When game developer Square Enix announced a brand new property called Bravely Default for the Nintendo 3DS, it seemed to be very similar to the well-established Final Fantasy series. The turn-based combat and battle-based leveling system are familiar to many experienced players.
Yet Bravely Default quickly proved its own worth to the gaming community by how well it uses roleplaying staples to craft a great experience for experienced and new players alike. Having played many such games before, I found it easy to dive right into the game, but it also offers a very comprehensive tutorial system to help along those without such experience. The game will teach you how to use items and weapons and how to fight monsters. If you know how, you can simply ignore these tips and get right into the game.
The story of Bravely Default follows four youths (Tiz, Agnes, Edea, and Ringabel) guided by a fairy companion named Airy. This group has come together to awaken the four mystic crystals and banish darkness from the world. Fighting against them are the Eternian sky knights: an army that is trying to keep the crystals in their dark state. As you progress in the story and meet different characters you may come to see that the world isn’t as black and white as you once thought.
As in many other roleplaying games (RPGs) the characters use a job system to determine their roles in combat. You select the job you want a character to have, and their abilities adjust to fit. And because any character can use any of the 24 jobs equally well, how you play the game is different for everyone. If you prefer brute strength, you can use the pirate or monk class to pummel your foes. Or maybe you prefer magic, casting spells and summoning giant creatures to fight for you as a black mage or a conjurer. There are also more niche classes, like a time mage that can speed you up and slow down your enemies, or a spell-fencer, who can cast magic to make their swordplay even stronger.
You can even use a second job’s skills to have wacky combinations like pirate/ninja or swordmaster/knight. As you level up in each job, you can get new skills that you can use in any job. For example, as a knight you can get the shield lore skill, which you can use to make sure your characters can use their shields to their maximum potential. The only limit to jobs is that you must first get an item called a Job Asterisk, which will let you perform whatever job it represents. Job Asterisks are usually obtained by following short side-quests that tell more of the story than is revealed through the main plot.
The titular Brave and Default system is also a neat addition to the gameplay. Using it you can “go into debt” and spend later turns to attack immediately, greatly increasing your power. Just remember this caveat: you’ll have to wait for your BP (battle points) to recharge. If you’re feeling more cautious, you can Default to save up those BP, and unleash a torrent of attacks a few turns later. This system takes some time to get used to, but being able to go all out can make all the difference in battle.
Bravely Default is rated T for Teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for fantasy violence, mild blood, mild suggestive themes, and use of alcohol. It doesn’t have much in the way of overtly adult themes, but there is a fair amount of innuendo and subtle sexual jokes (a pervy old man trying to get one of the characters to wear a skimpy bikini, as well as one character who uses a magic perfume to make women love him). There is also a surprising amount of implied death for such a cartoony game. Many of the enemies you defeat will die off screen, with one even leaving behind a ghost you can talk to. These traits can make the game a little much for children under 13 or so, but it’s definitely enjoyable for most teens and adults.