I’ll be blunt and say that I only got halfway through the Bravely Default, and that should be how this review is read. However, as with any review I do while having not completed a game, it is naturally going to be very negative, as I viewed the game to not be worth completing. So yes, some schmuck on his own private playhouse is going to bad talk a critically acclaimed JPRG that many considered to be a reinvigoration of the genre. I think it is the most stagnant, soulless, and overall worst game I have ever reviewed. …Elaboration time!
Bravely Default: For the Sequel’s Sequel’s Sequel’s Sequel’s Sequel’s Sequel Review
Developer: Square Enix and Silicon Studio
The story is a good place to begin, despite how I did not get to the make it or break it revelation that occurs in chapter five, but in order to get there the story needs to carry the game through for about 60 hours in my experience, but I’ll get to why exactly that was in a bit. Right from the game’s string of opening cinematics, I should have realized what I was getting myself into, as the introductions for the four main characters are all massive cliches, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but they were and are cliches that are not handled with any form of awareness that the lone survivor of a destroyed town, the sheltered one whose life has been spent trying to protect the world, the amnesica loverboy, and the one with personal connections to the antagonists only to then turn on them, have been done before, and require some form of careful craftsmanship in order for them to prove to be interesting characters. This is unfortunately absent from the game, as there was remarkably little in terms of growth or development from what I witnessed, as the characters did not budge a centimeter from their simplistic mold, as if the writers were somehow fearful that the already odd dynamic there character have in the form of a relationship would crumble if something worth opening one’s eyes to witness occurred.
I suppose it should be expected given the overarching story of Bravely Default, which is about on par with Final Fantasy III and V in terms of both the complexity (even though I know thing shake up later, it is still 60 hours of this), with there being four crystals that must be saved from X, which is caused by Y, who is the ultimate evil, even though it is clear that Z will come in as the true antagonist in the end. It is a tale already far from new two decades ago, meaning that the paths to obtaining these crystals must be where the interesting stuff occurs, which is partially true. I will admit that the tiny world of Bravely Default did captivate my interest at some point, but as I played on, realized just how depressingly barren every town was, and noticed even more head hanging uninteresting trope, I quickly gave up in the story being given much redemption beyond one thing, the boss characters.
Taking the job system along with just about everything else from the two aforementioned Final Fantasy titles, Bravely Default naturally needs a justification for one to simply obtain the powers of a Red Mage or Pirate, and somebody decided that murder sounded like the best form. In creating these characters, however, the development team managed to select even more tropes, except they were actually far more enjoyable tropes to watch. The problem here, aside from these characters often times being hidden behind an often awkward to activated side quest wall is that these characters exist to be murdered by our heroes, who steal their powers and clothes through a means the game honestly never explains. I do suppose it could be detailed in the title’s needlessly complex compendium of information, but that is similar to explaining why things happened in a film during the credits, rather than during the movie itself. Instead, the playable characters are the murderers of far more interesting ones, and they are the ones who must be rooted for in a plot that that I feel as if I can best explain my problems with beyond ranting about how the cliches they chose are the most common Japanese tropes that do not involve sexualization, and instead list some issues I had with where the story went.
The primary antagonist is very clearly attempting to be heroic with their actions, but despite several opportunities where they are written incompetently where an explanation could be provided, they are murdered by our “heroes”. One of the five towns in the game is populated mostly by women who are obsessed with trends, fashion, and enjoy insulting those who do not value the same thing, going so far as to boo the notion of somebody not wearing the equivalent to a panda pelt while performing. A spontaneously introduced character who defeats the protagonists in a cutscene immediately after the protagonists defeated a character who did something similar hours ago, but in a battle. Said battle involved a bizarre pedophilic relationship between two characters who shared the same basic name, and one of them is an alarmingly deformed floating loli. A war scenario that goes so far to include child slaves, but does not actually showcase any form of death despite how chemical warfare is another issue trampled over with an almost predicated level of foresight. There is perverted sage character who tries to dress the secondary female protagonist up in a skimpy outfit. A character is made only for her to die after one scene with another character, a move that I find to be pathetic from a writer’s perspective, along with most of what is done here. Not that I’m blaming the translation team Nintendo hired, as these type of issues come from a rotten core that only a total rewrite could remove.
Oh, but that’s before getting to the gameplay, which I would flippantly describe as How To Not Make A JRPG if I were in a sour mood, which I am due to the subject matter at hand. Now, this is not due to the Brave and Default system, where players can sacrificed character turns for more moves in a round or save them up by defending, which provides a good amount of strategy. The problem is 95+ percent of the random encounters the game boasts, and how I handled them. You see, you can easily stack four attacks on top of one another in a battle, thereby easily defeating the enemy and receiving bonuses for doing so quickly. These bonuses stack after a certain threshold is hit, and the characters can easily grind several job levels by having an auto-battle set, doubling the encounter rate through a needlessly obtuse menu system, moving around the circle pad around, and pressing A. You do this for several hours, occasionally changing a job around or stopping at an inn to refill MP, and then you resume your grinding while barely paying attention to the game, as somebody could have a machine do this grinding for you, and yes, you do need to grind quite a bit. Yet even the ability to fast forward battles, which are by default disgustingly drawn out due to slow animations, the encounter rate boost, and so forth do nothing to hide the truth that this is not enjoyable, but is both rewarded by the game and is far more enjoyable than fighting random encounters in any other scenario. This is a massive problem if you ask me, as the player is effectively being rewarded for avoiding gameplay by repeating the same action while only looking at the screen a second every minute, which is just pathetic from a game design perspective.
I personally ended up spending five consecutive hours grinding in the same spot to boost my job levels, and managed to gain thirty base levels in the process, all because I assumed maxing out levels was something I should do, and because the job experience points were up to five times of what they were where I grinded last. This effectively made what little encounters I had after this grindfest rather pathetic, but it did also allow me to realize how there are basically only three base job formats with abilities that can either be incredibly useful, or completely useless attached to them. The melee fighter, the magic user, and the hybrid of the two who is almost always a liability to use outside of the soulless and devoid of involvement ‘gameplay’, as their abilities, what may makes them good, can be attached to the character when they have another job equipped.Effectively meaning jobs like the summoner are only good as being mages for other classes, while classes like Merchant are not good for just about anything aside from obtaining more money, which I will only admit to being useful due to how expensive certain items are.
Said items are obtained from a traveller who saves the player’s progress, but in a very odd move, does nothing to the player’s HP or MP. In fact, the only place to fully restore such a thing is from an inn, which is baffling, especially when you consider how much of the game’s flow would benefit from not turning off the random encounters and slowly walking across the bloated and empty overworld in order to reach a town. Oh, but surely the few number of towns will offer some sense of the world being bigger than the bare minimum, and it does that with a shopping two or three screens on average, with NPCs being limited and more or less useless aside from side quests to obtain more jobs one must grind into order to use properly.
However, I will give the towns one thing, they are the most visually appealing part of the game to me, as their gorgeous handdrawn details are promptly lessened by the 3DS’ low resolution screen. That isn’t saying I dislike the 3D models, just that they do not properly capture the details of the concept art, and often look like deformations of what they should be. Now, I could buy the argument that such a thing is fine as long as the models look good, and they are certainly well crafted, but seemingly minor things like the overall enemy designs, the chibi forms of the cosplaying teenage heroes compared to the daunting tall symbols of adulthood, and the fact the game relies so much on repetition made my eyes glaze over it after a point. A point reached through viewing the same canned battle animations ad nauseum, which even at four times the speed felt like they should have just been text and I would be having more fun with it. Oh, and I ended up turning the music down to an inaudible level except for boss battles, as I grew so fed up with the game’s repetitive and overly dramatic score that I found muting it to be beneficial to my enjoyment of the game.
Pfft, enjoyment. I honestly ceased enjoying this game near chapter two, about fifteen hours (25% of my playtime) in. Bravely Default is a rotten clump of a game I am almost ashamed to have bought, let alone wasted as much time on it as I did. Whatever good people see in it, I only see a cynically made game constructed to introduce a new generation to something I honestly do enjoy, but not this example, which is the worst version of it I have personally seen. All while tricking the fans of old into thinking they are having fun, when fun is a word I would not use to describe the game 90-95 percent of the time. It is a game that displeases me on every level after sixty hours, and I can safely say it is the worst game I have ever reviewed. Perhaps I just played it wrong, or perhaps I am a bitter asshole who will be mauled righteously in the comments, and then be found in real life and be worn as somebody’s skin, because they played too much Bravely Default. If that’s the case, I hope they at least try and eat some of my flesh. Vile savages.
You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? Issues up the butthole that make it a wonder you got out of QA, if anybody was directing a series of confused or simply incompetent designers, or any other awful fate that may have created this awful game.