Review

Bravely Default Review

  • First Released Oct 11, 2012
    released
  • 3DS

Brave days of old.

$40.45 on Walmart
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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.
207 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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berserks

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Wow , stop , Silicon Studio made that game not square-enix .Give praise where it s due . You would know if you actually truly read the review .

" 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 "



7 • 
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LeFeverBeaver

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@berserks nah bro- look to the side -> It is SE, just developed by Silicon.

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berserks

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@LeFeverBeaver @berserks It s like saying book publisher wrote the book they publish .Publisher might have a little to do with the book but can t get credit for most of it .

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berserks

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@LeFeverBeaver @berserks Ya some of those titles in movies and tv shows confuse me too sometime :)

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LeFeverBeaver

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@berserks @LeFeverBeaver Oh okay, I see. I'm always confused by that sort of thing - just like at the beginning of any movie or end of any T.V. show there's like a hundred different production companies and logos and splash screens so I never can tell exactly what part each company contributed. Thanks though!

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TrueProphecy22

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@LeFeverBeaver @berserks It's just published by Square-Enix. The developer is the company that crafts the game.

9 • 
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garywood69

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Weird review, didn't seem to be very positive but then gave an 8. And you said nothing about the incredible backdrops or the soundtrack!

3 • 
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Gelugon_baat

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@garywood69

You may want to notice the caption for one of the screenshots before you write down that second sentence of yours.

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garywood69

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@Gelugon_baat @garywood69 Yeah I saw that but given that the visuals are one of the main draws of this game, I'd expect at least a paragraph or so.

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garywood69

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Edited By garywood69

@Gelugon_baat @garywood69 Lol yes? It's also really easy to cover all of the key areas when writing a review. You're making it sound like I'm criticising an exceptional piece of art that is so hard to accomplish that we should begrudge them the trivial oversights.

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Gelugon_baat

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@garywood69

Well, it's really easy to demand something when you are not the writer of the review, is it not?

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VakarianGirl

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@garywood69 That was my opinion, too. Odd.

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anab0lic

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best thing from square in years

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Stebsis

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Edited By Stebsis

I still don't get why this isn't named FF: Bravely Default, it's like Square-Enix wanted to do something new but accidentally made the best Final Fantasy since like XII :D

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bjornborgue

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@Stebsis I haven't played this game but at first glance it seems to be missing the staples of a FF: wispy "men" and atrocious dialog.

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DepressiveMan

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@Stebsis Yeah they're pretty stupid, they'd get way more sales by just putting Final Fantasy in the name, guess they don't like money.

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Shadowmax889

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Edited By Shadowmax889

@DepressiveMan @Stebsis it was developed by Silicon Knights, SE only plubished it.

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crazeon

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Edited By crazeon

@Shadowmax889 @DepressiveMan @Stebsis Silicon Studio, not Silicon Knights, the studio that made Too Human and X-Men Destiny...if they made this game that would be very interesting

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Chunkydory

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"the impressive roster of Nintendo 3DS Japanese RPGs"? Excuse me? Have I missed something? There are not that many JRPGs out for the 3ds yet as far as I know. At least not outside of Japan. Also, the picture shows a Monk equipped with a sword, which is just stupid.

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Stebsis

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Edited By Stebsis

@chunkydoryFire Emblem, Kingdom Hearts DDD, Shin Megami Tensei IV and Devil Summoner and Devil Survivor, 2 Etrian Odyssey's, Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Pokemon, Tales of the Abyss, Bravely Default, some eshop titles, you might argue that Zelda is rpg too, and these probably aren't all... yeah, I'd say you've missed something

27 • 
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baxwam

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I cant't wait to get my hands on this game.

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sladakrobot

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Edited By sladakrobot

SquareEnix can make again a good RPG? Good :)

Now,replace those kid charas with adult looking ones and bring it as a downloadable game for consoles...thx.

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FallenOneX

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New game for the list, wife will be pleased.

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Gamerno66666

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Edited By Gamerno66666

Damn it i need to buy a 3DS.

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swedensior

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@gamerno66666 Buy XL ofcourse

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GOGOHeadray

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@swedensior @gamerno66666 Depends if the extra 30 bucks is worth it to you. Even more of a differance with the 2ds.

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hitomo

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pay to win and pedophile artstyle ... what happened?

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PosiTVEMinD355

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Looks promising. Another great 3DS title

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Prats93

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Already got this in Australia, its basically the best Final Fantasy since XII.

11 • 
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Necrotron

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More reasons to pick up a 3DS this year it seems.

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Lhomity

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Edited By Lhomity

Between this gorgeous looking gem on 3DS, that new Ys on Vita, the FFX and X-2 remasters, and Lightning Returns, my start to 2014 is apparently all about jRPG's. In advance, I'd like to apologize to my partner, my friends and my work colleagues.


Edit: Forgot about Tales of Symphonia Chronicles coming in February. FFFUUUuuu. My life. It is over.

3 • 
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cavs25

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@Lhomity I've been thinking of picking up Ys....If you have played it do you recommend it?

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Aladrael

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@cavs25 @Lhomity I recently received the copy of the YS Silver Anniversary Edition that I pre-ordered from a Canadian game store (i live in Turkey,so it took some time to arrive :p) Well, YS doesnt have the best story telling or the graphics around, but game's amazingly balanced/fast phased combat system and great soundtracks just makes you become an addict to it. I'm already 15 hours into it and I just started playing yesterday :) I definitely recommend it to any action rpg lover.

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Lhomity

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@cavs25 @Lhomity It's not out in my country (Australia) until February, sorry. Although I could import it; I'll be waiting for it.


From what I've seen and read though, it looks excellent. Should be money well spent I think.

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Bigboi500

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So many awesome games on 3DS, it's hard to find the time to play them all.

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pyro1245

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damn this looks awesome! why all the good looking games for 3ds grumble grumble. I guess I'll get one eventually to play all these cool looking rpgs but shit... I still don't want to sit at home and play games on a mobile device.

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xGamePlayerx19

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Yes! Didn't know this got a localized released date yet, can't wait. My 3DS shall get endless hours of use from this, I can already see it.

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DinoBuster

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Edited By DinoBuster

Outstanding. I'll personally consider this the real Final Fantasy 13 in place of the on-rails cut scene buffet that I found the actual product to be. Really looking forward to this game.

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Rokon37

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I like it when SE takes a risk on a new RPG property outside their comfort zone of Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, or Dragon Quest (even if this one is outsourced, but it that's what it takes for ideas to flourish, than so be it). Reminds me of their younger, more daring 16-bit days.


Importantly, it's up to the fans to support this, though, if we want this to continue to be a thing with them.

6 • 
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kaiserdisco

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@Rokon37 oh yes definitely but to be fair this is basically just final fantasy


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padako

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mmm hand drawn. purrrrrty

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psuedospike

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Edited By psuedospike

Been waiting for this for a long time now...still months to go here in the states. :(


Still, I've been playing P4G on Vita lately and I wonder if any other turn-based RPG will ever live up to it.

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Oldboy08

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@psuedospike Persona 5 might.

5 • 
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Beniboybling

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Seems a little too high a score for an RPG with a poor story...

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G1ingy

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@Darth_Aloysius They've given higher scores for games with far FAR worse story and gameplay

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GOGOHeadray

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glad to see a review for this; I was thinking about picking this one up.

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pcty

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Edited By pcty

This game looks great! Good to know that there is a sequel (Bravely Second) on the way.

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nick206210

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This game and Zelda are basically my reason for a 3DS.

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Melchiorus

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I'd just like to say that this new format for reviews since the new website was put together is fantastic. You guys are doing a fantastic job and I look forward to seeing more of it. That aside, I'm pretty excited for this particular game. Seems like there are lots of reasons to buy the 3DS now.

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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