There’s a destructive belief circulating our culture in particular that JRPGs are a dying breed, a belief that needs to be ignored and ground into the dust. Bravely Default is developer Silicon Studios and publisher Square-Enix’s answer to this problem; a JRPG with a unique look and style that helps it carve out a distinct style for itself, while at the same time, being a big ol’ hug n’ kiss to the Final Fantasy games of old. The result; the best game Square-Enix has put out in the last five years.


I won’t go into too much detail about the story, since if you played Final Fantasy 1, 3 or 5 you’ve already got the general idea what you’re getting into; the worlds in danger, four crystals are involved, and four heroes need to do something about it. The ideas in play are well-worn and a bit archaic but Bravely Default finds an angle that’s just fresh enough to be interesting again, thanks in no small part to its main characters. None of them are terribly unique as far as JRPGs go but it’s hard not to like them and sympathize with their plight, and that helps to make their journey all the more poignant.


Aside from the story, Bravely Default also stands out with its presentation; while the character models are nothing all that special, the hand-painted backdrops are a sight to behold, they almost reach Vanillaware levels of beauty, and they’re complimented by a fantastic score that manages to be both fun and epic. The voice acting is nothing to gawk at (except perhaps the casting of Spike Spencer as the smarmy ladies man) but it is perfectly serviceable to keep things rolling. But as good as the game looks, it plays even better.


As far as gameplay is concerned, aside from a few new wrinkles in the formula, Bravely Default does little to push the JRPG formula. And truth be told, it doesn’t need to. The turn based combat gives you time to plan ahead and in a game like this, that’s crucial. But you’re also aided by a very in-depth job system that lends a staggering level of variety. From the standard black, white and red mages to the tank like dark knights and valkiries, you’ll find plenty to experiment with. Each character has a unique look when using a job and that goes a long way in adding visual flair to your party. But where Bravely Default really stands out is in its namesake Brave/Default system. This lets you team bank extra turns or use advanced turn depending on what the situation calls for, it’s a high risk/reward system that can pay dividends in combat when used correctly. When a healing white mage is in your party for example, she can spend her free turns defaulting to bank up extra turns so they can be ready to treat the entire party’s wounds when things get critical. But your enemies can do this too, so make sure you know what you’re doing.



Aside from a few minor issues here and there, like the game’s extensive padding or the out-of-nowhere difficulty spikes, there’s very little I can find to dislike about this game. If you’ve never been a fan of JRPGs than you won’t find much to change your mind here, but if you’re anything like me, than Bravely Default is a glorious return to form that’s been long overdue in the states.  Hopefully Square-Enix will take the hint.