mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Bravely Default Demo Review

Bravely Default Flying Fairy

I did something strange this past week. I played a demo for a game — something I don't usually do. And I played it for a whopping seven hours. The 3DS is on a quest to hog up all my gaming time and with high caliber games — like Bravely Default — on the horizon, it's doing a great job. I was impressed with the demo for Bravely Default from start to finish. Here are some of my thoughts on the game so far.

  • Bravely Default’s demo is also just cool in and of itself. Many demos are just a random slice of the full game. But Bravely Default’s demo actually features quests that don’t exist in the full game. In addition, there are item set perks you can earn for completing these demo quests, which transfer over to the full game. None of these are game-breaking bonuses either, so you’re not ruining the challenge of the game. They’ll just help out your gold wallet early on when gold is tight!

"Default" in battle to build up turns for later.

  • The battle system is straight old-school with a minor twist based on the game’s odd title. In battle, you can choose to Default which is the equivalent of defending. Using Default also grants you an extra Battle Point (BP). On the other hand, you can spend BP via the Brave command to input multiple commands (e.g. Attack, cast a spell, and then heal your party) all in one turn. Your party starts with 0 BP each battle and you can go negative with your BP. If you’re sure you can wipe the enemy out in one turn, you can Brave all your characters to -4 BP and wail away at the enemy. If the enemy doesn’t die, you’re in trouble because until you have 0 BP, you cannot act again. You are effectively in BP debt. Each turn restores 1 BP – so you better hope the enemies don’t wipe you out while you sit there helplessly for 4 turns! Are you going to play it safe or go balls to the wall and try to destroy your enemy?

4 of the 26 available jobs: Pirate, Spell Fencer, Valkyrie, Vampire.

  • The job system is pretty dang cool. It reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy V. After each battle, your characters earn experience which levels up the character and their base stats. But you also earn job points which level up the job your characters currently have selected. The game features standard jobs like Black Mage, Knight, Ninja, but also more quirky jobs like Pirate, Vampire, Valkyrie, and Spell Fencer. As you level jobs up you gain access to active combat abilities and passive skills. When you switch jobs, you can mix and match these active and passive skills, so leveling up different jobs is encouraged. For example, while playing the demo, I found the Knight’s “Two-Hand” ability, which means the character sacrifices holding a shield and instead holds their weapon with two hands to raise their attack power. It was really freaking powerful. I leveled up everyone in the Knight class so they could unlock this skill, and in the end, everyone was two-handing their weapons.

We've got a town to rebuild!

  • There is also some “town-building” in this game. A village is destroyed early on in the game and you are tasked with helping rebuild it. Residents of the town can be assigned to the reconstruction effort. The more residents you have, the faster the reconstruction happens. For example, to build the Item Shop, it would take 2 hours for one resident, 1 hour for two residents, and 30 minutes for three residents. As you build and expand shops, you get access to powerful items. You pick up a few residents automatically during the game, but every Streetpass tag you get adds another resident. Finally, my Spillpass-Pi (a Raspberry Pi that fetches you an inordinate amount of Streetpass tags) will see some more action! Another perk of playing the demo: you can transfer 20 residents over to the full game to get a nice boost in your future labor force!

The overworld (left) and the clock-inspired town of Ancheim (right).

  • Even though the 3DS isn’t a graphics powerhouse, Bravely Default is pretty gorgeous considering. The overworld (that’s right - an old-school overworld) is vivid, lush, and covered in varied geographies. It feels like what Chrono Trigger would be if it was redone in 3D. Not only is the overworld good-looking, so are the towns. The town of Ancheim – featured in the demo – is designed like a clock with tons of winding gears and an antique feel. If you just stop and take it all in for a moment, the game even helps out by zooming out – allowing you to take in more of the scene. The music was composed by the Japanese musical group Revo, who also composed the awesome opening themes for Attack on Titan. In JRPGs, you’ll be listening to the battle theme a lot, so I’m happy to say this battle theme is definitely something I can listen to over and over again. Check out the theme below!
  • Even though this game is an homage to the olden days of Final Fantasy, it does include some quality-of-life improvements that address some typical JRPG complaints. Battle speed (the speed of the animations in battle) can be easily be toggled from super fast to a total pause. For trash mobs in dungeons, I always kept things at maximum speed because I had a good idea of how difficult the battle would be ahead of time. For bosses, I would slow things down to check out elemental affinities and other important battle-related metrics. The game also lets you change difficulty on-the-fly. If normal isn’t challenging enough, jump up to hard. If you realize you bit off more than you can chew, jump back down to normal (or even easy). No more restarting your entire game. And more than that can be toggled: battle encounter rate can be turned down to 0 or doubled, destination markers indicating where to go next can be disabled, and you can even turn off EXP/gold/job point gains after battles. If you’re into custom challenges, like low-level challenges, this game makes it surprisingly easy to fulfill your masochist tendencies.

February 7th can’t come fast enough. I’ll be spending my weekend digging into what looks to be another awesome JRPG addition to the 3DS.