Bravely Default – Demo Review

I know a review of a demo is totally unconventional but this demo is also somewhat unconventional. Bravely Default is a new RPG developed by Square Enix and Silicon Studio, inspired strongly by the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series being developed for 3DS and just so happens a free demo was uploaded onto the Nintendo eShop, who am I to resist? Turns out I took on more than I bargained for.

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So, as I said, Bravely Default is heavily influenced by games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and instantly these influences become apparent. The narrative in the demo takes a Dragon Warrior-esque approach whilst the art style is ripped straight from Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light on the DS. It opens up with fairly colourful visuals and a stereotypical fantasy soundtrack, the king of this town asks you to help people out and gives you about 50 windows of text to read through as tutorial.

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After a rather lengthy reading session I am ready to wander the town. Tutorials keep popping up during my play time, and as I dart in and out of conversation with the townsfolk I am asked to help out in ridding them of an intruder in their secret, treasure vault. Hurray I claimed as I ran to the place with all the gold, only to be slammed by a nearby snake/panther combo.

A little more prepared this time I set on out with a few new weapons and armour, battled my way to a decent level and attempted the cave. The combat system is entirely turn based, you select your attack from the menu and your character uses it. The attacks are queued up and launched from fastest character to slowest. It’s all very conventional until you figure out how the brave and default commands work. You see each of your characters gain 1 brave point (BP for short) each turn and use these BP to attack. The brave command lets you spend additional BP to perform an additional action in battle while the default command puts you on the defensive and gives your character an extra BP for skipping the turn. You seem to be able to save up to 3 BP giving you a maximum of 4 actions each turn but you can’t go underneath -1 BP unless you start using attacks that use additional points. If you have less than 0 BP at the start of your turn, that character cannot act and automatically passes, this leads for some far more strategic boss fights, especially when the bosses start braving and defaulting too.

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The level up system however is ripped straight from Final Fantasy V. Each of your team can choose a job role, from Knight and Ninja to Black Mage and White Mage, you have probably seen all of these roles before. The only difference between Bravely Default’s job system and Final Fantasy V’s is that the Freelancer job is not able to take advantage of multiple job bonuses and is literally a class meant for the most banal of skills such as examine. One of my favourite parts of the job system the first time round is that you can instil job roles with support and job commands from other roles outside of the one currently equipped, this means you can have a White Mage with the Jump command or a Singer with Ninja skills, this returns and is just as fun today.

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Outside of the combat and JRPG towns there’s more, the most interesting, exciting and also infuriating addition to the game. As it turns out there’s this town called Norende that was destroyed somehow and, similar to the fantastic Dark Cloud, you have to rebuild it. Where it differs from Dark Cloud though is that to rebuild the town you don’t have to trawl dungeons to find parts, you have to use street pass to gather more villagers to help rebuild. You start with one villager and the rest will appear to you via street pass as you pass people, who presumably, are also playing the game or have activated their street pass. While this is all very interesting, the biggest problem I found in the demo was that, the villagers build the town in real time while you play the game. As cool as that sounds, some things take around 10 hours to rebuild if you only have one villager and those of us not lucky enough to work in a game shop with a constant stream of 3DS players, will have a problem spending ten hours waiting for a shop to upgrade or a road to be built.

 “Oh that’s no problem, it barely affects the game, right?”

 No, in the demo there was only one town to explore and one shop in this town that sold only the basic weapons and armour. In order to defeat more powerful enemies in the game you would have to get hold of the best equipment and the only way to do that, is to rebuild all 3 equipment shops in your town and upgrade them to max level, of which it takes ten hours just to get from level 2 to level 3. I had 9 street pass hits and still had to put my 3DS down for an hour while I waited to rebuild the final shop. It’s a problem in the demo and could be even worse in the main game.

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All in all Bravely Default is shaping up to be a very addictive, interesting hark back to olden RPGs. If you’ve been dying for a 3DS game you can play for hundreds of hours, there are plenty of games on the market and this may not be for you unless you live in a dense area of JRPG fans. If you have been looking for a Final Fantasy branded game that you can play for hundreds of hours, this is probably the closest you’re going to get.

Bravely Default is already out in Japan and is released on December 6th in Europe, America will have to wait until February 7th but I am cautiously on board for this interesting, if slightly flawed gem.

 

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Are you ready for next gen?

As I sit here and write this on a blustery day in northern England, only a week or two away from not just one brand new console release but two I ponder, am I really ready for Sony and Microsoft’s next big offerings?

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Chances are by now you know if you’re going to throw your money at the Xbox One or the Playstation 4, an enticing double team battle, starring Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack in the blue corner while Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3 warm up in the green but are these knock out fighters really such a draw, am I just being cynical in the lack of a really big killer app or totally original, mind blowing new IP?

I understand most of you, myself included, are not sold on the launch titles of either system yet the promise of further exclusives in the vein of interesting indie titles and AAA blockbusters for Sony and Halo/Gears/Titanfall for Microsoft but is the hope that these games will not only wow but also be worth the rather steep asking price (especially in the Xbox One’s case) a bit too much to shoulder the burdens of an early next gen buy?

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Sure, I am not totally immune to the hype of the promised games, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes looks utterly fascinating, Infamous: Second Son looks like something really special and the aforementioned Titanfall looks like all of the best elements of CoD and Halo fused together in a funky display of giant mech mayhem. While I am obviously going to purchase one of these brand new machines  I feel like we’ve written off this gens consoles’ (including the already next gen Wii U) next year’s offerings all too quickly in the promise of something shiny and expensive sitting under our giant green trees or television sets this winter.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and next year the pudding is sounding extraordinarily sweet for all of us current gen gamers (again including you Wii U buyers). The titles coming to grace our presence are as exciting as almost any next gen title flaunting its juicy graphics at you, from RPGs like Lightning Returns, Tales of Xillia 2, South Park: The Stick of Truth and Dark Souls to the next big shooters in Destiny and Titanfall making supposed low-res appearances on both Ps3 and Xbox 360, the biggest, most interesting in Japanese AAA with Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within on both this gen consoles and not to mention the Wii U making us promises of Bayonetta 2,  Mario Kart, Smash Bros and X and this is even missing out big games like Thief and Watch Dogs still coming to the consoles you already have.

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This may seem like some form of rambling idiocy, arguing my jealousy of all the next gen lovers and their happy sexy time with 1080p (kind of) but it’s not, it’s a pledge to all of you out there to re-think whether you are yet ready for the expense of not missing much.  I’m not, and while you will all be playing with your Ps4s and your Xbox Ones and being tickled by your exclusives in Infamous, Driveclub, The Order and The Witcher, I will have the chance to save the world in 13 days, to revisit the Belmont family, to traverse the Tropical Freeze, search for the stick of truth, kill Ryu Hayabusa and die many, many times.

 

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