Bravely Default Demo - (3ds) Archive Review

I recently acquired a 3ds for the first time just a few short weeks ago, and have been incredibly impressed with it’s library and capabilities so far. However, this is not about the 3ds itself, but about what I felt was a serendipitous moment of appropriate proportions. The very next day after obtaining my 3ds, SquareEnix released their Bravely Default Demo for the Nintendo Eshop.
I had seen a few write-ups previewing the game from various sources, and a little reading about it revealed that it was an old-fashioned style Japanese turn-based RPG instead of the fun adventure game I had envisioned playing with my eight year old daughter(as the Fairy cover and epic sounding name implied).
Being a fan of old school Japanese RPGs, particularly Final Fantasy, I had to say I was downright excited at the prospect of a new, retro-inspired RPG to play on my latest handheld obsession. Imagine how much more excited I was to find that they had incorporated Final Fantasy V’s job system, and expanded upon it! Shortly after downloading the demo, and booting it up, it was revealed that this Demo wasn’t merely a preview of the game itself, but a full on collection of side quests that showcased the game’s mechanics, graphics, and job system. Oh, and the best part? Completing those side quests rewarded you by stocking up your save file with play bonuses to be transferred to the game proper upon it’s full release!
Take note, gaming companies-SquareEnix just set a new standard. The Bravely Default demo was preemptive, free DLC that gave you actual content you can use in the game! Give us a tutorial for the game, a preview of it’s mechanics, and provide us with a few items as a reward for checking out your latest offering? That’s way better than rushing the release date and giving us day one DLC to patch your errors.
But, I digress. Let’s get to the game itself.
You start off with a party of adventurers named Tiz, Edea, Agnes, and the comically but endearingly named “Ringabel”. You are paraded in front of the local mayor(governor? lord? king?) and told that a nearby town has been destroyed, and you are sent on a series of quests to restore the town and ensure supplies for your headquarters and the demolished town.
You start off with all of your party members as freelancers, and as you grind your way through the game and level up, you are given the imperative to assign them each a job. Not only does defeating monsters give you experience, it also gives you job points to level up your job.
Another thing you’ll immediately notice about this demo, is that it provides three difficulty levels-easy for story, normal for mix of story and enemies, and hard for emphasis on battles.
I chose normal mode to properly test out the new battle system  and jobs. The highlight of the battle system is an option called “Default”, which is essentially choosing “defend” for your character, but it rewards you for choosing this option beyond merely reducing the damage taken.
When you accumulate “Brave points”, you have different options to spend them, depending on your job class. As a Valkyrie(one of my chosen Jobs), you spend your brave points to perform your skill attacks(think of limit breaks or techniques from the earlier Final Fantasy games), but on most other characters it is a way of getting in multiple actions in one turn.
Not only does it drastically change the combat when your level 4 character can attack twice or cast two spells in one round, but going into default may be one of the best ways to keep your weaker(read: mages) party members alive. This game is hard- starting enemies in the overworld can easily get four good hits on a party member and kill them, and there are usually groups of 2 or more enemies that take 2 rounds to kill each at the beginning!
One of the integrated features of the 3ds is the ability to pick up new villagers with streetpass. The more villagers you have, the quicker you can get your village rebuilt, and each building provides better items or equipment-far better than any of the items or equipment you can buy in your headquarter town. While it is difficult to obtain enough villagers to get things done quickly through streetpass, there is an easily exploitable glitch you can utilize to speed things along.

After fighting my way through the first few locations and the first boss, I had acquired enough villagers and money to buy better equipment, some ethers and bought the higher level spells. While maxing out your character’s abilities and equipment makes the game a little smoother, Bravely Default by no means ever becomes too easy to beat.

Even so, with a fully restored village and all of the bosses beat, I maxed out all four of my party members and put a grand total of seven hours and forty six minutes of gameplay into a Demo-and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
This game harkens back to a time gone by of console RPGs, and does a better job of recapturing the magic of your first play through of an SNES era RPG for the first time better than even Final Fantasy 9-a game which was designed specifically for that purpose.
While this game isn’t a proper Final Fantasy game, it feels more like one than any of the last ten years of console releases does, and I’m actually very happy that they decided not to make it another Final Fantasy game.
This is an IP strong enough to stand on it’s own, and I can’t wait for Bravely Default to hit the store shelves Feb. 7. I am even more giddy over the recent confirmation of a sequel entitled “Bravely Second”

score 9/10


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