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on 31 December 2013
I will preface my review by saying that I have been waiting for this game for a long time - I bought a 3DS this year purely on the strength of this game getting localised.
Simply put, Bravely Default lives up to my expectations.

I take one mark off here for the frankly pointless Norende village rebuilding minigame - it's kind of cool at first, but honestly, it's just a Facebook game tacked on so they could say the game has Streetpass functionality.
The game is so simple that anyone can grasp the basics, but nuanced enough that you will need real strategy - particularly on higher difficulties - to win. That combined with the ability to change the difficulty at any time, turn off/on different battle rewards such as money or experience plus the random encounter ratio slider enables the player to set their own challenges and puts them in complete control of their game experience. A massive plus for me.

The job system itself manages to be fairly standard while adding new twists to an old genre trope. There are old favourites like the black and white mages, but also new ideas thrown in the mix. While I haven't tried out every single job yet (there are 24!), it leaves a lot of room for experimentation and again, personal agency when it comes to customising your game experience. While some jobs seem useless at first, there are always ways in which you can make them work for you, and only one or two seem like filler, really.

Finally, the actual battle system itself. A blessing for a turn-based JRPG fan, it manages to blend very old-school (put in your commands at the start of the turn and watch it go!) with the new Brave and Default system, which adds a nice layer of strategy. It's also refreshingly challenging! On playing normal mode, I found myself getting wiped out by bosses frequently until I had worked out a good strategy for defeating them.

VISUALS - 10/10
This is where Bravely Default shines. The world of Luxendarc is beautifully rendered in an art-style that makes it look like you're running around in a painting. The character designs are also brilliant, and while some will not like the chibi sprite style, I think it works well with the almost ethereal quality to the backdrops.

SOUND - 10/10
Again, a stunning piece of work by composer Revo. I frequently find myself humming the various themes even when I'm not playing - the tunes just stay in your head for days, and there is a wide variety of different styles as well. I am particularly fond of the theme that plays whenever Edea performs a special move, it has quite a retro 90s feel to it that you don't hear much anymore!

Overall, Bravely Default has polished the JRPG tropes of old until they shine again. If you like turn-based RPGs, you will love this game. The story, while a little cliche and predictable if you play a lot in the genre, is well-crafted and actually a little surprising in places, which is hard to do to a hardened veteran like myself. The characters are likeable, and the world feels very alive.
In the six days since I've got this game, I have put in 50+ hours of playing (probably 60 if you count the number of times I died and had to reload). THAT is how good this game is. I just can't put it down.
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on 7 April 2015
i need to make it clear; i love the game... and fully intend to purchase the second one when/if it gets a western release but i cant rate 5 stars, and i will try explaining why i can only give it 3

The first star is lost because of these two points:

- 'Bravely second', this is a way for you to pause battles and issue orders in the middle of a turn (oh no, the enemy just wiped out three party members, just press select and make your group cast healer revive everyone before the rest of the enemies get a turn), this uses 'SP', which can be gained from leaving your DS in sleep mode (ONLY whilst bravely default is playing) or bought with real money (i have nothing against microtransactions if handled apropriately, but even if this wasnt a full price game; it trivialises combat and overall cheapens the experience)... i suppose i should make it clear that the game is absolutely complete-able without using this feature, and as it isnt a competetive game; paying for power isnt really an issue... but still, major minus points

- Norende Village reconstruction, this is a minigame that functions much like 'farmville', you set areas to be reclaimed or buildings to erect/upgrade, i have three issues with this.
1. timers only count down whilst playing bravely default (sleep mode works too, but it has to enter sleep mode whilst playing), many (if not all) of the final upgrades for buildings take 99 hours... i havent bothered to add up all the sleep time required to fully reclaim/upgrade all buildings (information available on wiki) but i wouldnt be surprised if it was in excess of 1000hrs (completing the game once, and maxing all classes/characters took less than 100hrs playtime)
2. story-wise, it doesnt make sense... i wont go into this to avoid spoilers; but early on its clear this feature was simply tacked onto the game for streetpass
3. lack of respect for the players time (particularily if you want to blitz through the game, gating content behind a poorly designed timesink is bad)

The second star is lost because of the exorbitant repetitive bloating... i wont go into this point to avoid spoilers, early on you might think you understand what i mean... you dont, it gets ridiculous

most of the bad stuff over...
Why I love this game:

- greatly reminiscent of Final Fantasy 3 (DS remake and ios/android/steam ports in particular, i havent played the original famicom version)

- massive customisation, you have a party of four, each character has a set job (stats, equipment proficiency , one preset support ability and a combat command)... you can equip them with another jobs combat command (you want a white mage with the templars rampart ability? give the white mage the holy arts command) THEN you can equip them with up to 5 (start with 1 slot, unlock more as you progress) 'support abilities', these support abilities are unlocked by levelling certain classes up and have a ton of different effect (increasing certain equipment proficiency, stat increases, command increases, gaining BP when sustaining a status ailment, halving physical damage but increasing outgoing healing by 2.5*, automatically taking damage for targetted allies who are low on health etc)... theres also the standard gear equipment (mainhand, offhand, helm, armour and accessory)

- a large amount (not all) of dialogue is voiced (not something i normally care about, but was a nice surprise... and in my opinion -take it with a grain of salt... as i said, not something i normally care about- is pretty well done... mostly... tiz' audio was pretty meh)

- Brave/Default system adds a tactical dimension to battles, instead of the often unused 'guard' option many turn based RPGs offer, you can 'Default', taking less damage and saving a battle point (BP) for a later turn... letting you minimise damage for a couple of turns and then use up all your saved BP (or go into a BP deficit; where youll have to wait for that character to go back to 0BP afterwards) through 'Brave' to unleash many attacks (or heals, buffs, revives, etc) in one turn

- encounter rate modification, you can double the encounter rate, or remove encounters entirely, at will, this makes grinding and backtracking much easier/less boring

... theres a couple of other issues that i wouldnt deduct stars for... but i should mention anyways

- damage cap... damage caps out at 9999 (tooltips indicate you can break that cap using bravely second, but i never used bravely second so cant confirm) which neuters certain classes late game (the valkyrie -ff dragoon- uses two turn attacks, which is suboptimal when you should be hitting 9999 every turn with every BP... or the pirate which has 2* and 4* damage attacks... which do nothing because you can be hitting cap with normal attacks)

- autonomous battles, you can set up characters with certain support abilities and equipment and make the game automatically play the battle (im under the impression that this is possible with every boss in hard mode, but i only tried one, so cant confirm)

- linear story and dumb characters, the characters progress along a certain path (seeming to just ignore warnings... many many warnings) lacking player choice

- balance, already touched in the damage cap... but theres a lot of unbalanced issues in the game (such as a team of dark knights with sword magic command being able to kill bosses in one turn due to them being able to get off 5*9999 damage hits for 3 BP, or the red mages BP recovery support ability, combined with a black mage with the group cast all supportability being able to give all the party -including themself- max BP by braving 4 times every turn then poisoning your party 3 times before curing them, many bosses are completely neutered by two or more templars, etc)
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on 11 December 2013
Despite having a pretty stupid title this game is quite possibly one on the best role playing games (rpg) I have played in a long time. Unfortunately, I imagine that the bizarre title may actually put some people off buying it because it just sounds too odd. Anyone that has read any reviews or heard anything about this game will know that it has been getting a lot of positive things said about it. All these comments are justified too.

This game follows a familiar format in that your little group of people travels around the world in an attempt to prevent some sort of cataclysmic disaster. Along the way you meet numerous characters, both good and evil, and have to carry out tasks to advance the story. The story in this game is a good one which I won't spoil for you here. All I will say is that it is worth reading / listening to the dialogue in the little scenes as it is well written, well voice acted, and is interesting, useful, sad, funny... just read it instead of skipping it okay.

Also following a familiar route is the random battle format and experience / skill building system. However, the tried and tested turn based battle system does have a twist that can dramatically affect how things turn out. You can save up your moves whilst defending from the enemy to use all in one go. So you could save up the moves of your healing character whilst the others are in good health in case they have to heal multiple characters at once, or you could save up and hit a foe multiple times when it keeps healing itself regularly. Alternatively, you can gamble and use future turns to get multiple hits / heals. Doing this means that you can't do anything until those future turns have been counted down which can leave you vulnerable. The balance of risk against reward when saving up moves or using them early can be a fine one but it is a system that works incredibly well and adds something fresh to the rpg genre.

Levelling up characters is pretty addictive due to the job system. There a loads of job classes to unlock and each one has its own pros and cons. There are skills that automatically take effect for each class and others that are used in battle and the as you gain experience from battles the level of your character and the level of the job class increases. You can change classes at any time outside of battle but you get better and better abilities at higher job class levels. So, do you go for a balanced character with loads of job abilities that they can switch between or do you concentrate on having fewer, more powerful abilities? Decisions, decisions! It never really gets to the point where there is so much to choose from that things just get confusing and frustrating though.

One aspect that could be slightly frustrating for some players is the side game where you rebuild a village. By getting streetpass hits from anyone else with this game you gain extra villagers to rebuild the village quicker. This means that anyone who rarely gets streetpass hits will not reap the benefits from higher levels shops / armouries etc... that can be a big help in the main game. This is only a minor thing though and shouldn't spoil things too much.

Overall, this game is fantastic! It plays well, is challenging, interesting, funny, exciting, gorgeous to look at, awesome to listen to, lengthy, and just brilliant in general. The best rpg for a long time.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2013
Ive been playing for a couple of days and really enjoying Bravely Default,It isnt perfect but its one of best Jrpgs on any system for quite a while,only reason for the 4 star rating overall is the game is abit too easy,even without using your friends,which is an option in game to use moves sent by other players.

To be honest combat is easy,mainly because of the Brave/default system,which makes combat a doddle most of the time,You use Default to defend for a turn and build up 1 point of brave,so not only do you reduce damage you can hit an extra time in the next round,you can save upto 3 brave points and use them in a single round so attacking 4 times and pretty much slaughter everything apart from bosses,but even those dont take much effort as a single character with 3 brave points saved can heal,attack and use items all in the same turn.

Graphics and sound and excellent,the 3d effect is very good but dosnt add much too the game.

Upto the point im in the story its very run of the mill JRPG, but interesting enough to keep me playing, the characters are very well designed but character wise also like nearly all JRPGs,forgettable once you stop playing,but you dont dislike them.

Restoring the village side quest is abit pointless overall but does have some fun ideas, fighting monsters sent by other people,or sending a monster to other peoples games

One thing i didnt like is the SP drinks,which you use to give free extra turns in battle,you get one every 8 hours but if you needed more you have to buy them for real money, Micro transactions are getting abit stupid these days, Luckily combat isnt too hard so i havent even used 1 point so i wont be needing to purchase drinks,but its still something game companies shouldnt be forcing into every game thats released.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2014
Minor spoilers may follow; no specific plot details are revealed.

Bravely Default is a love letter to the JRPG titles of old. With crystals, mages and Phoenix Downs abound, four unlikely heroes set off on an adventure that spans their entire world. Friendships are formed, conflicts are caused and old men make creepy sexual advances on pre-teen girls in this 35 hour adventure.

For the most part, Bravely Default does what it does very well. It's unique combat system, based on withdrawing turns in order to gain defense bonuses/additional attacks later makes strategy a key part of every major fight. The incredibly diverse job system enables you to combine an all manner of spells and abilities. Ever wanted to be a black mage vampire? A knight pirate? Let it be so, as the game lets you take on two job roles at once. And it welcomes your experimentation, too. In fact, it encourages it with its varied boss fights, where your enemies also have access to the Brave/Default system.

Except for, of course, Chapters 5-8, which is home to some of the laziest game design I have ever seen. These chapters have you essentially repeating what you spent the first 30 hours completing, albeit at a somewhat faster rate. You repeat this not once but four additional times.
Four times must you do the same arbitrary, convoluted and wholly unnecessary sequences again with no alterations, and many will argue that it is for the "sake of the story". There are so many better ways that this could have been handled, in my opinion.
Better still, Silcon Studio even enabled a way to let you skip all of this repetitive content and head straight to a final boss which, however, does not net you the "true ending". That didn't bother me, though. I skipped the laborious grinding, beat the "fake" boss and watched the real ending on YouTube. I wish I didn't have to do that, but I am not going to grind my way through identical content four more times just to obtain closure on the storyline.
This is a huge focus of this review because we are in the year 2014 now. Games have evolved beyond the simple grind mechanics of the 90's, this is no longer acceptable. The JRPG must eschew many of its previous conventions and take on new, modern practices. Bravely does do this to some extent, such as allowing you to adjust the difficulty and alter the random encounter rate in very specific increments. However, these are additions to archaic mechanics; a desperate attempt to modernise something that simply needs to be removed.

Bravely Default does so much right with its unique take on turn-based warfare and its brilliant job system. Its music, too, is breathtaking and fitting at every turn. Revo did a great job there. The visuals are crisp and monsters are beautifully animated and detailed. A great welcome back for the classic turn based RPG. Everything before the endgame content would be an easy 4 stars.
However, for everything it does well, it takes another two steps back by throwing in the typical JRPG trope of an endless grind for the sake of padding out the adventure. Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" (2011) was guilty of a similar crime, too, having you walk back and forth collecting items for no real rhyme or reason. The option is there for you to either embrace this "content" or skip it entirely, but this does not change the fact that it never should have been included in the first place.

Bravely Second will be out soon. Let's hope that they continue to push this genre forwards, not backwards.
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on 5 May 2014
Bravely Default is a pretty interesting game.

The Battle System is easy to get a good grasp on - it has a class system like Final Fantasy V that controls what abilities the character has and affects their stats (e.g. a Black Mage is far weaker physically than a Monk but has stronger magic). But you can also equip a second set of abilities from a different class - so you could equip a Black Mage who would have a high Magic stat with White Magic. Then it also has the Brave and Default actions - Brave lets you take turns early while Default allows you to save up turns so that you can use Brave then still be able to take action the next turn.

It allows you to create clever strategies and if you cleverly plan out moves based on your character's speeds, you'll be able to revive team members and have a team mostly at full health in a few turns.

The only flaw I really saw with it was that some of the abilities on bosses were somewhat unfair. The max damage you can cause per turn is 9999 unless you use a special ability - but the Dark Knight of the game has a move called Minus Strike which does damage equal to the amount of HP they have lost. So he can insta-kill your characters with a move that you can't use to do more than 9999 damage.

Graphically, the cutscenes at the beginning are amazingly beautiful but the rest of the game is done in a kind of chibi style - like Final Fantasy III when it was upgraded for the 3DS. There is only one single cutscene after that which is at the very end of the game - the rest of the game is done in that chibi style which isn't bad, but it makes the main characters seem a lot shorter than literally every other character you talk to.

Story is where the game excels - it starts with a simple 'awaken the four crystals to save the world' and is very focused on what characters say - but things then become a lot more complex. I will admit that the second half of the game is somewhat tedious, especially if you do all the sidequests, but it is to add to the fact that the journey takes a long time. You get the true ending if you keep playing through but there is a second ending that you can find after you have started chapter five, finding it doesn't really do anything except show you would happen if you took that action instead of continuing onwards endlessly.

Anyone who liked Final Fantasy, especially the early ones, would love this game.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 January 2014
Although I've bought a fair number of JRPGs over the years, I find that I actually complete very few, so it says a lot that I managed to see the final screen of this one after some 164 hours of play. Admittedly that is a very long run-through for this game, involving quite a few optional activities, but how did this game succeed where even so great a game as Ni No Kuni failed?

Forget about the plot ("elemental priestess on the run" yada yada "airship" yada yada "world in peril" yada yada): in narrative terms, this is one of the most formulaic JRPGs imaginable. Were it not for the rather pretty 3D visuals and the above-average music, this could be any of the early Final Fantasy games (FFV is the one most mentioned as a point of comparison) and although the plot is eventually satisfying, that's not where the strength of the game lies.

Bravely Default succeeds by offering more options for customised parties than any other RPG I can think of. There are 24 job classes and each character can have a major job active with the skills from a minor job at any time. On top of which, once you have unlocked the perks for a job, you can also equip those to each character, meaning that it's tempting to want to play absolutely everything. If you end up playing a party this is simply Knight, Thief, White Mage and Black Mage, you have absolutely no one to blame other than yourself. How does Vampire, Salve-Maker, Performer and Merchant sound?

The endless grind to develop these jobs means that you spend a lot of time fighting, so it's just as well that the battle system is fairly robust. The gimmick - being able to take turns early and pay for them later, or save them for future rounds instead - is simple, but effective, and means (for example) that you can get some buffing out of the way on the first turn before things start hitting you. Or unleash hell on the round when a boss's invulnerability falls. The spells are for the most part over-familiar, with the scissors-paper-stone elemental weaknesses all present and correct, but there are some nice animations for the Summons once you get them, and collecting them is another nice sub-quest in a massive game.

There's no online multiplayer, but the game makes good use of its simple friend system (using Spotpass & Streetpass) without ever becoming essential. Special downloaded bosses called Nemeses provide a daily challenge if that sort of thing sounds to your taste.

The English-language voice acting, though of a high quality, makes everything sound like a Disney cartoon and characterisations are (to say the least) very broad indeed. Fortunately, this can be turned in Settings to give Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. [Thank you to Mr. P. Thorne for drawing this correction to my attention.]

On a more serious note, this may look like a kids' game, but there is a layer of innuendo (particularly in the first fifth or so of the game) that means that parents should take seriously its 12 age rating. Even adult players would be justified in finding the subject matter distasteful at times. The character models were slightly censored compared with the original Japanese release, but there's plenty left in Bravely Default to take exception to. It's a shame that a story that is in many respects more sombre and serious than it first appears is marred by things that lead character Agnes Obliges would doubtless call 'unacceptable'.

Moreover, the later stages of the game do become repetitive, which has caused some consternation of gamers already deep into the game who are suddenly facing what seems like an arbitrary barrier to completion. Personally, I found that there was enough pay-off to this large chunk of the game, but again that will depend on how much you are enjoying the game when you reach that point.

Nevertheless, issues with some aspects of the game can't change the fact that this is a first class JRPG, able to stand comparison with the best available on just about any platform, present or past. The highly addictive gameplay and generous game size mean that this thing could be in your 3DS for months to come.
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on 25 August 2014
Great game very similar to many final fantasy games, the job system is very cool for example it allows you to use a secondary passive ability from another job with your main one. This offers many strategic options for your team. Also the dialog in game can be funny and witty. I cant comment on the story so far as I have not progressed much. However I can tell you that you will have to grind levels a bit to comfortably handle the many bosses at stages of the game. (which there are alot) However level progression is very rewarding with your job level also increasing over time. The game also rewards you for bonus points for ending the fight in one turn and without an enemy hitting you which encourages innovation in your game play.

All in all its everything I expected and more so far. I have under 10 hours played and still very engaged, I would recommend this to any final fantasy fan, especially the more old school ones. Sqaure enix have done well with this, my favorite 3DS game. If I was forced to give a critique of this game at gun point It would be the city building mini game where you have to wait sometimes 90 hours to unlock certain moves forcing you to keep your 3DS on sleep mode. It wasn't really necessary at all just a thing to prolong the game. I would have much preferred the unlock mechanic from say Final Fantasy 10 with the power orbs and moves in grids.

Having said that I can tell I can sink alot of fun hours into this game making it a very worth while investment. Considering most 3DS games don't compel me to play for more than 20 hours.
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on 16 June 2014
A Japanese-style RPG, probably the most complex handheld RPG ever produced, with excellent graphics and design, and an interesting storyline, at least at first. It does have problems, though. One is that character development poses problems. As usual, your characters can take on various jobs, and then gain abilities and experience in these jobs classes but....some of the job classes are only acquired very late in the game, and seem to be needed to defeat enemies towards the end. So, you've spent many hours with certain jobs, and have been successful up to this point in the game, only to find that the skills you've got are more or less useless, and you have to start again. What makes matters worse is that it seems that each character has to develop the job individually, so if you've got a level X something you can't transfer it to someone else. Frustrating.....I gave up after about 35 hours of play. To do all the things the internet guides tell you to do to finish the game seems to require hundreds of hours of play, but maybe there's some way round this. It looks nice, though, and is fun to play in the initial stages.
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on 23 May 2014
Possibly minor spoilers below, I'll try and not say much about the plot.

As has been said already by others, this game is almost great. I really enjoyed the first few chapters and had the game continued in such a vein I would have given it four possibly even five stars.

Unfortunately this was not the case. The game becomes very repetitive towards the end, to the extent that characters can have exactly the same cut-scene conversation more than four times. whole areas/dungeons are replayed with little to no difference from the previous time through. There is some nice character development of secondary characters, but this is in the way of side-quests and the central plot stalls rather.

I also found the endings (and I saw both) quite unfulfilling. It added a never-before-hinted-at twist which was never really explained or elaborated upon. I guess it was to leave a sequel hook, but it came off as a bit of a cheap shot.

That said, I do not regret purchasing or playing the game. It was fun most of the time. I completed all the side-quests and it took me quite a bit of time. Thus I would recommend it to others.
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