The lights are on
Earlier this week I purchased a Nintendo handheld, a 3DS XL.
It’s my first handheld since the days of Game Boy and Game Gear, and while I
was interested in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the system seller
for me was Bravely Default.
A little background to this tale – I’m one of those Final
Fantasy enthusiasts that feels that the series has gone a bit downhill over the
past 15 years. My favorite experiences are the original and its remakes, Final
Fantasy Tactics, and essentially everything from 1-7. 8,9, and to some extent
10 were all passable but never really resonated with me the same way. 12 felt
like a single-player MMORPG to me, and at that point I stopped really being
interested in the major console releases. So it’s absolutely fair to say I’m
looking for certain things in my single-player RPG experiences. For the record,
since I’m sure it will come up, I played FFXI and have played FFXIV: A Realm
Reborn as well.
That said, I’m loving my time with Bravely Default. As one
who’s essentially traded in single-player RPGs for MMORPGs for more than a
decade now, it’s incredibly refreshing and even a little magical. It hits upon
many of the most fun things I remember from the “glory days” of the franchise
and even makes some of the less enjoyable aspects of “old-school” RPGs more
palatable. The autobattle function keeps the functionality there without the hours
of grinding in Hall of Giants Earth Cave or T-Rex Forest. It’s all of the flavor
with a lot less drooling and droning – if you want to grind, you can do so in a
highly efficient manner.
The job system is deep enough to enjoy without being
bewildering. It’s pretty easy to come up with winning combinations to tackle
various encounters and it’s fun to level up a variety of classes and try new
things. While many of the jobs are locked behind “optional” questlines, I can’t
see anyone not doing them.
The gameplay itself is the picture of formulaic simplicity:
Dungeon, boss, repeat. It’s absolutely noticeable but it doesn’t detract from
things. The concept of locking jobs behind a villain of the same “class” is
pure genius, and ripping through some of the colorful collection of characters
feels a lot like collecting powers from an assortment of Ninja Scroll
Some of the potentially questionable additions, like friend
summons or putting your friends to work on rebuilding a city full of unlocks,
feel like enjoyable bonuses for the rare moments you’re looking for a break
from the action. I was ready to be concerned about the city building since
there are so many great items and abilities there underneath a “timewall”, but
even if you’re not in a position to Streetpass an army of peons you’ll be able
to collect a few free people a day with an Internet connection. Friend summons
can be a bit overpowered early in the game, but you’re certainly free to leave
them out of your arsenal. The Nemeses that friends can hurl into your game make
for enjoyable sidefights.
I’m currently on Chapter 3 and from what I’ve heard things
take a turn for the grindy-worse come Chapter 5, but I doubt there’s much that
could happen to drop my opinion of the title much. For one of the first times
in years, I find myself sitting at my gaming rig and king-size monitor not
actually doing anything on it – I’m staring down at a handheld instead.
Email the author Daniel Tack, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.