Saturday 15 February 2014

Bravely Default

From the people who brought you Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts comes Bravely Default – Final Fantasy under a different name.  It's got everything you'd expect from a Final Fantasy game with the exception of chocobos and moogles.  If you can get over this emotional hurdle, then there's enough here to bring you back to the good old Final Fantasy days.

To Luxendarc, and Beyond
The game's opening makes excellent use of the 3DS's features.  You're supplied with an AR card that brings Agnes, one of the game's main characters, to life in your living room.  In the video that follows she begs you to become her “Warrior of Light”.  It's very clever, drawing you into world of Luxendarc and making you feel part of the story.  We're then introduced to the other main characters one by one – Tiz, Ringabel (so named because he can't remember anything), and finally Edea.

Tiz is our unlikely hero and the sole survivor of a disaster which destroyed his “sleepy village” of Norende.  Tiz is left unconscious after the disaster and wakes up a week later in the city of Caldisla.  He heads back to Norende to see the ruins for himself where he meets Agnes – the Vestal of Wind – guardian to a wind crystal.  And yes, in classic Final Fantasy fashion there's a Water, Earth and Fire Crystal too.  The crystals have all be taken over by a mysterious darkness, the supposed cause of Norende's destruction. So Tiz and Agnes team up as they're both heading back to Caldisla to try and stop further destruction.  So begins your journey around Luxendarc.  

Recycled Storyline, Anyone?
The story line is nothing new, typical of an RPG and indeed the older Final Fantasy games. The characters seem rather one dimensional and underdeveloped.  Tiz is your typical good guy, out to help those in need.  Agnes is distrusting and kicks up a fuss anytime someone new tries to join the party.  Ringabel is the ladies' man while Edea has a fiery sense of justice. This is left me oddly disappointed AND pleased at the same time as I expected more from Square Enix's character design, but enjoyed the lack of boots, belts and spiky hair.

Customise Characters and Encounters
As with classic Final Fantasys, the story is delivered through cut scenes and you're free to explore a beautifully realised world map.  You pick up new party members as you work your way through the story and unlock new Jobs for your party members by picking up Asterisks (weird little Job crystals).  There's lots of scope for customising each character with jobs, and active or passive abilities, helping to keep the game fresh and interesting throughout.  You're also provided with control over difficulty of the game AND the frequency of encounters.  If you want to get quickly from one side of a dungeon to the other, you change to low frequency or turn off encounters altogether.  When you want to grind, you whack it all the way up to full.  Again in classic Final Fantasy style I found myself having to grind surprisingly early in the game, but luckily the range of options in combat, combined with a good variety of enemies, keeps you entertained and stops the game from feeling repetitive.

Speaking of which, combat is where you'll find something new in this game.  In fact the game is named after tactics used in battle.  You use 'Default' to defend and each time you do, you get a  'Brave Point'.  Brave points allow you take extra turns in a round, so you if you store up three Brave Points you can do three attacks in one round (or more, taking your BP into negative numbers).  For even more options, you can add friends and use them in Abilink.  This lets you share your character's abilities with friends and you can also send and receive attacks in the form of summons.  Struggling in a battle?  Summon one of your friends with an awesomely powerful move to help you take out that difficult boss.  But don't forget to return the favour by sending yourself as a summon!

Hand-drawn Backgrounds
The characters and world are nicely rendered with hand-drawn backgrounds and each city has its own distinctive feel.  The 3D does look nice if you can stand using it. All good stuff apart from when you get to the world map and you look like a giant, towering over the trees and buildings like Godzilla.  Fortunately I found Bravely Default to be more on par with Dragon Quest 9 graphically, which is fantastic, rather than Final Fantasy Tactics or Heroes of Light, which are both less than fantastic. The voice acting is not outstanding but it does the job and the game is complimented well by a score that's surprisingly good for a 3DS game.

All in all, Square Enix have done well with Bravely Default.  With a 3DS Game it's hard to top the most beloved Final Fantasy games of old but I think this is about as good as we can hope for on a handheld console and from Square Enix post Final Fantasy 9.

Bravely Default gets a 4/5,

Ant Silvers

Bravely Default at CeX

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl