Written by Bad Demoman 3rd December 2016

Final Fantasy Month has come to an end. It was great fun, talking about so many fantastic memories from games I played as a child. So I find it only fitting that I finish things off by talking about a game that’s NOT a Final Fantasy game...but let’s be honest, it 100% is a Final Fantasy Game. Bravely Default is a game that takes many cues from Final Fantasy, especially those that implement the Job System. In fact, it's a spiritual successor of sorts to Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light. So given my love for FF5, you’d think Bravely Default would be a deadset favourite in my eyes. Unfortunately, you’d mostly be wrong.

Bravely Default is set in the world of Luxendarc, and follows the adventure of 4 youths who are seeking to restore power to the 4 Elemental Crystals. So far, so Final Fantasy. This time rather than being opposed by the embodiment of Chaos or a living, evil tree in armour, you’re opposed by normal humans - humans that one of your party, Edea, used to affiliate with. The Eternians are very anti-crystal, for reasons they refuse to say. This is my first big issue of Bravely Default - The conflict makes no sense. It’s yet another case of “This issue could be solved if a single one of the antagonists chose to actually TALK to the protagonists”. It makes no sense at all, especially given that Edea is the daughter of the leader of the Eternian forces (Who by the way is called Braev Lee, which isn’t on the nose at all). Furthermore, the Eternians are eventually revealed to essentially be correct. But given the fact that most of Braev Lees subordinates are flatout cartoon villain-style evil, it’s hard to flip on them from hated enemy to accepting they were right.

Speaking of the subordinates, these guys are how you’ll be supplied with most your job options. Whereas in Final Fantasy 3 or 5, you’d get a big chunk of jobs all at once when you reach a crystal, instead Bravely Default spreads them out by defeating these (mostly optional!) bosses. You get more of an opportunity to really work out what each Job really does, and lets you test them all out one by one rather than suddenly having a full party of new stuff that you don’t fully understand. You’ll even get a short description and a showcase of some of their abilities on acquiring each Job. You’ve got your pretty standard fare jobs that you’d expect - Black Mage, Knight, Thief, etc. but there's some interesting new takes on existing Jobs and the potential synergy can make characters all the more interesting. For example, I made a Ninja/Swordmaster. Both would usually be considered as damage classes in most games, but I utilized them as a tank, with both of their powerful Counter abilities working well together.

However, not all Jobs were made equal - for example, many late game bosses feel like some form of damage nullification is required, and when it comes to that no job can match the Spiritmaster. Furthermore, some Jobs don’t become useful till very late in the game, and levelling them up can take quite a long time. You might even invest all your time into a Job only to find it doesn’t quite cut it in harder fights, and one of the things I hate in Job System games is needing to level up a Job you REALLY don’t like because it has an incredibly useful ability (looking at you, FF5 Archer!).

Finally, the thing that I consider Bravely Default's most egregious fault. This is an issue so offensive and horrible that I’m amazed people are so willing to ignore it and give Bravely Default perfect scores all round. Part way through the game, Bravely Default will ask you to do all the content that you’ve already done, scaled up. First time around you might think, it’s just a little harmless padding right before the end, right? This happens four times. It’s absolutely painful watching the protagonists go through the same motions over and over, and then say to themselves “Well it didn’t work that time, let’s just do it again!”. I have to conclude that the characters of Bravely Default must be incurable idiots, given their refusal to talk to their foes even once to solve the entire conflict, and their repetition of events that are clearly not doing anything for them. It’s the laziest of game design, and yet Bravely Default is hailed as the best JRPG since the Classic Final Fantasy games, which exasperates me to no end. It doesn’t help in the slightest that Bravely Default’s cast is loathsomely dull, a flaw that Final Fantasy 5 is more than readily condemned for entirely. While Edea has her moments, Tiz and Agnes have the personality of bricks, and Ringabel is pretty much just an endless dirty joke with a cliched amnesia plot tacked on.

Bravely Default has the deepest utilization of the Job System in a Final Fantasy game, but by no means is it the most fun. The plot is laughably cliche and populated with dense excuses for protagonists. It’s all well and good saying that Bravely Default gets away with its story because of it being a love letter to the classics, but that only gets it a free pass so far. Grinding out Jobs is never fun, and even Final Fantasy 3 didn’t seem to suffer from that quite as much. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Bravely Default at all - the first half is a nice romp through what we love about Final Fantasy games, but it’s never enough to be something fantastic on its own. Bravely Default is like walking through a Final Fantasy Museum - all the great exhibitions of game design are on display, but it’s not quite the same as experiencing the original.

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Bad Demoman

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