Confession time: I’ve never finished a Final Fantasy game. Or Chrono Trigger. Or Secret of Mana. Or Xenoblade Chronicles. Still, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the JRPG genre even though I hardly ever finish them. I find plenty of reasons to give up. Sometimes, it’s repetitive and tedious gameplay. Sometimes, it’s not being able to keep up with overly complicated and poorly explained game mechanics. Sometimes, it’s when a game throws a wall at me and expects me to grind for a few hours to progress. Sometimes it’s as simple as not being able to maintain interest throughout a 100+ hour game. I’m glad to say that despite my JRPG history, I am pretty confident that I will finish Bravely Default.
Bravely Default does a great job of balancing old-school JRPG gameplay with modern, player-friendly features. The game allows you to tweak virtually every portion of the gameplay on the fly. If you are dying and need to make it back to an inn, you can change the enemy encounter rate to 0% and avoid getting killed on the way. Or if you want to grind (ughhh), you can double the encounter rate and quadruple the battle speed to make things go by faster. Also, the difficulty can be changed mid-game, at any point. If you are having trouble with a boss, but don’t feel like grinding, turn the difficulty down a notch. Combine all these features with well placed save points and the ability to skip cutscenes, and Bravely Default looks like one of the most player-friendly JRPGs I’ve ever played. Like I said, Bravely Default is an old school game and I expect it to include JRPG staples like grinding and long boss battles. But with the extensive player-friendly settings I don’t see that being a problem for me.
Bravely Default is a Final Fantasy game in everything but name. It has random turn-based battles, Phoenix Downs and a job system that includes Black, White and Red Mages. It will feel very familiar to anyone that has played a JRPG before. The highlight of Bravely Default’s otherwise generic JRPG battle system is the addition of the Brave/Default system. By choosing to “Brave” or “Default” in battle, you can store up power to unleash in a later turn. It sounds simple and it is. But it works well and I found myself excited to watch my team unleash massive attacks after building up Brave Points. It also adds a refreshing layer of strategy to a well-used style of gameplay.
I really enjoyed the look of the demo, especially the town design. I love the shift to 2D when you enter a town. I’m excited to see what the full game will offer in terms of town design, which is one of my favorite things about JRPGs. Another highlight of the demo was the music. From what I’ve heard so far, the songs were catchy and memorable. Really, the only thing I disliked about the demo was the structure, which basically consisted of several fetch quests in a row. I was rightfully alarmed, but happy to learn that this is not how the full game will be.
As far as demos go, Bravely Default is one of the best I’ve ever played. If you are even considering this game, do yourself a favor and download the demo right now. It is a standalone experience, so you won’t have to replay any missions in the full game (but you will be able to transfer over certain earned items). I did everything there is to do in the demo and finished with a time of six hours. Six hours! For a demo! That’s longer than many full games. I’m excited to play the full game in February. I’ll be buying my copy the day it comes out and I hope to add Bravely Default to my short list of finished JRPGs.