Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bravely Default Review (3DS)

Story: The story starts with that a young man named Tiz Arrior who miraculously survives a disaster that befall unto his home village, and created a great chasm. He loses everyone he knows and he see's his younger brother die before his eyes. It would come to no surprise that he became traumatized by this. He went through such a shock that he fainted, and was a asleep for three whole days; It was by chance that a rescue party managed to find him after the disaster.

This, however, didn't stop Tiz. He is almost certain that there may still be survivor's after the catastrophe. When he arrives at the chasm, he finds a girl standing there looking at it over a edge of a cliff. He goes and tells her that it's dangerous, but then all of a sudden they are attacked by the sky knights! The sky nights are from the Kingdom of Eternia, who are hunting the mysterious girl.

Tiz saves her and gets to know that she is the Wind vestal of the Wind Crystal. Her name is Agnés Oblige, and she is investigating the darkness that has taken over the wind crystal, and how it has affected the world; accompanied by a Cryst fairy called Airy. Tiz feeling a strong sense of justice decides to help her out, so that no one has to ever go through what he went through.

Airy is a mysterious character, she helps out the party by telling where we should got next, and what we should do. You don't get to know that much about her except her goal, which is to awaken all the Crystals around the world.

Tiz and Agnés seem at first kinda bland. . . OKAY really bland. They are just very basic for a JRPG story, and we have seen their character types thousands of times before; however, after you get your third party member called Ringabell, then the whole games story really starts to get interesting.

Ringabell is a amnesiac fellow who happens to have a book which he calls "The book of D," no one knows who has written it or why. The book has the ability to predict the future, which means that it will be brought up in the story many times, but it's also a interesting read. When you read the so called "future," it may tell of events that are to come, but it never really tell how it happens. The book is more of a journal written by someone, and the author tells about different events that he was a part of. It never actually spoils the story in one way, which is a surprisingly hard thing to do. The book is also a guide book, giving you details about monsters you have seen, and a detailed description of every person you meet in your jorney. It also has tutorials to help you understand the game better; however, that is not what makes Ringabell the one that gets the story going, he is one of the best charmers in any JRPG I have ever had as a party member. He gets all the funny and good lines, he is kind of a dork in a good way, and his English voice actor (who is well known Voice Actor Spike Spencer) sounds a bit like French (if I am not mistaking that is), which works with the character perfectly. Actually the surprising part was that Ringabell's English voice sounds much better then the original Japanese one (by the way you can change your voices in the tactics, config option), everyone else sounds just fine but for some reason Japan thought that a cool young charmer like Ringabell needed a VERY deep voice. It just doesn't fit him in my own humble opinion.

Last but not least you meet Edea Lee who is one of the sky knights, and she turns against the sky knights after seeing how dishonorable they are against innocent people. Edea is what you would call a tomboy girl, however, compared to your stereotypical tomboy character, she still actually acts like a girl. What I mean with that a typical tomboy girl (especially in anime), are the kind of characters that always want to compare themselves to guys, and never want to "act like a girl," they actually detest everything that has to do with being a girl; however, Edea is the more rare kind of tomboy character. She acts tough and strong, but she likes going to a store and have shopping sprees. She is just a fun, interesting character, and for a while she is kinda the main character; since you keep on meeting different sky knights who know her. She also is a really good combo with Ringabell, as they both share a lot of funny awesome dialogue together. I am just gonna say this, Edea is my favorite character out of the main four, why? Because I really like her design.

Ringabell and Edea are the ones making the story fun to experience and complement the otherwise bland Tiz and Agnés, but later on they will develop to more interesting characters to.

There will also be many different side quests, most of them early on are about getting jobs (more on this later), and get to know more about the side characters. Although, to be fair you CAN skip them, but you wont get the story behind the characters, or get the job.

Now I want to talk about the more "Controversial" part of the story. The crystals in this world are treated largely by everyone as holy entities, and is a well known religion called the Crystal orthodoxy, which Agnés is part of. The kingdom of Eternia believes that its useless to call the crystals holy entities, and should instead be used for resources. Then the kingdom of Eternia starts a new way of viewing the Crystals called Anti-crystalism, they start a war against the world, and tries in every way to force people to stop believing in Crystal orthodoxy, even down right telling lies about it.

The game has also a fair amount of criticism against modern age, for example: You will visit the city of Florem later on in the game, the city was well known for being in a close healthy relationship with the beautiful nature around them; however,when you are in the city, all the girls want to instead try to become beauty itself and most of them have forgotten everything about the nature.

Now you reader my be thinking "Dang that is a lot of VERY touchy subjects," indeed it is; however it doesn't make the story less enjoyable. The messages and criticism isn't the kind that slaps your face, and then starts shooting it with a shotgun on close range. Really they are there to make the world that much more interesting, the story follows the main characters and their viewpoints and thoughts about what is happening around them. However, there is indeed a lot very touchy subjects, so some of you may have a problem with that, but seriously though, it doesn't destroy the story at all; quite the opposite actually. It gives the world that much more life.

Gameplay: The game follows old JRPG traditions, you get random encounters on the world map and dungeons, where the game turns into a turn based strategy game like most JRPGs; however, there are three main features here that changes the whole game. First there is Bravery. Basically bravery lets you do more actions with one character in the same turn, although when you do that, you get minus one or more in your BP counter. BP is your turn counter, if its on plus with one character it will allow you to do more moves with that said character and so on up to three, when your character has a minus they will not be able to do anything next turn, or for the next four turns if you went all out.

Then there is Default, basically it makes your character spend their turn on defending themselves, which will lower the damage you receive (duh); however, it also increases your BP counter, which give you the chance to use more moves in one turn without loosing that characters next turn.

This changes all the fights in the whole game, defending has more of a point now, since in other JRPGs defending was not usually something you did, since it didn't give you that much of a edge, and you would just prolong the fight. The other thing that makes the fights even more interesting is that the bosses also use bravery and Default, you have to be extra careful when a boss is charging his/her BP meter.

The last new feature is difficulty settings. Basically you can play this game almost however you want. You can change the difficulty from easy to hard WHEN EVER you wish, you can also set the encounter rate to higher, or turn it completely off, which makes it easier for you to go through a dungeon. There is also feature to turn off gaining XP (experience poitns) and job points. . . . Now readers I dare you to try beating this game on hard and turn of XP/job points gain, if that is even possible I have no clue; however, because of this feature basically any kind of player can enjoy this game however they want to. Though to be fair, this feature can mean that if you are having a hard time in the game, then you can just change it to easy or put the encounter rate to the highest, and grind yourself up. You can also speed up the battles and put them on Auto mode, which makes grinding even easier. It can be really easy if you so wish to, which might turn off some hardcore players.

After winning a battle you can earn bonus points depending on how you finished the fight; for example if you clear the fight in one turn you get bonus XP, if you win the fight without taking any damage you will earn more job points, and lastly if you manage to kill all your enemies at the same time, you will earn more money. If you keep on earning the same bonus multiple times, then it will become a bonus streak, and you will earn even more bonus. Which makes grinding even more easier for those who like to do that.

There is also another feature called bravery second, it's a move that lets you do any kind of move at any time during a battle, although it will consume SP, and you can only have three of them at a time. You get more SP by letting your 3DS be in sleep mode, or actually buying more of them with actual cash from Square-Enix's online shop in the game. I can tell all of you readers, this is one of the most pointless features I have ever seen in a JRPG, ever. Firstly you can get the SP for free if you leave your 3DS in sleep mode for a few hours, and secondly the SP costs actual real cash, the game will never be so hard (especially with the difficulty settings) that you will actually need to buy more SP. It is obvious that the developers just threw this in so that they could get some desperate person's cash. It doesn't however make the game less enjoyable, or heck you will forget that it exists in the first place.

In this game a familiar feature from the Final fantasy franchise returns, you will get different jobs that anyone in your party can use. Jobs level up after getting a certain amount of job points, which you earn at the same time as earning normal experience points, when a job levels up you get either a new ability for that job or a support ability. Support abilities are skills you can equip even if your character is using another job, some increases different stats or makes you immune to certain statuses (like blind, poison etc etc).

Different from most JRPG's, is that you can equip two jobs at the same time, though only the one of them you have chosen as main will levels up. This makes the strategy even more rewarding, you can for example equip one character with both white magic and black magic, to make a awesome mage, or equip your melee class with white magic to be the extra healer for the party.

Jobs also change your characters appearance. All the jobs have different stats, which will be better or worse for your main characters depending on their starting stats. Depending on the job, different equipment's work better for that job, for example a staff is better for a white mage, while a sword is better for a knight, you see a rank besides your character when you are choosing equipment, so you know what is good for what character at that moment.

Now lets talk about the other main feature. Early in the game Tiz is tasked with rebuilding Norende, in practice this means that you will be able to put a few villagers at work to start building shops or clearing roads to new places. After you have built a shop of any kind, you can keep on leveling it up until level 11, you get new items from the shop that a mercenary will sell, which you can find in towns or even dungeons. However, these shops needs villagers, and there are two ways of getting them: Either you meet random people with streetpass, or you have to connect to the internet. It takes real time for the shops to be made, they will keep on building them even if you leave your game on sleep mode.

You will also through the internet (or streepass) get random people added to your summon friend list, summon friend is a command you can use in the middle of a battle to summon a random main character from another persons game, who will have a selected attack that the other person sent with it. You can also send your own characters to help out another player, before you make your move, you can choose if the command you make will be sent to other players, its a great way to help out friends you know who also have the game.

You will also receive nemesis data from other players, a nemesis is a really hard special boss that will inhabit your Norende, but it will never really do anything, you can battle it if you like. It's just there for the extra challenge, and you can send it to other people to.

Graphics: The game mixes hand drawn backgrounds with a 3D modeled overworld, and 3D character models. The hand drawn looks really good and the 3D models of the characters are cute, they are all very cute, I personally like it, although if you look at the official art, they look much older then their 3D models. The game is detailed but I feel that they could have done a little more with the overworld, it feels kinda bland, but then again it isn't that important, everything else is a treat for your eyes.

Music: Fun fact: The composer of the whole soundtrack is the band Sound Horizon, who are well known for their main theme for the anime hit, "Attack on Titan." The soundtrack likes to mix Symphony with power rock and trumpets, as strange as that mix may sound, it actually sounds AMAZING; many of the tracks are memorable and  fun to listen to. There is really nothing more I can say, go look up some videos of the soundtrack and judge for yourself, they are really that good.

Replayability: Because of the different difficulties and different jobs, this game is a great game for Speedrunners; However, for everyone else, after clearing the main story and doing pretty much every side quest, there is not really anything that would bring a player back, maybe some will play it again after a few years for the story. There is though plenty of side quests and to 100% the D book with all monsters, items, story bits, will take a pretty long while.

Final verdict: I will give this game 9/10, it's a game that pretty much anyone can enjoy without problems, but the Bravery second is really stupid, and something they could have left completely out of the game. After playing through the game once, you will not have any reason at all to play it again, except for enjoying the story again. With all that said the story is well written, the characters are memorable, and the soundtrack is amazing, it's a game that deserves all the hype it has gotten. If you are a RPG fan then you cannot miss out on this gem.

Thats all from me readers, have a awesome day!