et’s face it; we’ve reached a point where the cynical, yet-unavoidable truth concerning the relevancy of the JRPG couldn’t nearly deafen the opposing dissention to the contrary anymore like it has in 2014. Every new batch of titles that are hazardously published by the brave publishers who endorse them continue to dangerously escalate the degree of pandering we've slowly come to expect over the years. The same monotonous exercise of tired conventions and obnoxiously antiquated visual designs that do very little, or nothing, to break the repeating slump of circle-jerking that’s been plaguing the genre for the better part of ten years.
Sure there are the few exceptions that break out of the trappings of the stale mold that’s been defining the type. Lost Odyssey and Valkyria Chronicles are just a few worth naming and they have truly reinvigorated the same sense of charm and phantasm that the JRPG label once held, but these gems were few and far between the frequency of sub-par titles, and even garbage contemporaries released, within entire generations worth of time it seems.
That’s why it’s uplifting that Square-Enix, the arguabley, the giant of JRPG distribution that’s also seen its fair share of criticism for contributing the stigma associated with this kind of game, but then, there are moments like Bravely Default, that can surprise us all. Not only does Bravely Default stand as one of most criminally underrated champions for JRPGs at the moment, but it's easily one of the best games released in 2014 period.
I’ll admit, when Nintendo and Square threw some heavy weight behind it’s promotion for the eShop trial, I wasn’t sold it, in fact, the trial had the exact same effect—it turned me off faster than Lay’s Cappuccino flavor brand potato chips (seriously, there are no words that truly justify just how awful that bag of crunchy shit really is.)
The demo simply slap dashed the most rushed and summarized to introduction to every facet the game has to offer, and in the process, comes nowhere close to indicatively playing like genuinely majestic experience that awaited us in the final product. The poor exposition and pacing just didn’t properly curate any of the depths and systems that I felt actually exemplify just what makes the job and battle system so satisfyingly engaging.
Add that with the limited assortment of equipment, trial quests, and overall content, and a poor incentive to drive any worthwhile time experimenting with the system just left me with the impression that Bravely Default was simply victim to the “by-the-numbers” JRPG games to continue the trend of disappointment.
Thank Goodness for Andrew’s persistence of selling me to the contrary, because I caved and bought the game sometime after it was out, and my I changed tune quicker than Capcom rereleases Street Fighter IV.
Granted, the first few hours of Bravely Default’s beginning chapters suffered some really crappy pacing in introducing the more elegant nuances solely responsible for fleshing out all of the hard smiles the core-gameplay is capable of dishing forward, but nowhere near to the infamously obnoxious degree of Final Fantasy XIII.
After the all fluff concerning how the main characters Agnes and Tiz are able to access additional jobs, the rush of battling to get stronger is where the hour begin to feel like minutes. Finding the right strategies around the Default gimmick of storing away points towards an eventual Brave move somehow manages to bring psychological warfare to the surface.
Delegating how many rounds are going to need to be involved with what character and their aptitude for the assigned job involved with other supporting factors like equipment and their individual levels essentially present players with a plethora of direction and strategy that’s been absent from the JRPG scene for too long.
That’s the overall theme and largest strength to be found of Bravely Default; elaborate control and management, supplemented by an incredibly intuitive layout of systems to navigate and direct. The fact that the game caters the option of managing the frequency rate of random encounters, to completely eliminating them entirely and giving players to choice to actively recon the actual position of foes on the field is easily one of the most forward-thinking additions to genre that’s dominated by its own traditional conventions.
Even the familiar Job system that I've unabashedly adored beyond the reasonably criticism of its gradual dilution over the years kicks it up a notch, and throws in wacky-ass roles I would have never expected like Vampires—Vampires! Imagine that; at some point, the people at Silicon Studios arrived at the idea of incorporating Vampires into the games, and instead of throwing them in as another hackneyed addition to typical undead population that make up the enemy roster—but they didn’t. Instead, Silicon Studios came out and said, “Screw it, we could use another job to add to the mix instead, all y’all get to be vampires and shit” (I doubt those were the exact words used in the pitch meeting, but whatever, you get the idea.)
It’s little nuances like that really help to speak the volumes of the refreshing ideas that Bravely Default is emphatically built on, and the sharp polish in the execution of these neato features that drive home the selling point so well.
I’ll admit, without any direct spoilers being shared, it’s a shame that the forward-thinking design and direction suffers from some really shitty design decisions that can hamper the sweet momentum off of the end of the game’s first half when playing the latter end of it—especially that climax.
I could go on, but it’s insane that I almost missed this game entirely. The entire experience alone has taught me a significant learning lesson that I will not only forever reflect upon when it comes to account initial impressions as pundit that recounts their thoughts through a journalist perspective, but as a simple enthusiast gamer that cherishes quality opportunities like Bravely Default as well.
Thanks Andrew, it’s really nice when you’re not wrong, this totally makes up for the undeserved praise you gave to Enslaved.