As I attempt to complete my New Year's Resolution of completing all of my videogames, I figured it might also be fun to discuss my thoughts after beating a game. There will be spoilers, but they will be hidden by default! They'll look a little something like this:[su_spoiler title="Click to open a spoiler!" style="fancy"]The cake is a lie![/su_spoiler]Let's begin.
This review will be of the Nintendo 3DS game, Bravely Default. Published by Square Enix in 2012 and updated in 2013 in Japan, the game came across to North America in February 2014. Following recent criticism from fans over the disappointments in recent Final Fantasy installments (and the almost decade-long development over Final Fantasy XV), this game certainly gave a breath of fresh air for the company.The reception has been mostly positive, scoring 85% on Metacritic. How does it stack up to my rating? Let's find out!
Bravely Default follows the classic pattern of a Japanese RPG. You control four characters and travel across the country to save the world from a mysterious darkness/evil force. Characters can have specific classes (called "Jobs") that can enhance certain traits. Depending on what you're going for, your character builds can be significantly different from your friends. These are the traditional ideas that Bravely Default inherits, but includes a twist that blends the old with new concepts, making for an interesting take on the Japanese RPG genre. These concepts will be explained later on.
The game follows four main characters on their quest throughout the world of Luxendarc. Each character faces a conflict in the beginning that pushes them to fulfill their destiny. You start off in the capital of the Caldis Region, called Caldisla as a young boy named Tiz Arrior. After a few skirmishes in the capital, you wind up being paired with the rest of the main characters. Settling differences aside, they journey through the world to remove the corruption of the four crystals surrounding Luxendarc. These crystals are what have caused multiple calamities throughout the world, including murky seas, extreme heat and no wind, and lack of precipitation for vegetation. By removing the corruption from these crystals, Luxendarc can be saved from destruction, according to a cryst-fairy that accompanies them named Airy.The story presents a very classic JRPG. A band of characters go off to save the world from some mysterious darkness. The conflicts that arise between the protagonists are all very real, and in some ways, can be related to our world. Yes, this is a game based on fantasy and fiction, but extracting the main points of each conflict can be completely relatable to human nature. For example, many conflicts faced between characters are that of different beliefs (i.e. think religions of our world). To not bore you with too many details, there are two strong "religions" portrayed in this game: those who believe in the fact that the crystals were meant to be worshipped, as they controlled the fate of the world in a godlike sense, and those who believed that the crystals were meant to be used for humanity. These ideas are Crystalism and Anticrystalism, respectively. Many regions face conflicts against each other due to differing beliefs, hence causing much instability around the world. Again, while we don't worship such things, we can relate this to the different entities that can be worshipped in different religions.A big annoyance that many people have witnessed is the second-half of the game's storyline. No spoilers here, but it's just not as interesting as the first-half. That being said, the story does pick back up later on, following up with surprise after surprise. Notably, a lot of things come to a resolution near the end, and it's pretty amazing what realizations are discovered. Much of this discussion is left in spoilers below, if you don't care and would like to read. I was left pretty speechless, in a good way.
Beautiful. Each region that the group travels to is unique, and nothing feels like it's been reused. You start off in a prosperous capital full of wealth, and you venture off into a deserted town deprived of wind and dependent on time. You then move towards a region full of forests and flowers, with a town heavily drugged with the idea of always needing to look pristine, flattering, and attractive. Following that, a region strife with war and a volcano on the urge of erupting, potentially destroying the entire region. Finally, a region full of snow and "immortality" thanks to the crystal's power; the city of Eternia. Every area of Luxendarc has its own quirks that makes it unique, and it's definitely refreshing looking at these regions in detail.All characters, whether major or minor, good or bad, are all presented very well. The voice actors did an outstanding job with portraying the happiness, sadness, anger, and excitement of these characters. While the main quest is obviously an important part of the game, learning about each character's past really gives you a good insight on their inner motives and evolution of their personality.
The game follows a turn-based system, where you can string multiple attacks together (known as "Brave"). If you'd rather wait and try to save up your attacks later, you can do what's known as "Default." Every Default saves a Battle Point, and you can have at max 3. The rest is math. For instance, if you currently have 1 BP, you could Brave once and be left with -1 BP at the end of your turn. You don't need the same amount of BP when you Brave, but the max you can push your BP is -3. When your BP is negative, you can't do anything until you've recovered back to 0.As mentioned earlier, each character takes on a specific Job. There are 24 different kinds of jobs, some being fairly standard in RPGs (mages, knights, synergist, etc). However, what makes Bravely Default a little different is that on top of having a Job, a character can utilize an additional set of abilities from a different Job. This immediately gives way for having a seemingly-endless set of character combinations that could be utilized strategically. For instance, you could have a character be a White Mage (i.e. "healer") but also be able to use Pirate-based attacks. The combinations are plentiful, so you don't feel like you always need to have specific characters be built around specific jobs. In addition to this, characters can also have passive abilities that can be inherited from any job, so long as they have reached whatever level that's required for that job. Again, endless possibilities make for what is considered a traditional RPG much more intriguing.
The main characters you control throughout the game are all of varying personalities. Let's go through each character with a much more in-depth view of their personality. Tiz Arrior is a young boy who lived in Norende Village with his younger brother, Til. At the very beginning of the game, we learn about his past. Due to the corruption of the crystals, a Great Chasm opens up and wipes out the entire town. Tragedy strikes, as he attempt to hang on to his brother at the edge of the chasm, but then loses his grip.He is deemed as a "Miracle Man" for having survived the Great Chasm swallowing up his hometown, but then meeting the crystal vestal Angés shortly after. His resolve is to repair his hometown in honor of his little brother, while helping Angés clear the corruption from the crystals. He has a very strong sense of duty to protect her at all costs, potentially as a result of him not being able to protect/save his brother. Among that, he's a modest and sometimes naïve character that has his resolves that pushes him throughout his quest.[su_spoiler title="Character Development Spoilers" style="fancy"]One of the main things that makes his character so fascinating and "real" is that he never truly survived the destruction of the Great Chasm. While it was said he did, we learn that he was given a special power and brought back to life. Who brought him back to life, then? Recall at the very beginning of the game, a cryst-fairy asks you this: What does she mean by this? Let's continue on. At the end of the game (in the true ending), we notice this last scene happen:We see Tiz mention this, go to his grave, and then notice a red light come out of him. He then falls down, as if he were unconscious. The thing he borrowed was a power that came from a celestial. He was brought back to life to fight against the evil that was plaguing the world. But who was the celestial?The celestial was you, the gamer. The cryst-fairy asks if you would stay to the end, meaning you would provide the power and resolve to help Tiz fight back against Ouroboros. Once you beat the game, the power "goes away," in a sense...meaning that Tiz's life support is no longer necessary. Crazy, right?If you recall certain segments in the game, you'll notice that the celestial theory is proven quite extensively in the last fight. For one, Ouroboros tells Tiz that there's a celestial presence within him. Secondly, as you fight Ouroboros, the game meshes the background of the celestial world with the front-facing camera of the 3DS. In a sense, this means that Ouroboros was attempting to expand his power not just within his world, but the gamer's world as well. And it was up to you, the celestial controlling Tiz, to prevent your world from being controlled by him.Yeah, it's breaking that fourth dimension. Absolutely amazing.[/su_spoiler]Angès Oblige is the wind vestal of Luxendarc. She's responsible for providing prayers to the crystal, as well as performing rituals that must be done to the crystals as part of the Crystalism belief. She first encounters Tiz in Caldisla and requests aid in trying to remove the darkness from each crystal. She's guided by a fairy named Airy, who has knowledge of the Crystal Orthodoxy and knows that removing the darkness will save Luxendarc from destruction.She's a timid and innocent character, and she's often made fun of (in a gullible way) for how innocent she can be. She relies heavily on Tiz for her guidance and support in pursuing her quest.[su_spoiler title="Character Development Spoilers" style="fancy"]We notice a heavy connection between her and Tiz later on in the game. This is especially noted when they visit a sage to explain future events. It is at this moment that they are left alone, and the trust and bond between them is heavily emphasized.Also, the Angès we see at the very beginning of the game in the cutscene is actually the "angel" that descended upon Yulyana and Lord DeRosso. She brings a message to you, the celestial, to help guide the Warriors of Light into fighting the darkness. It's hinted that she is the angel, but we truly see this development near the end.[/su_spoiler] Edea Lee is a member of the Eternian Sky Knights, a force used to capture the crystal vestals as aforementioned of the Anticrystalism belief. Her initial duty was to capture Angès; however, after seeing how her comrades ruthlessly used innocent people to get their ways, she switched and allied with Tiz and the gang. Because of her acts, she is deemed a traitor.She's a strong-willed and opinionated girl, but applies herself to any conflict. She has a sense of justice and believes in doing what's right, versus what the council thinks is right (hence being a traitor). She's silly, supports Angès and Tiz, and makes fun of Ringabel as often as she can. Her will to fight against the forces of her hometown, including the King (which happens to be her own father), makes her determined yet scared. Also, she's a glutton and is a fan of sweets (contrary to what people may think).[su_spoiler title="Character Development Spoilers" style="fancy"]It seems apparent of the flirty nature that Ringabel imposes upon Edea. While it's never official, it does seem like something could happen between the two.Further, we notice that after she learns about Alternis Dim's past and who he really is, she becomes much more understanding to Ringabel.[/su_spoiler]Ringabel is a character who suffered amnesia; that is to say, Ringabel may just be a name someone gave him. Some say certain things to him may ring a bell. See what I did there? Aha...Anyway. He holds onto a book called "D's Journal," which happens to have memories of the future. Despite his lack of memories, he's a charmer and attempts to go after as many girls as he can. In particular, he likes acting around Edea, and she doesn't ever have it.His resolve is to figure out his past, and why he can't remember anything. He tags along with the group since traveling might help stir up his memories.[su_spoiler title="Character Development Spoilers" style="fancy"]We learn later on that Ringabel was Alternis Dim of the past world. This highlights the reason why Alternis Dim is always wanting to protect and save Edea; he was unable to save her in his first world. This further helps emphasize why Ringabel feels passionate about Edea.He's also the first person to realize the evil intentions of Airy.[/su_spoiler]The character dynamics between these four are terrific. From making fun of each other, to seeing how others react to certain ideas, to picking the other up when they need it, it's certainly a strong balance of characters.
Revo does a commanding job of all the music that they produced for this game. I cannot get enough of the soundtrack, especially the songs towards the end of the game. They capture a lot of the emotions portrayed throughout the story and make great use of stringed instruments. The combinations of violins and electric guitars make for a classic, but new feel. If you've ever watched Attack on Titan, you'll notice similarities with accent-driven trumpet parts and grandiose melodies. This game has one of the best soundtracks I've ever listened to. If you thought "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII was epic, try listening to one of the last songs in the soundtrack. If you don't care about music spoilers, I've posted a video of Revo performing the last song live in the spoilers section below (no gameplay footage is shown, just the band!). It's a shame they won't be working on the second game, since the compositions that they've produced fits so well with this game's atmosphere.I present to you two different songs from this soundtrack, to give you a taste of the wide variety of themes that get portrayed in this game. This first one is called "Conflict's Chime." You can probably guess where this song is played, which is during battles. Again, for those who've watched Attack on Titan, you can notice the fun, accentuated trumpet parts.[audio mp3="http://coreyjustinroberts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/1-09-Conflicts-Chime.mp3"][/audio] This next one is called "World of Scattering Flowers." Huge difference in overall mood of the song. Obviously, used in a sad part of the game. The combination of violins and piano make this a gorgeous sounding piece.[audio mp3="http://coreyjustinroberts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/1-18-World-of-Scattering-Flowers.mp3"][/audio] [su_spoiler title="Final Songs Spoilers" style="fancy"]"Serpent Eating the Ground." This song has got to be one of my favorite songs from any soundtrack. The way they are able to not only mesh in previous battle themes, but then to include character themes near the end, and then allude to the victory theme as though it may be the small positive highlight in the song...jeez. It gives me chills just thinking about it. I cannot get over how amazing it is.For reference, here's the song, played live.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Nil0qRve4k[/su_spoiler]
Bravely Default is one of those games that you become pleasantly surprised with. With Square Enix battling with some disappointments in their signature franchise, Bravely Default brings a new light to the company. People are clamoring for the sequel, and for good reason.There are some issues with the game that are pretty obvious to those who have played it, those notably being that the second half of the game isn't as strong as its first half. Much of the annoyance comes from having to grind your characters to higher levels, and the story seems to stagnate for quite a bit. This is honestly one reason why I put down the game for a bit, since I felt like my characters were not at high enough levels and I had no idea how to level them up fast. However, I became sucked in once more once the story started rolling again.Character conflicts and development can be related to what we deal with in reality, which makes for a more emotional impact on certain key events. This, in tandem with a beautiful, imaginative world, and a great storyline that leaves you hanging on every chapter, makes for a truly wonderful experience.
Pros+ Great character development and chemistry+ Environment is beautiful and unique+ Soundtrack is one of the best of the past few years+ Use of 3DS capabilities are utilized effectively and appropriately (gyroscope events, AR reader, Streetpass)+ Traditional RPG elements, mixed with some new-age ideas make for endless possibilities+ Much of the storyline will surprise youCons- Second half of the game isn't as fun- Story stagnates a bit in aforementioned second half- Grinding near the end kind of sucks
Final Rating: 9.5
What do you think? If you've played it, leave me your thoughts!Until next time,Corey