It's been a while since I played a Japanese RPG with this much variety, innovation, and sheer guts.
Bravely Default revels in breaking from the JRPG norm, evolving on the classic traditional mindset wherever it can in a bid to break the mould.
It's stylish, it's clever, and it may well be the game that persuades people who have felt intimidated by these journeys in the past to finally jump onboard.Brave
A great hole has appeared in the world, swallowing up Tiz Arrior's city whole, and eating his family in the process. After meeting a strange girl called Agnes Oblige, he decides to go on a quest with her in a bid to discover what happened to his homeland.
Bravely Default takes plenty of cues from classic Japanese RPGs of old and new, with elements of the Tales series, Ni No Kuni, Blue Dragon and more slipping into the design time and time again.
But it's where this turn-based RPG breaks boundaries and goes it alone that it stands out. Take the Brave/Default system, for example - you can choose to either store up turns and unleash them in one go, or jump ahead and use turns in advance, in exchange for being left at the mercy of the enemy with no real defence later.
It's a classic risk/reward system that adds some remarkable depth to proceedings. Do you store up turns, defending yourself and then unleashing hell, or do you fire off four attacks at once and hope that the enemy dies before it can get a shot in?
It doesn't stop there either. If you leave your 3DS in standby mode, you'll receive "Sleep Points" which can be used to interrupt play at any point and get a cheeky extra shot in. Very useful for the tougher battles later in the game.We built this city
The innovation doesn't stop there. A jobs/classes system means that you can steal abilities from big battles, and use them to massively tweak how your characters fight and play.
There's a whole side-quest in Bravely Default that centres around building the city of Norende back up again, and filling it with citizens.
It's actually a lot like your classic browser-based city-builder, where it takes real-time hours to complete building work. However, rather than paying real money to speed up this process, you instead recruit new builders via StreetPass.
The more people you StreetPass with your 3DS, the more people move into your city, and the faster buildings are erected. of course, if you don't take your 3DS out of the house much, then this entire mode is going to feel a little pointless - but it's still a nice bit on the side.
And I haven't even got around to mentioning how gorgeous and stylish Bravely Default is, with tons of voice acting, and lovely watercolour visuals.Faults
Even with this innovation to hand, the game still begins to settle back into the traditional Japanese RPG mindset as you progress - perhaps a little too much.
The overworld can be sparse at times, and certain long-winded areas and dungeons can feel like they go on for hours, with you killing the same enemies over and over again.
Of course, if you're a JPRG fanatic then this isn't going to be either surprising or a con for you - but for the more casual player, it can be a little grindy and dull at times.
Regardless, Bravely Default is very much a title worth celebrating, and one that countless people will no doubt hammer dozens of hours into.
If you're looking for a game to break out on Christmas Day and play into the early hours, this has got your name written all over it.