Snap Judgments: Bravely Default

 16-bravely-default-flying-fairy-2

I don’t buy a lot of new games when they’ve just been released. I’m both too cheap to pay the launch MSRP, and patient enough to wait until I can get them in the sub-$20 range. So, I figured that on the rare occasion I happen to get a game when it’s still relatively new, I should do something to celebrate. Something…. bloglike.

Such was the case when I recently picked up Bravely Default. 3DS games don’t drop in price quite like most do, so when I was lucky enough to find the game at a significant discount, I jumped on it. I just knew, in playing it, that I’d have to put together a post, so I could be just like those cool kids who play all the new games and finally get invited to parties again. Unfortunately, well… some of you long-time readers, who we’re totally going to pretend I have, may have noticed that posts have slowed down the past couple months as life started taking my lunch money and beating me up after school. That hasn’t stopped being a thing that happens, so unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to play much.

I could just wait until I’ve beat the game to do something with it, but by that time, all the bloggers with such things as “disposable income” and “free time” and “merely average levels of beauty” will have beaten the game to death. Instead, we’re going to jump on this bandwagon right as it’s rolling by. No plan, no context, no real format, we’re just laying ideas on the page as soon as they come up. So, without further ado, here are just some random thoughts of the first two hours of the new 3DS epic, Bravely Default.

One of the first things that pops up is a request to scan in the AR card on the back of the game’s instruction sheet. Yes, sheet. I never really read instruction manuals once games started putting in tutorials, but for whatever reason, I still feel disappointed whenever games don’t come with full manuals. In any case, I do so, and the DS’s camera shows a young woman being summoned into my living room and beg for my help, before falling into a rift in dimensions. The 3DS’s alternate reality stuff is totally gimmicky, but I still get a childlike thrill seeing game elements be put into my real-world space.

My word, that intro cinematic is gorgeous. That’s some of the best use of 3D I’ve seen. The developers are getting a lot out of the 3DS’s hardware here. I’d rewatched it on YouTube later, and my lame little flatscreen really didn’t do it justice. It introduces us to four characters, who I’m assuming our going to be our playable team. Let’s see, we’ve got some mystical maiden with ties to the major macguffins, a mysterious amnesiac, a feisty tomboy, and some bland dude whose whole village gets destroyed. Yep, that’s a JRPG all right. All we need is a protagonist to be chosen by some special mysterious power nobody else in the world can has that makes him a better combatant for no reason at all, and we’d have pretty much everything we’d need for our JRPG salad.

Here’s the cover of Bravely Default:

 bravely-default-box-art

That’s Airy featured on the cover, a non-playable sidekick character the game’s presumably going to forget about after the first act. Notice how slinky that dress is? The classic boobs and butt pose? She’s fairly sexualized on that cover. Depending on various factors in the game, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, but in game, Airy’s pretty much wearing a frock, and doesn’t seem sexualized in any way. That seems a bit dissonant to me. Probably indicative of marketing people just straight losing the point, somewhere along the way.

Game opens, and our main character is Mr. Bland from the intro, because he lost his whole village so of course it is. The game’s art style is pretty… interesting. The settings seem to be created out of hand-drawn backgrounds wrapped around 3d frames. Characters, however, are obviously computer made models, with the same anime proportions Square’s been using with all the 3d DS Final Fantasy games. The blocky characters really don’t seem to match the elegant backgrounds to me. Hopefully I’ll get more used to it with time.

Wow, this is so Final Fantasy I keep expecting the Crystal Theme to start belting out at any moment. I mean, I knew it was “Final Fantasy-Inspired”, but this seems to have all the elements of any franchise entry. The items and magic are all the same, the flavor’s a fit, it uses pretty much the same job system as Final Fantasy V, crystal’s play a central role in the setting; I have absolutely no idea why they didn’t just give it the name. Seems that’d be better from a marketing standpoint, and the game has everything needed to be part of the series, anyway. I suppose it’s supposed to follow up the old school revival Four Heroes of Light, but I never played that game, so Bravely Default really speaks more like Final Fantasy III to me.

Into our tutorial dungeon, and introduced to the battle system in this game. It’s pretty much old-school Final Fantasy, but it does have a twist. You have the additional choices of “Braving” or “Defaulting” in combat. Braving lets you take an extra turn, up to four whenever your move comes around. Defaulting lets you defend and stock up turns for later use. You can take turns in advance if you don’t have any stocked up, skipping the next couple moves to use them now. In theory, I could see some solid strategy arising out of this. For the time being, though… I blew all my starting cash on defensive gear, meaning these enemies are barely even tickling me. I don’t see any reason for me not to start every battle by blowing four turns at once, as the survivors aren’t able to do anything I need to pay attention to.

The game’s engine is running a lot of old-timey features here. It still uses random encounters, for one. That’s something that’s going to turn a lot of people off, but I honestly don’t mind so much. At least not yet. But to be fair, this starter dungeon is pretty linear. If there’s something that requires exploration later on, I imagine that’s going to get a whole lot more irritating. What I do mind is that your ability to run away from battles is based on random chance. This has never, ever, in all the history of video games, been a good idea, and I have no idea how it’s lasted as long as it has. If I try to run away from a fight, there’s usually a very good reason for that, and making me lose the game because the Random Number Generator didn’t come up in my favor has a habit of magically turning something from a game I’m greatly enjoying into an expensive paperweight.

To the end of the dungeon and… well hello, Microtransactions! I wasn’t aware you’d be in the neighborhood! You guys are aware I already paid for this, right? Yeah. Basically, you can buy potions with real-world money, how much, I don’t care, and use those potions to give you extra turns whenever you need them. I find it irritating, in a game I already spent a good chunk of change on, that they’re still trying to wring more money out of me without really providing anything in return. And the worst part? The icon to spend your real-world money on a game you’ve already spent real-world money on is always there. All the time. Never leaves. Right in the bottom of your lower screen. And you know what? I find it’s omnipresence more annoying than anything.

We meet the second person in our party. Agnes Oblige. My word, does she have a martyr complex. Hey Agnes, do you want some help in the quest where are goals are completely and entirely complementary? “Oh no, I must be alone for loneliness is suffering and that is me.” Hey Agnes, there are some people here saying they’ll do mean things. “Oh, I shall offer myself up to them in the hopes that they’ll stop even though you’re currently at war with them and they have no motivation to cease if I’m capture.” Hey Agnes, I stubbed my toe. “I shall sacrifice my life in hopes that it shall heal you.” I’m actually interested in how that develops. That could be some really unique character development there.

Oh hey! Evil empire! Let’s see, we’ve got a big brawny monk who only wants to fight, and a willowy white mage who only wants to have sex and kill stuff. You know, I’m all for some good innuendo, but you’ve got to have some subtlety to it. Holly, the mage, just seems crass.

The social features really frustrated me, at first. If you connect with other people, you can summon one of their characters to launch an attack for you in battle. Not a big deal to be skipping out on that. However, it looks like one of the major side quests is the rebuilding of your village, and that is absolutely unmanageable unless you get some more villagers from other players to cut down the massive construction times. And I have a problem with being social. Namely, none of my local friends game, and the friends I have who do game either live outside the country or play completely different types of games than I do. My anger abated somewhat as I found that you can just connect with people you don’t know, easily enough, but it still gives me worries over the long-term utility of this game. What happens to the village 5-10 years down the road, when the game community is almost nonexistent?

Hey, our first real boss battle! And finally, something that offers a challenge! And… wow, that’s a pretty big challenge! The difficulty curve just hit a cliff. This fight took just about everything I had to get through, and that’s not a bad thing. Holly, the white mage, was the big problem. As white mages do, she healed herself everytime I got close to finishing her off, and my characters couldn’t easily overcome her healing abilities. It took me a long while, and creative use of the brave and default abilities, to finally take her down. All the while, Baalthar or whatever the monk was called was dishing out the damage. He went down pretty quickly after she did, though, and my victory was rewarded with their jobs, Monk and White Mage. Oh, hello, classic Final Fantasy job system. I’ve really missed you.

Back at town, some goons burn down an abandoned building as some sort of threat, and I get a new party member. RingABell, or something like that. I just remember his name was monumentally stupid. I hate the guy already. Not only does he seem to be a pretty tropey amnesiac, he is insufferably smarmy, as well. Oh well. I think I’ll just stick him with the crap jobs and get my stupid satisfaction out of this inanimate character watching him lag behind all the other party members.

And hey, there’s my time. I hope you enjoyed this exercise in nothingness.

 

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9 responses to “Snap Judgments: Bravely Default

  1. I laughted my chocobo off through this whole thing. JRPGs, they are so evil and delicious. Like deep fried peanut butter cups, we cannot stop consuming them.
    The microtransaction thing. I have no words for the hatred.
    When you say the items are the same as FF, do you mean like phoenix downs and the lot? Cause…why…..not….just … be …FF…..
    ahhh it makes my head hurt.

    • Exactly. The items are phoenix downs, potions, everything you’d expect in a Final Fantasy game. Haven’t gotten far enough to tell if spells for the same naming conventions (fira, thundaga, etc.) but it certainly seems to be the case so far. And the jobs I’ve gotten are all classic FF.

      It just makes no sense to me. It’s not like they’re conservative in using the Final Fantasy name.

    • Square went bankrupt and had to merge with Enix because it called something FF that wasn’t. It seems that they’ve now realized that they can safely go in the other direction without hurting anything, with the bonus possibility of opening up a new game series which could evolve separately from their primary franchise. They’ve made an awful lot of games with FF elements over the years that didn’t bear the FF names and it’s never hurt anything. A more interesting question would be, “Why call anything FF from now on?” They can still make the same great games and not feel quite as bound to the traditions of the series, which honestly have become pretty damned loose.

      Also, in response to the article, BD has returned to the core gameplay of old-school JRPGs and because of that it has seen such overwhelming success that SqEnix has publicly stated that they’ve realized that their push toward mass-appeal RPGs was wrong and they’re going to steer back toward their roots and stop trying to turn RPGs into shallow action games.

      Now if we can just get them to remove the microtrans and wash their goddamned hands…

  2. I hope you kept on playing the game and enjoyed it. As a longtime fan of FF games I really enjoyed this title. Some of the mechanics may be outdated, but it didn’t matter as you can adjust/disable things like random encounters and fast forward battles to speed up grinding. The microtransactions aren’t required to beat the game (thankfully) and the village building isn’t a big deal. I just searched for a Facebook page were people post friend codes and ended up getting more people than I could use.

    • I played on for a while after this. I had fun until I got through the second crystal, but after that, it just didn’t seem to grab onto me like it had been. I do agree that it’s got a pretty nifty mix of oldschool mechanics with modern conveniences. I didn’t even look on Facebook, I just had it put my info out there blindly, and I kept getting 3-4 new villagers each time I played. So far, the village building is pretty convenient, actually. I’m just worried about what will happen when the game’s a couple years old, and its player base starts dropping off.

      • Yeah the problem with many modern games with online features is that they don’t stand the test of time when the servers get shut down. Most people liked Bravely Default as you can make some neat skill combinations once you get a character to learn multiple jobs. Some find it repetitive though.

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