Bravely Going Where Many Games Have Gone Before
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 castaways.
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.