In my own humble opinion, the last great turn-based strategy RPG, lovingly known as a JRPG, was Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360 in 2008.  Since then, many RPGs have tried to add new features and bring them more into the Western world’s idea of an RPG, the action RPG.  The original great JRPG series, Final Fantasy, has since lost its appeal to many hardcore JRPG fans with their move way from the turn-based strategy elements that make these games so wonderful.  Now, Square Enix makes a huge comeback to this arena with Bravely Default, a game that will surely been seen as another truly great JRPG.

Bravely Default follows the story of a young shepherd boy, Tiz, the lone survivor of the disaster that swallows his entire town whole.  Tiz will team up with three other adventurers, Agnes, the Vestal of Wind (a priestess of sorts), Ringabel, a boy with no memory of who he is or where he’s from, and Edea, a traitor to her kingdom, now fighting for good.  These three teenagers will risk everything they have to restore balance to the world and bring life back to Tiz’s lost town.

Bravely Default Screen 4The most prominent new element brought to this genre is the titular Brave and Default actions that can be strategically used in battle.  Players can choose to use Brave to use up to four actions in one turn but must wait until their Brave Points return to zero before acting again.  Brave essentially allows players to “borrow” future moves in advance.  The opposite to this action is the Default action. This is a defensive action that begins to store up to three extra moves for use later in the battle.  While in the Default stance, players will take half damage, will store Brave Points, and can then unleash up to four moves later.  In addition to these new elements, players can also call in friends to help them in battle by utilizing the StreetPass functionality of the 3DS system.  Either passing people on the street or Net Inviting friends, players can have a list of characters that can be called upon when needed.

There is so much depth to Bravely Default. As player progress through the story and complete side quests, they will come across some very long and challenging ‘boss’ battles. The result of these battles is obtaining an “asterisk” which empower the player to new job types for each of the four companions. Typical jobs such as the White Mage, Black Mage, and Knight are all here in addition to some interesting new jobs such as the Merchant, the Vampire, and the Brawler.  There are 20 different jobs available and each character can “equip” 2 jobs at any time but only the main job will gain experience as the player defeats enemies.  Upgrading these jobs also unlocks new special abilities for use in battle.  Outside of battle, Bravely Default also has a unique little mini-game in which players rebuild Tiz’s lost town.  This also uses the StreetPass feature to bring more and more “workers” into the town to speed up the construction of buildings which, in turn, provide much needed items for use in the main story.

Bravely Default Screen 3For a game made specifically for the Nintendo 3DS, Bravely Default also has some of the best 3D I have seen on this handheld yet.  There are many games that I prefer to play in 2D simply because the 3D effects aren’t worth looking at, but Bravely Default looks amazing in 3D and it is simply beautiful.  The hand drawn water-colour backgrounds, immersive fantasy world and intense music all meld to bring an amazing experience to 3DS owners everywhere.  And this is a huge game too! After nearly 5 hours of gameplay, a title appeared on screen that said, “Chapter 1”.  Wait, what? All that was just the prologue?  Yeah, seriously.

Bravely Default is simply captivating.  It is one of the best JRPGs I have played in a very long time.  This is not a game you’ll be able to play in small chunks of time. Even though you can, you simply will not want to.  While the character models and the voice acting are very child like (they’re teenagers in a Japanese anime style, afterall), it is still a very mesmerizing game and one that never really overwhelms or disappoints.  The boss battles are long and challenging, but never frustrating which is a nice change of pace from the influx of hardcore games of late.

Bottom line, if you love the turn based RPG, then Bravely Default is not a game you can pass up on.  There is so much to this game and, surprisingly, I can honestly find nothing wrong with it. This is simply the most fun I’ve had with a JRPG since 2008’s Lost Odyssey.  It’s nice to see Square Enix returning to their Final Fantasy style RPG roots.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.