Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bravely Default - A Breath of Fresh Air (with only one flaw)

My first impressions of a game tend to change, often after playing a game for a few days I find more flaws in it than I anticipate. But this one is a rare gem that just gets better. From the "job" system to the rewards for showing you know what to do, Bravely Default has more useful stuff to unlock than almost every RPG I have played. The rebuilding of the town is one of the most useful, and interesting, aspects you have to unlock as you progress.

But first let's look at the jobs, and there are so many of them. The system has a balance to it, while you can level up all the job classes before you need too, with a lot of patience, you cannot make much use of the better abilities until you progress through the story. Most games struggle to find that balance, you can either make your characters over-powerful way too soon, or you find that your characters are not strong enough later on. The job system, combined with the abilities, of Bravely Default finds a great balance.

Each job has abilities and skills, which you can mix and match, with limits, to tailor your characters for various areas. If you rush through the story, your characters will do okay, but if you take the time to mine experience points and job points you will unlock abilities and skills that can make the next area easier.

But point mining is not tedious. The battle system of the game offers a strategy like system, at first even common battles will take forever, while you chop away at the enemies. After a few levels though, you can rush through the battles using "brave" to demolish the enemies, and gain some bonuses for it. The key is learning the weak points of everything, while there are the standard elemental weaknesses some weapons are stronger against some enemy types.

Most axes are strong against enemies in the water family, most bows are strong against enemies in the flying family, and so forth. Taking advantage of these weak points can sway a battle, making it faster, but if you have nothing to use that they are weak too, your battles will still be interesting. The balance of enemies in a location is helpful. In a fire cave you will encounter mostly enemies weak to water, on water they'll be weak to lightning and water, and so forth.

Now on to the breathtaking part of the game, the graphics. Most games these days throw together a bunch of models that they think are so awesome and beautiful, but ultimately just look like cookie cutter versions of other games, and the scenery is always neglected. Bravely Default had some real thought put into it, the scenery is truly awesome and beautiful.

Each locale in the game is crafted so well, and the 3D modeling enhances the scenery, rather than obscuring it like most games. The developers appear to have modeled the world around the images, and the images appear to be hand painted. With the stereoscopic effect on for the 3DS it all looks like a handcrafted model set, illustrating the story so well.

The cinematic scenes are brilliantly composed, giving the appearance and feel of watching a stage play. The characters are all beautifully done, and fit within the scenery. The effects for highlighting focus in battles is also really well done. There is but one major flaw, and this is not the fault of the developers.

The costumes for some of the characters had to be edited, because of oversensitive sensibilities in North America. Yep, a bikini had to be edited into shorts, for example, just because the people in my region are so perverted they think bikinis are sexual content. Or perhaps it was some feminist nonsense. Either way, the original costumes would have been better only because we could have gotten this game much sooner.

That leads into another topic though, so I digress. Bravely Default's story is one of those typical "gotta save the world, oops, we did it wrong" stories. Very common in anime, manga, and Japanese RPGs, but one of my favorite types of stories so meh. The game's story feels a lot like the original Final Fantasy games, before Final Fantasy got ruined by idiotic fans and developers turning it into something tedious and boring.

So if you enjoy retro style RPGs, JPRGs, or a lot of content, Bravely Default is certainly for you. I hope you can enjoy the stereoscopic effect in the game as well, it's so well done, but the camera zooming will cause some players to lose focus a lot, which is a minor flaw as you can turn off that effect for the game and still enjoy the breathtaking art.

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