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.

Back To Top
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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WR_Platinum

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Sounds like a 9/10 review. Don't get how you drop 2 points for one negative. Oh well.

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Lambchopzin

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Edited By Lambchopzin

@WR_Platinum It's a pretty big negative, to be fair. In an RPG an uninteresting, derivative story is a pretty big black mark. People who play RPGs more for the story then the gameplay (My guess is that would be most RPG fans) will find that to be a big problem, and depending on how bad it actually is, kind of a dealbreaker. Reading that bit definitely has me somewhat apprehensive and I was really looking forward to this, but I'll probably give it a shot either way.


Not all pros/cons are of equal weight.

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Ultramarinus

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@Lambchopzin Yet somehow Pokemon XY also got an 8 with no mention of its kindergarten level of storytelling and tale that could be summarized as capturing pokemons and a small side-quest that involved a bad guy on its cons list. It should have been a 6-7 coupled with other negatives if we're to believe what you told.

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DangerKitty2206

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@Lambchopzin Agreed. Further, the amount that the REVIEWER disliked story, and the amount of input that has on their enjoyment of an RPG, could easily attest to the overall score. I tend to like this kind of thing, but if I don't get what I want from it then yes, a score would suffer even if my issue is one that would pertain to me. Remember, a review is the opinion of an individual. Someone else may play the game and totally enjoy the story, another person may play it and think the 'brilliant' combat is actually boring. It can be very hard to predict things from aspects like story, since what worked / didn't work for an individual is often harder to spell out since people don't necessarily want spoilers.

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Sfr528

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@Lambchopzin


Let's just pretend that the actual story is uninteresting and derivative... there is far more to an RPG than the overall story. The characters and their interactions are a pretty big deal in an RPG, and I can affirm that the characters in this game are all very well fleshed out with unique personalities. Every interaction with them was a joy to witness.


Besides that, the game contains an enjoyable world, a fantastic art style, a mesmerizing soundtrack, as well as battle system that is incredibly fun.


Now, to the main issue here -- the story is not bad. It's actually very entertaining and delves into some seriously dark subject matter. What does it matter if they are reusing the crystal plot point that was relevant in older games? Calling the plot derivative and uninteresting because it shares some similar plot points is ridiculous.

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Lambchopzin

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@Sfr528 @Lambchopzin I haven't played the game yet since it's not out in the US so I have no way of knowing personally, I was just explaining to the original commenter how one negative can be enough to drag a game down multiple points, from a reviewers perspective.


But I've always believed that having strong, likable characters is more important then an intriguing plot anyways. Good characters can save (for lack of a better word) a mundane or generic plot -- nothing can save a story from bad characters.


And as far as characters are concerned most reviews I've seen of the game so far give it high marks for that, just not for the general plot which is fine. Like I said, I'm more interested in the characters anyways.

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SNESNOSTALGIA2

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That's a great point I didn't think about it like that.

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lyncer777

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Square, I've missed you so so much!

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DangerKitty2206

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@lyncer777 Yes, this. Though I'm trying to keep my expectations, hopes, etc. in check. (It's Feb. 25th and the game will arrive in the mail today.)

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dussan2

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You know, maybe the Wii U wouldn't be such a failure if they had games like this on the console.

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biadesman

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@dussan2 The Wii U is anything but a failure. Its games are exceptional!

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Juan1988

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@biadesman @dussan2 a *commercial failure.


PS4 has already sold more units and X1 is only 1M units down... and these came out 4 months ago. Honestly you have way more good and interesting games on 3DS than on Wii U.

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hiphops_savior

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@biadesman @dussan2 Too bad everyone just wants to play intrusive games that spies on them and post video for you on Youtube or stream on Twitch. Damn, even FF9 understood how to put in compelling gameplay and tell a pretty good story.

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wizardboyus

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Edited By wizardboyus

@biadesman @dussan2 says the 1 person and 4 people who liked his comment. wii u is failing hard..but if it did have some more jrpgs at the level of The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Pandora's Tower, then there may be more of an audience for the system. As of right now, the Wii U specializes in games for children and half-assed ports w/ touch screen gimmicks. I would actually rather play the original Wii more than the Wii U currently.

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biadesman

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@wizardboyus So you're saying Super Mario 3D World is either a child's game or a half-assed port? I doubt it. If you've played it at all and tried to achieve 100%, I'm fairly certain it's almost impossible for a child to complete. Especially the final level on crown world! The Wii U is doing great, so what if it's too similar to the Wii? It's still sold a couple million consoles, and I can assure you that it's not flopping like the Xbox One or PS4 is right now. There are so many hardware/software failures with those consoles.
If you really don't like the selection of the games it had currently, just wait a few months because Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Brothers Wii U, Monolith Soft's: X, and Bayonetta 2 are coming out, they'll all be great games.

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JacketsNest101

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Edited By JacketsNest101

@wizardboyus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APWTJMyM4qg


And yes i know it hasn't released yet.

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G1ingy

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Edited By G1ingy

@jinzo9988 @G1ingy Oh wow, lol. Insecure AND racist huh?

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dimebagadam

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Edited By dimebagadam

Last paragraph: "While it's a stretch to call its battle mechanics groundbreaking"


The Good: "Innovative battle system adds depth and complexity"

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sknight175216

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Edited By sknight175216

@dimebagadam Those two statements aren't mutually exclusive.

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Xenro4

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@dimebagadam You can have depth and complexity without being groundbreaking.

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robbiejones

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@Xenro4 @dimebagadam yeh he clearly doesn't understand the diff between the two

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B0NES96

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@dimebagadam The full sentence is, "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." Groundbreaking would be a high level of innovation. He's trying to say that there's a low level of innovation

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riotinto876

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@dimebagadam drunk reviewer is drunk

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Metroididiot

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@jinzo9988 @G1ingy You are judging an entire country of people by a stereotype seen in some anime shows. By far not all of them do this, not to mention anime is but one small part of their culture and entertainment.

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AQWBlaZer91

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Well, well Square Enix put some effort after all into this game. Well it's a good first step back.

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KoRLumen

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Edited By KoRLumen

@AQWBlaZer91 Silicon Studios developed it, not Square. Square is only the publisher.

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AQWBlaZer91

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Edited By AQWBlaZer91

@KoRLumen Still it's lot better then all the other Square Enix disasters this year.

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00LiteYear

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How can the story be derivative? It was supposedly written by the writer that worked on Steins;Gate.

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Metroididiot

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@00LiteYear I don't think that makes him incapable of writing something flawed.

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00LiteYear

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@Metroididiot It's possible he could write something flawed, but the only way to find out is to play it personally, not just accepting a reviewers opinion.

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widdowson91

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Edited By widdowson91

"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."

At this point I highly doubt anything will beat Chrono Trigger. Still, we can all hope for something that wonderful.

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Omnicrono

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@widdowson91 Only a proper sequel to Chrono Trigger could be better. But, three key creators from the original game need to return to work on it, those being:


Akira Toriyama(art design)

Yasunori Mitsuda(music/score)

Yuji Horii(story/script)


If at least 2 out of these 3 don't return to work on it, it's probably not going to live up to the original.

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widdowson91

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This is everything I have wanted in a new Final Fantasy game for years now. Another game I want for my 3DS.

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G1ingy

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Edited By G1ingy

A lot of people here, most likely westerners I would assume, are awfully pre-occupied by the fact that the characters look a little young because of the art style drawn by people raised in a different culture. In fact, you're so preoccupied that the characters look a little young it's like that's the only thing some individuals are focusing on.


Hmmm....................some repressed inclinations I suppose? Closeted feelings you want to hide by condemning everything that arouses such feelings?

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hiphops_savior

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@G1ingy Hmmm, cibified characters. A princess who fell in love with a commoner. A dashing womanizer, and a knight who is doing their duty. What does that remind me of? Oh, and was there a small kid wearing a bent hat?

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The_Last_Paladi

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@G1ingy That's a rather naive way of looking at it. You do realize that your question could easily (and naively) be reversed, correct?

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wizardboyus

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@The_Last_Paladi @G1ingy ^ XD

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deactivated-597794cd74015

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@G1ingy

Really ? I always thought it was because JRPGs are mundane repetitive garbage. Except for Earthbound and Ni No Kuni of course.

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Lambchopzin

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@faizanhd @G1ingy And the majority of western RPGs aren't?

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Bowser05

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Oh niiice! I totally forgot about this game! I'm happy it turned out good and I can't wait to pick this up.

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nate1222

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No video review?

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meatz666

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Edited By meatz666

They save videos for more important games... Like Peggle 2. Lol

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Prime_28

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No video? Lame.

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KingTrax

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Edited By KingTrax

Looks great! Been loving the line-up of the 3DS after borrowing one and then getting my own. This looks to be a great addition. I'll hold off on the "Only an 8?! You SUCK GAMESPOT!" until the rest of us can actually play it. Still a couple months from now.

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pcty

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@kingtrax European are already playing it.

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Diegoctba

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Another great 3DS game? They need to stop making that, i can't follow the releases for the device.

#leave3DSalone

13 • 
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MeMichael182

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Am I missing something. This game looks amazing and I want to buy it but all i'm seeing is February 2014 releases. Why such an early review?

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pcty

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Edited By pcty

@MeMichael182 February for NA but is out in Eu

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MeMichael182

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Edited By MeMichael182

@pcty @MeMichael182

Ah thanks. Now I know how it feels not to be able to play a game others can.

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RedLegZeff

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@MeMichael182 @pcty This has been happening to us a lot lately with the ds. Proffesor layton game is out in europe already, but not til next year here. I've seen a couple others too. Anyone happen to know why? Seems like if they translated it to english already they could release it.

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pcty

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@MeMichael182 @pcty OK

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GameYakuza

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some say they name it like this because the final fantasy brand is definitely tainted.

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pcty

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@GameYakuza Or just because it wasn't developed by Square Enix.

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AndCarlsen

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Hopefully this becomes Square Enix's new JRPG series, since FF is going on a more action-oriented path. I'm fine with that.

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LeFeverBeaver

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Edited By LeFeverBeaver

Definitely buying. Although I do wish they would stop making every character in their games look like either children or androgynous teens. My kingdom for a dumpy 30-something protagonist that is neither good looking or repulsive. I could finally identify with him!! lol

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Edited By Newhopes

This is a old school Final fantasy in everyway apart from the name, best RPG I've played in a good while and best Square game since The world ends with you.

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Bravely Default: Flying Fairy More Info

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  • 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