Monday, January 13, 2014

Bolded for Emphasis: The Bravely Default Demo

Playing Bravely Default reminds me of a scene from Futurama. I think it went something like this:

Fry: I just saw something incredibly cool! A big, floating ball that lit up with every color of the rainbow, plus some new ones that were so beautiful I fell to my knees and cried.
Amy Wong: Was it out in front of Discount Shoe Outlet?
Fry: Yeah.
Amy Wong: They have a college kid wear that to attract customers.
Fry: Well, I don't care if it was some dork in a costume! For one brief moment, I felt the heartbeat of creation, and it was one with my own.
Amy Wong: Big deal!
Bender: We all feel like that, all the time. You don't hear us gassing on about it!

Yeah, you saw this one coming.
(Image courtesy of
If only games this good were that common! I do not exaggerate when I say that I haven't been this enthusiastic about a video game since Mass Effect 2, Darkstalkers, or even the original Gunstar Heroes. Bravely Default looks incredible on the 3DS, sounds even better, and offers some of the most addictive combat you'll find in a turn-based RPG... and that's just the demo!

The steampunk town featured in the
Bravely Default demo.
(Image courtesy of
The attention to detail in Bravely Default is amazing, from the massive windmills and clocks looming over you in the city to the trail of footprints you leave behind as you journey through the desert. Wispy clouds lazily float past, casting shadows on the ground, and day turns to night, bringing more ferocious monsters with it. (What a horrible night to have a curse!) Your heroes even engage in a little cosplay, putting on different costumes depending on the jobs you select for them. The "performer" job class turns pasty white sidekick Ringabel into an Elvis impersonator... if that's not a first for an RPG, I can scarcely imagine the game that beat Bravely Default to it!

Speaking of music, Bravely Default has some of the best you'll find in a role-playing game, no small feat when you consider the epic tracks Square-Enix has served up in the past. The combat theme, Bell of Battle (or is it Conflict's Chime...?) is a rousing, urgent score that gets you pumped and primed for carving up cat wizards and giant scorpions. You'll be hearing it a lot over the course of the game, but there's a pretty good chance you'll download the track and listen to it even after you've put your 3DS to sleep for the night.

The two greatest words in the English
language! De-fault, de-fault!
(image courtesy of
Oh yes, about the combat! Fights are turn-based, closely resembling the battles from the early Final Fantasy games, but the developers have taken steps to ensure they don't slow to a crawl... like, uh, the later Final Fantasy games. Along with the usual combat options like attack, item, and magic, you've got two new choices, Brave and Default. Brave lets you take up to four turns at once, giving you a chance to put the hammer down on monsters or heal multiple party members. Default is the more conservative option, letting you save a turn for later while boosting your defense.

Personally, I've never found a practical use for Default, aside from unessential skills that require multiple turns to activate. However, Brave is extremely handy for tearing through lesser foes, or bringing down the strong ones before they get a chance to retaliate. Plus, your allotment of turns (called BP) are restored with each new fight, so hey, go nuts!

There's an even BIGGER dragon than D'gon?!
Help, mommy!
(image courtesy of
The only issue I have with the Bravely Default demo, aside from the fact that I'll only be able to play it thirty times, is that it's punishingly difficult. On my first try, I was advised by a non-player character that the path to the west of the city was full of easily dispatched chumps, along with a cave stockpiled with handy items. I quickly discovered that those chumps weren't so easily dispatched, and all I found in the cave was death, delivered swiftly by a massive fire-belching anklyosaur called a D'gon.

You're not going to survive long if you don't make frequent use of the town inn (mercifully, a budget-priced inn that cures all status ailments, including death) and prepare your heroes for future encounters. That not only means grinding for levels and buying better gear, but switching jobs to give your characters new abilities. As with many RPGs, patience is a virtue in Bravely Default... if you charge headlong into uncharted territory, humiliating defeats and hopeless battles of attrition will be your reward.

Even with its brutal (but not insurmountable) difficulty, the Bravely Default demo makes a strong case for purchasing the full game, which will be released next month for around forty dollars. It's much too early to tell if Bravely Default will be the best game of 2014, but if what I've seen from the demo is any indication, it'll give the competition one hell of a run for its money.

Regarding the controversy over the characters'
redesigned outfits: do you really want to see
these Precious Moments figurines in
skimpy clothing? (Please say "no.")
(Image courtesy of

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