Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bravely Default: Final Thoughts

So, now that I've finished Bravely Default, the game that I bought a 3DS to play, it's time for my final thoughts on the game.  No major spoilers, just some minor stuff relating to story pacing.

Bravely Default definitely did not disappoint.  The game's art and environmental design make excellent use of the stereoscopic 3D.  The music is fantastic.  The sheer range of options for setting up a party... incredible.

One thing that I kind of already touched on: a lot of people give Bravely Default flak for the second half of the game.  I like to think that those people are incredibly hasty to form an opinion, and then blindly stick to that opinion in the face of anything the game has to offer or that other people might say about it.  Acknowledging that, I rather enjoyed the second half of the game.  Whereas the first half of the game was the party's journey to save the world, the second half was where the party slowly begins to understand what's really going on and discovers what their true task is.

It does seem repetitive, but the game uses the repetition to gradually uncover parts of what's really going on.  Plus, the repetitive nature of the last half of the game makes the player realize that they'll have to formulate a party in order to have a fighting chance.  A randomly cobbled together team might be able to do well, but sitting back and thinking about how your characters complement each other, both in job composition and with regard to special abilities, is crucial.  I know for a fact that in the first four chapters I was just using a cobbled together team where each member was only really thinking about themselves, and only tangentially complementing the rest of the party.  Partway into chapter 5, though, while making a party build to farm Megalixirs, I happened upon a setup that I soon realized worked wonders elsewhere, with a few tweaks here and there.

The mere possibility of having any number of completely functional parties makes the game playable for a wide range of players with different play styles.  It also lends the game well to more playthroughs later on down the road.  "Let's play through the game with THIS setup!  Let's have the game show us where its strengths and weaknesses lie!".  The game goes as far as to have you select exactly what you want to carry over into a New Game +, which facilitates this.

Basically, the further and further I got into this game, the more I liked it.  I admit, at first I treated Brave Points like a gambling system where you hold back to unleash a mega-turn, or take that mega-turn in advance and hope you don't die before you can go again, but it really goes beyond that.  Given the range of abilities in the game that affect BP one way or another, you eventually realize that it's a resource you have to manage, and perhaps one that's more critical to your success than anything else.  As I made clear in the post where I described my end-game party build, I ended up going with a team that didn't use MP at all, and that used up to 4 BP per character per turn.  At the same time, there are a myriad of MP management options and had I not wanted to use the spells I was using, I might have gone with them instead.

One thing I didn't really make much use of were the social aspects of the game, that utilized Friend Codes and StreetPasses.  I really only fought Nemeses and used them to my advantage.  I never once used Abilink, dabbling in it a little right after the game told me about it, but ultimately deciding not to use it.  I used the friend summons a little bit early on, since you do get a steady source of them from the Update Data command at a save point.  I bothered to set up a move to send to other people in case they wanted to use it, though.  Also, I made very little use of Sleep Points.  Occasionally I'd Bravely Second just before the end of a battle to pop a Phoenix Down on someone so they'd get experience, and of course I used it to send moves that break the 9999 power limit, but that was it.  You can pretty much forget that Sleep Points and Bravely Second even exist, and the game won't be any harder.  It's simply an extra option for the player, to be used at their discretion.

I did find the placement of certain support abilities to be a bit odd, though.  Notably, you can get Dungeon Master within about the first 10 minutes of gameplay, and never have to deal with environmental damage for the entire game.  Conversely, you get Experience Up far too late in the game for it to be useful.

Overall, the game's flaws are incredibly minor.  If you like JRPGs, it's a game you shouldn't overlook.  If you don't have a 3DS, it justifies the purchase of one.  I put in almost 200 hours and enjoyed every minute.  I think at this point, getting the sequel, Bravely Second, is a given.

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