Way back in the prehistoric times of February 2014, an RPG was released to terrific critic and gamer reviews. This 3DS RPG was praised far and wide by RPG fans, giving it such titles as 'The best RPG in a long time' and 'the best Final Fantasy title in years' (despite it not being a Final Fantasy game). For a couple months after Bravely Default's release, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about the game and its wondrous mix of old-school gameplay with modern features, or its rather abysmal middle section of the game. It seemed like Bravely Default would be on top of the 3DS world for quite a while... at least, until the new Super Smash Bros. game made its appearance.
But then, everyone suddenly forgot about Bravely Default. That's the problem with games that come out so early in the year; once you get near the holiday rush of console, handheld, and Steam hits all trying to vie for your attention, you're likely to forget about the poor early year releases that kept you warm on those lonely winter days.
I'm here to tell you, don't forget about Bravely Default. Despite some of the game's unfortunate shortcomings, it is still one of the best RPGs to come out this year, and deserves a chance from any RPG fanatic. Here are five great reasons to pop this game into your 3DS while you're waiting for that new Pokémon or Smash Bros. game.
Plenty of RPGs have turn-based battle systems, but Bravely Default has some very fun twists on the system that can't be ignored. While fighting, you'll notice that you'll have Brave Points (or BP). Commit to a normal attack, and you'll use 1 BP. Different moves have varying amounts of BP usage: For example, many physical attacks that hit multiple enemies will use more than 1 BP. Other moves can help you recover BP, or outright steal BP from enemy characters, possibly gimping their next turn.
You can stock up a maximum of 3 BP (which would essentially let you use four normal attacks, bringing you to 0 BP at turn's end), which other than the somewhat hard to get skills mentioned above, you can get by using 'Default', which is just defending and saving your BP for another turn. If you need to use a BP heavy skill right away, you can still use it without the needed BP count, but you'll go into negative BP, and the character will be unable to act again until they return to 0 BP.
Why would you mess with BP, though, if you don't have any skills that really use it? Well, you also have the choice to 'Brave' four times in a turn, which is basically ordering your character to go all out and attack four times in a turn. With 'Brave' and 'Default' you (and your enemies) can really turn the tide of battle to your advantage, if you strategically know then to use your extra attacks and when to defend and bide your time. You can make all of your character do an all out attack at once, hoping to decimate the enemy before it unleashes a powerful attack, or use BP sparingly, perhaps to lob an extra healing spell or Potion when needed. The flexibility of strategies make every battle exciting in Bravely Default.
...Hey, get it? The game's named after the battle system...alright, moving on...
To put it simply, Bravely Default's soundtrack is awesome. If you're not wearing headphones while playing this game, you're really just missing out. The voice acting might be a little hit-or-miss (though quite honestly, I've never accused a gaming voice actress of over acting her lines before now), but it's all worth it to hear the wonderful tunes of Revo.
The battle music is particular is wonderful: It perfectly captures what you what from a battle theme, filling you with that 'fighting spirit' and making you feel just a bit tense. On Normal Mode, random encounters aren't just pushover battles, either; until you become over leveled for the area, even simple enemies require you to pay attention and use a bit of strategy against them. Of course, the battle music helps to accommodate to that mindset, subtlety reminding you that this is a battle of life or death.
Better yet, music plays a key role in battles themselves. Once a character completes certain tasks (which depend on their weapon... it could be defeat 10 enemies, hit a weakness 15 times, etc.), they can unleash a Special Move. These Special Moves usually do a load of damage, but they also give huge benefits to your party--that is, while the character's theme song is playing. So you may have double the attack power from unleashing a Monk's Special Move, but that's only until the last notes of the song: If you don't finish the battle or unleash another Special Move by then, the benefits end. It's also pretty interesting because this is a turn based game, but the Special Moves' benefits in particular run in real time, making you want to quickly choose your actions before time runs out.
Something that made many RPG fans excited about Bravely Default, myself included, were the plethora of classes available to play with. It's very reminiscent of Final Fantasy V, the Final Fantasy game often left unloved, but has one of the most expansive job systems in the mammoth series.
With a variety of classes available, it leads to a goodly amount of character customization. You have your genre mainstays like White Mage, Black Mage, Knight, and Monk to help make sure you can make a well-rounded party for any situation. You also get more unusual classes like Dark Knight, Vampire, and Pirate, which offer unique twists that you can use to your advantage in battle. Still, some classes can offer bonuses to other classes: for example, a skill from Spiritmaster that lowers MP costs for White Magic.
Trying out different class combinations is a key part of the fun in Bravely Default, as mixing and matching skills can lead to uber-parties that can crush everything. Speaking of skills...
The skills that you unlock, and how you unlock them, are pretty great. As you fight battles, you'll earn Job Points (or JP) for the classes you are currently using. As you earn these Job Points, these classes will level up. Every time a class levels up, you earn a new skill to take advantage of.
Once you learn a skill, you can change to another class and still use the unlocked skill, provided you have the room to equip it. This is how you really make interesting class and skill combinations in Bravely Default, and it's up to you to decide if you want a well-rounded party that can handle every situation, a single laser focus on one specific battle aspect, or somewhere in between.
Just like with the classes, skills make Bravely Default a lot of fun, and allow you to really experiment with everything the game has to offer. Finally, with the exponential amount of Job Points needed for each class level, the game really encourages you to change your party's classes around, instead of sticking with a static party.
But how do you even get these classes? A few of the more basic ones are given to you around the start of the game, but the others? Well, that's the best part about Bravely Default!
Top Bravely Default Feature
This may sound odd, but the one thing that really sets Bravely Default above the others are the side quests. Well, first and foremost, while they are certainly optional, the game's side quests are the only method to get additional classes, so if you decide to ignore them you're really missing out on a lot of what Bravely Default has to offer, as well as effectively gimping your own battle prowess.
But that isn't quite the most interesting part of Bravely Default's meaty side quests. Rather, each side quest tells a story. It's not a simple one-and-done quest of 'get a certain number of X item' or 'defeat this many enemies', it's an in-depth look at each of the Asterisk holders before you take their powers.
Through these quests, you learn more about the people you're fighting and the world that Bravely Default creates for you... and in some of the later quests, even some interesting tidbits on the world's past. This all leads to an encounter with the Asterisk holder themselves, as they wield some of the many abilities you will learn by using their class. Bravely Default makes side quests more than just a distraction; the game makes them worthwhile and fun to work through, with engaging plot lines and substantial rewards.
Bravely Default isn't a perfect game, and I'd cringe to consider the game's reception if we had gotten the original version of the game as opposed to the enhanced version that includes different difficulty levels and other helpful features to make it all less tedious. But no game is perfect, and Bravely Default certainly deserves a bit more time in the spotlight than it has gotten these past few months. So pull out your 3DS and spend a day out in the sun, soaking up rays while playing through this RPG--you won't regret it... well, unless you forget to put on sunscreen.