I am a really big fan of SquareEnix, or as I like to call it, Squeenix. I haven’t played every Final Fantasy game, but I have played a lot of them. The game that made me become obsessed with video games was Final Fantasy X, the first PlayStation 2 game I ever played.
When I moved to the dorms at Radford University in 2004 for undergraduate, the first thing I did was buy a PS2. No, seriously. I arrived, I put down my stuff, I said goodbye to my parents, and I went downtown to explore. There was a small pawnshop on the corner, and in the window was a PS2 for a hundred bucks. I happened to have a hundred bucks, meant for buying furniture for my dorm room, but hey, a PS2 is like furniture, right? And as I was an “independent” adult now, I could play video games without my parents breathing down my neck and declaring how much my brain was rotting RIGHT NOW. So I marched right in and bought that motherfucker. I took it back to my dorm room and hooked it up to my TV before I remembered that I needed games for it to do me any good. So I messaged one of my friends from high school, who was also attending Radford.
Me: So I just blew all my spending money in like ten minutes because I decided I needed to buy a PS2.
Friend: OMG YESSSS. Come over right now because I have a game YOU MUST PLAY
The game in question happened to be Final Fantasy X. I had heard of Final Fantasy because I was really into anime, and at anime conventions, you will see an average of 1.5 Final Fantasy cosplayers per second, so I was really excited. I went straight back to my dorm room and played that shit ALL NIGHT LONG.
Next to my Atari 5200 and my cousin’s Sega Genesis and N64, Final Fantasy X was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was fully voice acted, had a complicated and interesting plot, and adorable creatures like moogles and chocobos. It was everything I loved about anime, only it was interactive! I was completely hooked.
And that is the story of how I became a gamer and fell in love with Squeenix. Of course, now that I am older and wiser, I know that blitzball is a boring, broken mess, the voice acting is pretty wooden, and Titus is whiny pretty boy. But Yuna still rocks, and Final Fantasy X will always be near and dear to my heart. And I will continue to pay attention whenever Squeenix releases a new RPG, even after the deep disappointments of the FF XIII games.
Bravely Default is a weirdly named RPG that I wasn’t even aware of until a friend (the SAME FRIEND who lent me Final Fantasy X all those years ago) posted the trailer on her Facebook wall. I did a little dance in my cubicle while I watched it, and downloaded the demo from the Nintendo eShop the day it went up.
First of all, this game is absolutely gorgeous. The 3D effects are stunning, the world map is lovely, and Ancheim, the city you get to explore, is insanely detailed. Navigating the city is really cool, because when you enter, you are treated to this amazing long view of the gears and workings of the town, and then when you start to move, the camera zooms in on your character as he moves through the levels of the city. It’s a wonderful visual effect, and I never get tired of it. Sometimes I stop moving to let the camera zoom out so that I can move again to let it go back in. And in my head I go, “Wheeeee!”
There isn’t much to the demo, plot-wise. You don’t get any introduction to the characters, and you have no idea what’s going on or where you are. You are tasked to rebuild Norende, which is apparently Tiz’s hometown, using StreetPass, a function that I haven’t actually been able to use because the only StreetPass tags I get in my rural Southern Oregon town are for Pokemon X/Y from the same two people. But the idea is neat. I believe you can assign your StreetPass-encountered minions to different jobs in the town, building back up after whatever horrible thing happened to it. Luckily, even if you only have one dood to work with, you can slooowly work at rebuilding things. I’ve managed to unlock the weapons shop, the items shop, and the armor shop, and each shop unlocks more items for sale in-game at save points.
The meat of the demo is completing simple quests for townsfolk. And I do mean simple. The “fetch me 6 lizard gizzards for a lame excuse of a reason!” kind of quests. So I’ve been running around the world map, having the same three encounters over and over again. This is surprisingly not as boring as it sounds. The game has a job system, similar to Final Fantasy III or Tactics, and your jobs level separately from your character levels. So there’s a lot of incentive to keep grinding, because every job you level up unlocks more cool abilities.
You can also combine abilities from more than one job. For instance, my Tiz is currently a Ninja. But before I had him be a Ninja, I made him a Swordmaster. So now while he is leveling up his Ninja abilities, he can still use his previously unlocked Swordmaster abilities. There are also Support Abilities that can be assigned from more than one job after you have unlocked them. So there is an excellent amount of character customization possible with this system.
So you pick your jobs, equip your doods, and then run around on the world map to stirring orchestral music, looking for random encounters. When you are thrust into battle, awesome music with rocking trumpets plays, and you rain down some righteous murder on some monsters. Battle also looks wonderful, by the way, with really nice character sprites and three-dimensional backgrounds that look like they’ve been painted with watercolors. Monster models are also highly detailed and I have not run into any palette swaps yet, although there certainly could be some in the full game.
The battle system is a turned based affair with a twist. In addition to MP, your characters power their abilities with BP, Brave Points. These are a bit like Action Points that you may have encountered in other RPGs, but they work a little differently. Your characters generally enter battle with zero BP, although you have a random chance to start out with 1, much like you often have a random chance to get a preemptive attack. Even if you don’t have any BP, though, you can still choose to spend it, pushing your BP into the negative. This will cause you to skip as many turns as you have negative BP, which sucks, but by spending BP, your characters can take extra actions or fuel powerful abilities. On the other hand, you can chose to have your characters Default, which causes them to skip a turn, but boosts defense and stockpiles BP. This system named the game, and it’s actually pretty cool once you get the hang of it.
So, for example, I am running around the world map when I meet a White Cait and two Venomous Snakes. I am still pretty low level, and I know that asshole of a White Cait is going to cast Aeroga on one of my characters and probably murder them in one hit. So I have Tiz, my Ninja, enter Brave mode, giving him two actions, and I attack the Cait twice. Then I have Agnes, my White Mage, go Default to boost her defense and stockpile some BP in case she has to do a bunch of healing. Ringabel (that is seriously HIS name, snicker), currently a Valkyrie, goes into negative BP to use his Crescent Moon ability, which deals damage to every enemy, and Edea, my Red Mage, enters Brave mode to cast Thunder twice. After assigning actions to every character, I press GO, and death rains down upon mine enemies! Even though most of my characters will have to skip turns after this assault, only one very damaged Venomous Snake remains after all that bludgeoning and Thunder magic, and my Defaulted White Mage finishes him off easily with a whack of her mace. This system opens a lot more strategic possibilities than a traditional turn-based system.
This game, quite simply, looks awesome. I will be honest, I don’t know why it isn’t a Final Fantasy game. It’s got the job system, the classes (White Mage, Red Mage, Ninja, etc), and the spells (Fira, Aero, Cura, etc) like a Final Fantasy game. It’s got the monsters (Cait, Adamantite) like a Final Fantasy game. It is my understanding that there are crystals involved in the plot, as well. Throw in some Moogles and you’ve got a damn fine Final Fantasy game. So I admit to being somewhat mystified as to why Squeenix decided not to use the power of that franchise for this game. Bravely Default has been out for awhile in Japan, and it’s done pretty well. I think this game would have increased confidence in the Final Fantasy franchise after the betrayals of the XIII games and the disastrous MMO release.
Either way, I’m buying it. Tragically, I don’t think I can afford the collector’s edition right now, even though WANT.
It’s not quite as exciting as the Japanese collector’s edition, but it comes with an art book, the soundtrack, and a pack of AR cards. I am happy to see another game using the AR technology. It’s such a cool thing. So, in conclusion, if you’ve got the funds, this game is definitely worth the pre-order. And pick up the demo if you haven’t already! Bravely Default is the Final Fantasy game you’ve been wanting to play, and it’s a game that makes me excited that I own a 3Ds.