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Bravely Default Demo Impressions – I’m a Fan By Default

by Ron Duwell | January 12, 2014January 12, 2014 6:00 am PST

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This must be just like living in paradise. How long has it been since Square Enix delivered such a wholesome, classic game? Five minutes is all you need with the new Bravely Demo demo released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop to know if you are going to be into it or not. Quests, job points, an overworld map, adventurous music, random battles and simple yet potentially deep mechanics.

Square? Enix? Is that you? Where have you been for the last ten years?

Granted, this short demo doesn’t exactly show off everything the game has to offer, but from the meager offerings, it’s easy to see where this game will be going. You start off with four level 1 characters and are immediately charged with helping people in the city. Pick up some basic equipment to boost the stats with initial funding, talk to the nearest villager, and set off to find five beast livers to help her with her cooking.

It’s a feeling I have not gotten in ages, setting off on a quest with such humble beginnings, knowing that grand adventure awaits. Characterization of these four characters, the world, and the plot will all come about in the final product. For now, we just have the mechanics and presentation to build an estimated level of quality off of, and Square Enix spared no expense at making this game a sight to behold.

The studio working on this title was previously charged with remaking several older Final Fantasy games into 3D polygons on the original Nintendo DS, and eventually, its high quality output earned it the right to make its own original game, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. Granted, the Nintendo DS didn’t quite have the power to back up an entire 3D JRPG, so the presentation was left a little spotty. Blocky characters, limited settings.

With the new hardware of the 3DS backing it up, Bravely Default looks and sounds just great. Trumpeting fanfare blasts through the desert while hunting panthers, jumping into and out of battle with a pick up in tempo. The music is everything you could hope to hear when starting on a brand new quest.

The graphics are no slouch either. The 3D models have vastly improved since the team’s original attempts. The characters are well animated in battle, and their attacks are flashy and packing the punch necessary to make traditional turn-based combat fun.

Characters aside, it is the monsters that truly shine so far. At only level one, the four protagonists are taking on giant venomous snakes, towering owl mages, dragons, and bloodthirsty panthers. Where are the slimes and bats? If these are the monsters we will be facing at level one, I would hate to think what the team is holding back for later in the game.

Also, the town deserves a special mention. Square Enix went the route of a 2D village layout, looking more like Mario than Final Fantasy. The layout makes the map easier to navigate, and the 3D effects of the Nintendo 3DS shine through especially. A little too strong, in fact. I couldn’t stand looking at it for more than a few seconds, but the layers piled on are really impressive.

As for the gameplay, there is little new here. Final Fantasy veterans will know what to expect. Dive into battle, take turns duking it out with monsters through menu choices. It took me a few rounds of tackling the game in a traditional sense, but it becomes more than obvious how important the game’s unique “BP system” will be.

Every character begins the fight with zero BP, and attacking or doing any action will subtract it by one. At the end of the round, you’ll gain a single BP back, allowing for one move to go unpenalized. With the “Brave” selection in battle, extra BP can spent to take the character down to negative four. Simply put, this allows the character to make four actions in a turn but no ability to attack for the next several rounds as he regains the loss.

If you need to kill an enemy quickly, or can’t be bothered to deal with another random fight, it’s a good way to end it all in a flash. Not taking risks means really slow yet safe battles, which can cause the game to drag. Don’t go about playing this in the traditional sense of simply attack. Use these BP points, practice and strategize. Fighting level one monsters is easy, but then it kicks into overdrive once you start unlocking jobs and abilities.

Defending, or “Default” as its called in the game, also restores BP, allowing you to save up for an all out massive attack with your team.

No doubt the jobs and characters are a little overpowered for the demo, but combining skills learned from the jobs, weapons, and the BP system can create a nasty little team of warriors. That’s just what you’ll be needing too, since the bosses are equally insane and will need some serious planning to conquer. Take my advice… Ninja, Red Mage, and Performer for three characters, and straight up Black Mage and White Mage for the last. And Oak Staffs. Lots of Oak Staffs.

Your reward for conquering all the bosses is bonus items for when you buy the full game. One last batch of bonus items comes through the Street Pass system. The more people playing the game you pass, the more peasants you can populate the town with. Twenty people fills the town to the max.

That’s it really from the demo. It’s a brief yet fun look into a game that I was already sold on. The pacing hopefully doesn’t represent the true character progression in the main game because I was slaying monsters left and right within an hour. I’m a fan from back in the classic days of the genre, and this is a breath of fresh air I haven’t felt in years.

There is a very simple question to determine if Bravely Default is for you. How much do you like Final Fantasy? And I don’t mean the flashy nonsense the series has devolved into over the last five years. How much do you still enjoy sitting down and grinding out characters, raising job levels, and running through a magical world like you did back on the Super Nintendo?

If you still crave the days of yore, then you have found your new outlet. Bravely Default is your game. Expect a full review after its release on February 7th.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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