Bravely Default 3DS Review

Robby Badgley

My biggest problem with “Bravely Default,” available on the Nintendo 3DS, is how difficult it has been to review. Most of the game is a mixture of cliches and Japanese role-playing game norms with a dash of standard archetypes for good measure. But the game never pretended it was an innovation of the genre and even sold itself as a “default” role-playing game. On top of that, it is an incredibly long game, which is nothing new coming from a fan of RPGs, but getting to a lot of the content took a long time.

I do not want to go too deep into the story of “Bravely Default.” That is most of the reason people play the game. So the best way to avoid spoilers is to just not describe the events in any detail. Let us just say that it is a fairly standard fantasy affair. Your cast of characters, each with its own motivations — and stop if you have heard this before — are brought together by a war and band together to save the world. The characters themselves are very dry and uninspiring, but given that the only other real JRPG of recent memory featured Lightning, they are all stellar. 

The combat is where the game gets interesting. A lot of JRPGs fall into one of two camps for entering combat. “Dragon Quest” used visible enemies while “Final Fantasy” used random encounters and unfortunately “Bravely Default” falls into the second, more annoying camp. Upon entering a battle, you have four characters for turn-based combat. The game’s innovation in the genre is the “brave/default” mechanic. If you take a turn to “default”, similar to blocking, you take less damage and you build up the ability to use multiple attacks in a single turn, which is “braving.” This system is incredibly helpful in this game. Grinding becomes easier when you can just relentlessly “brave” out at your enemies, never even giving them a chance to attack. Bosses require a bit more finesse, and “default” ends up being your best friend. I loved the system and hope to see the genre absorb the mechanic. 

The game looks fine. After Fire Emblem’s character models with no feet, it is actually kind of weird to see some. I would not say it is the best looking game on the system — Zelda still holds that award.

One thing I noticed was that the sound quality was oddly bad. I was listening to the game as I was playing, and the voice acting was terrible. This seemed off to me because the rest of the game seemed fine — the music should not have been as bad as it was — but then I realized that when I took out my headphones it sounded fine. At first I thought it was just a problem with my headphones but I tried a much nicer set and the same problem persisted. So if you want to play this game make sure you either do not care about the soundtrack or that you’re playing in a quiet place. 

The game was ultimately fun. The promise of an old-school JRPG modernized was definitely delivered and it probably has the most airtight game mechanics of one to date. It suffers from some difficulty curve problems, the second area of the game introduces you to the very fun mechanic of permanent debuffs, so I hope you like the sped up grinding system because you are certainly going to use it a lot.