's death throughout the game. I want to turn on Japanese voices and subtitles just so I can imagine a better story in my head.... But then I couldn't read the menus, and that would present a problem.


"Much of the story is throwaway and derivative."

Well, I can't say I wasn't warned.... but how can I see a story through to the end if I want the protagonists to fail in the first five minutes?!
Write something good or don't tell a story! How hard is that? Clearly, my opinion is an island.

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Sgt_Crow

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Edited By Sgt_Crow

@Erebus You're massively missing out. The story gets progressively better throughout the game. I find myself enjoying it more every hour in.

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advocacy

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Better than Final Fantasy XIII-3. 'Nuf said.

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Oloryn

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Edited By Oloryn

A really solid and pretty fresh take on an aging formula, I've been enjoying this so far...but I have to admit, I really tire of gratuitous perversion in many jrpgs, and this game has had me roll my eyes a few times now, particularly the old sage. To each their own, and I understand cultural differences, but the "horny old guy tactlessly hitting on the young women" thing stopped entertaining me when I was a teenager, I feel there are better (and funnier) ways of trying to convey chemistry (or lust) without it, and it would be nice to see writers give their characters more integrity and depth, while still maintaining the fun and addictive gameplay.


Soapbox over, that's really my only gripe so far (and one that I can look past), in an otherwise fantastic game.

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LeFeverBeaver

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@Oloryn Don't play Conception II then - the old church man constantly makes comments on how hot the young girls are and how he wishes he were younger to love them...

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surfwalrus

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Its a shame that all the best games are being made for the 3DS instead of the Wii U but its a good idea because the 3DS sells like hot cakes while the wii u is just a lame system. Its an HD wii with a clunky gimmicky controller. If nintendo was smart, they would have focused on a truly new system that had a fighting chance against sony and microsoft. I will say that after playing Bravely Defaults demo, Ill definitely buy it eventually but I will always be annoyed at the characters names (that you cant change btw). Sorry, but Ringabel? Really?!

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xolivierx

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FU Nintendo. F U truly. 3Ds is getting awesome games while the WiiU is gathering dust. If at least you would port the 3ds games to the wiiU people would not complain so much.

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horizonwriter

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Edited By horizonwriter

@xolivierx This is and isn't Nintendo's fault. It's not a game developed by them so the platform and/or port of the game would need to be worked out with the devs. If 3rd party devs don't want to commit to a specific console then there's not a lot a publisher can do about it. That being said, Nintendo failed to create and promote a console that appealed to gamers more, thereby driving devs away to begin with so it's a matter of reaping what you sow.

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meharu

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An HD Wii U port would be delicious.

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meatz666

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Gamespot gives more than 8 to a 3DS game once a year, tops.

This makes it very hard when you just bought the console, and want to get the best games in the platform.

You have two 9s, and 327 8s.

I don't care about score, but I'm pretty sure there are 8s that are better and are must-buy than others...


Just my 8 cents.

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holmh

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Edited By holmh

@meatz666 Read the review, you'll probably get more out of that than from looking at a number.

5 • 
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Ayato_Kamina_1

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I'm sorry, for a minute there I thought I read that a single player Jrpg had microtransactions... but that couldn't be right, right? I mean it's such a lame precedent to try and set for this type of game. It makes me think that rather than being innovative with including a time based sidequest, it's included the time factor to try and con impatient people into spending RL money just to speed things up. What if i want to 100% this game and play it all in one sitting. I can't because of the time constraints...


VERY NOT COOL. Microtransactions have a place and a purpose. This is neither. I'd actually not get this game based entirely on that fact, such is my loathing for microtransactions.

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abHS4L88

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@Ayato_Kamina_1

While I loathe microtransactions also, in no way will I allow it to prevent me from a game that I've been looking forward to, especially since this is one of the least offensive types of microtransactions.


I believe in voting with your wallet and in the case of microtransactions and DLC, I believe it'd be more effective to get the game and not buy any DLC or use the microtransaction feature so that the developers can see that it's a feature that people don't want in their games. The less people buy it, the more likely the developers will see that microtransactions are being used, upping the chances of it being present in future titles.

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Goron24

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@Ayato_Kamina_1 In this case the microtransactions are to speed up a game mechanic that naturally progresses during downtime. Assuming you won't play this for 24 hours straight I doubt it will be an issue

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larkin-54

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@abHS4L88 @Kjranu Skyrim and WoW arnt about the story they are about the world, Pokemon is about collecting and im not sure what ragnarok is. RPGs dont always have strong stories but they have to have a strong feature to back that up like an immersive world (skyrim/wow) handhelds typically cant do this so yeah i would say story is more important if only due to the platform.

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abHS4L88

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@Ayato_Kamina_1 @larkin-54

Not only that, but it's still a game, if the game itself is still highly enjoyable, why should it receive a 7 if the only weak aspect is its story? This review along with many others gave it high praise in every other aspect.


I can understand if maybe the story was absolutely terrible but that doesn't seem to be the case.

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Ayato_Kamina_1

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@larkin-54 @abHS4L88 @Kjranu Depends on what the reviewer looks for in an RPG... I, like yourself, ascribe a much higher rating to games that have great stories... apparently the reviewer does not. It's still their opinion.

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larkin-54

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ok this game is hyped up on the site and talked about in various 3ds videos so i was pretty excited to see a video review maybe some game play and commentary as well as the written review... so where is the video?

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cjtopspin

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Edited By cjtopspin

"Bravely Default"....


Are Japanese businesses (a very proud, honorable and noble people I might add) the only businesses on the PLANET who don't have some kind of vetting process for anything they translate into English?

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CaveManCobb

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@cjtopspin Calling anyone "very proud, honorable and noble" in todays world is a little silly.

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Goron24

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@cjtopspin I'm pretty sure that isn't a translation error and just the name of the game dude.. It is a combination of the two core mechanics braving and defaulting.... Your comment is invalid.. at least in this case.

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cjtopspin

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@Goron24 @cjtopspin First off who actually says, "Your comment is invalid" and doesn't expect to come off like a condescending super-nerd-d!ck? Second..."braving and defaulting" isn't a "thing"...its Engrish...plain and simple. It would be like calling "Quake", "Jumpy Shootiful". "Bravely Default" is Engrish. Just like Hatoful Boyfriend. My point is, condescending super-nerd-d!ck, considering this is extremely common it seems the whole Engrish thing has been accepted as mainstream by the anime world.

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MTAPPE

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@cjtopspin @Goron24 get over it, wanker!

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Kjranu

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The game should be a 7 rather than a 8 if the story is bad. Story is a MAJOR component of any RPG.

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abHS4L88

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@Kjranu

Like Pokemon? Or Skyrim? How about World of Warcraft? Ragnarok?


The review also states how entertaining the characters are so even if the story itself isn't that great, the characters are enough to carry things along.

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Baelath

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Edited By Baelath

Am I the only one who's tired of the new scoring system? Bring back the 8.5's! Everything is just an 8 or a 7. It feels unenthusiastic and brainless.

Does anyone remember the days of 9.2's and 7.8's? Ah. Those were the days...

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abHS4L88

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Edited By abHS4L88

Yet another great RPG to completely enjoy ^_^ Many times I've seen JRPGs getting criticized for their stories yet upon playing it, I would enjoy the story, even if it was ridiculous.

4 • 
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GeminonTraveler

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exactly what i had heard leading up to release.... the game has a bad story and bad writing, but the characters are occasionally fun.


completely not interested in an RPG with a bad story.

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WhiteTulip1

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lack of decent story and bad dialogue in the demo turned me off the game. the combat too is so boring

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DangerKitty2206

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@WhiteTulip1 The story presentation for the demo and the real game are completely different. However, since you did not like the combat this is moot since that is, far and away, the star of the show (and understandably an acquired taste.).

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notjustin

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i loved that game

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deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

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Nintendo is awesome.

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jake44

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Edited By jake44

Stereotypical rant of how it got an 8 and somehow making it seem like that's a bad thing.

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notjustin

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@jake44 to true

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SNESNOSTALGIA2

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8 has GOT to be the most given out score on this site. I would bet my life on it lol

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mkdms14

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Soo after Zelda LBW review Gamespot is back to giving out below average scores to great games, mean while COD III Black Panther(made up future title) is getting a 9 out of 10 despite the fact it has not brought anything new to the series for quiet some time.

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SNESNOSTALGIA2

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Lol cod black panther.

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johnman05

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Can't wait to finally play it next week. :D

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finalfantasy94

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Edited By finalfantasy94

Oh no its not a 9 its not awesome oh noes EPIC FAIL!!!!.........just joking :p.Hope everyone enjoys it.to be honest the title does nothing for me.

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LeFeverBeaver

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@finalfantasy94 I thought the title was lame, but I loved the demo. Was going to download it until I saw that it's like 13K blocks! I'm still gonna get the hard copy though.

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notjustin

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@finalfantasy94 i like it

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Bowser05

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Edited By Bowser05

I absolutely cannot wait for this to launch.

3 • 

Bravely Default: Flying Fairy More Info

Follow
  • First Released Oct 11, 2012
    released
    • 3DS
    Bravely Default is a traditional Japanese turn-based fantasy RPG with an epic story told via 3D visuals, multiple endings, engaging characters that can be customized with over 20 different job types, and a risk/reward battle mechanic that allows players to skip turns to use later for more powerful attacks, encouraging a deeper level of strategy.
    8.3
    Average Rating137 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
    Developed by:
    Silicon Studio
    Published by:
    Square Enix, Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing