Why We Love Bravely Default
By Mary Rakas
When Bravely Default was released for the Nintendo 3DS system in North America in 2014, it changed role playing video games as we know them.
I’ve been an avid gamer for most of my life. The RPG genre is one of my favorites. Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, and Shining Force rank among my staple series in the RPG category. Perhaps a negative to role playing games is that they all follow the same generic system. Most games in the genre use a turn-based or an active time battle system.
Most RPGs also follow a standard system for leveling up. Whether they belong to a ‘class’ or a ‘job’, characters gain experience and increased stats through combat. With few exceptions, such as Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and Final Fantasy V, a character’s job or class cannot be altered. For example, a fighter cannot be turned into a mage.
Bravely Default threw a fantastic monkey wrench into the turn-based combat model. Players input actions for all four party members to start a turn, with player-controlled units and CPU units acting in order of the highest speed stat to the lowest. The difference? Players can ‘brave’ to use multiple actions in a single turn. In most RPGs, players can defend for a turn to take less damage. In Bravely Default, the ‘default’ action not only limits damage, it also builds up brave points. Using these points, players can perform for or five actions in one turn depending on what skills the character has equipped. However, if a player uses multiple turns without having extra BP, he or she will go ‘in the red’ and be unable to act until the counter resets.
Bravely Default also enables characters to change jobs at any time. All four characters start out as ‘freelancers’, but players can unlock 23 more jobs. In addition to leveling up characters, players can earn job points to unlock abilities and skills for each job. You can fight one battle as a ninja and the next as a vampire. However, each job must be leveled up for each character.
Originally intended as a sequel to Final Fantasy IV, Bravely Default kept some features from the series. For example, players can perform special weapon-based moves similar to those in Final Fantasy XI. A variation on the summons system from Final Fantasy IV is even included. The ability to change a character’s job is similar to that of Final Fantasy V, though Bravely Default expanded on it, allowing players to combine abilities from up to five other jobs.
A vast array of scenery and cultures abound in Bravely Default. From the desert sands of Ancheim to the lively gardens of Florem, surprises are always in store as players traverse the world of Luxendarc. The backgrounds are hand-drawn, giving locations and the various inhabitants their own flavor. The art style, in tandem with the 3D feature of the Nintendo 3DS, gives the game the distinctive look of a pop-up book. The design is definitely a path less followed.
The wind, water, earth, and fire crystals keep Luxendarc in balance. The crystals are protected by a religious group known as the Crystal Orthodoxy, which is opposed by the Duchy of Eternia. Darkness takes over the crystals, causing a giant chasm to appear and destroy the village of Norende. Tiz, the sole survivor, meets Agnes, the vestal of the wind crystal (and her fairy, Airy), and the two set out to restore the crystals and repair the chasm.
A traveler named Ringabel, who suffers from amnesia, and Edea, the daughter of the Duchy’s ruler, later join Tiz and Agnes in their quest. The group discovers there are parallel worlds, and that restoring the crystals linked the worlds together, enabling a dark being to destroy them. The gameplay becomes repetitive toward the end of the game, but discovering secrets within the story help get you through it. Plus, an extra dungeon can be unlocked near the end of the game, which adds replay value.
There’s more good news about Bravely Default; a sequel was released in North America last year. I’m currently playing through Bravely Second: End Layer, and so far it doesn’t disappoint. There are new bosses, new jobs, and new playable characters, though familiar faces make appearances. Players do visit many locations from the first game, but there are twists with these, as well as new dungeon areas, to keep things fresh.
Bravely Default has become a new favorite video game series of mine. If you’re looking for a lengthy game to keep yourself busy, you’ve found it. A complex storyline and comedic cut scenes will keep you entertained in both installments. Bravely Default’s fresh take on turn-based gameplay, combined with familiar elements from other beloved franchises, raises the bar on the RPG genre and sets it apart as a classic.