Later this year the hit RPG Bravely Default will complete five years. First released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, Bravely Default is the spiritual successor of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (Nintendo DS, 2009). Building upon its predecessor’s premise, the new IP enhances the crown system with a job system reminiscent of Final Fantasy III, improves on the storytelling by having the party together at all times, and twists the traditional turn-based combat with the features “brave” and “default.” With a mature art style, a beautiful soundtrack, and somewhat relatable characters, Bravely Default won the heart of RPG fans around the world, but unfortunately, it’s limited to those who have access to a 3DS system.
Despite their shortcomings, Bravely Default and its sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer, are some of the best turn-based RPGs released in the last ten years. They both pay tribute to classic JRPGs while managing to remain fresh, making the series a great introduction to the genre.They were successful on the 3DS and there’s no doubt that they would also be well received on other platforms such as PC, PS4, and even the Nintendo Switch—provided Square Enix addresses some features developed specifically for the 3DS.
Tales from the Crystal
The world of Bravely Default is all too familiar to JRPG fans. Humans have the four elemental crystals to thank for prosperity and when they are attacked by a mysterious force, the world is thrown off balance. It’s up to Agnés, Vestal of the crystal of wind, to awaken the crystals and restore balance.
The woman is accompanied by Tiz, a young man whose hometown was lost due to the crystals’ collapse, Ringabel, an amnesiac man in possession of a curious journal capable of telling the future, and Edea, a trainee warrior from the Eternian empire. On the surface, these characters seem interesting enough but in reality, they fulfill archaic tropes. The overarching story is as epic as one would expect from an old-school JRPG, but many of its sections are plagued by Ringabel, whose every line is filled with sexist comments, Tiz’s obliviousness, and Agnés’s overly nice attitude.
Bravely Default counts with an incredibly detailed codex called D’s Journal. This codex is an actual item in the game, the journal carried by Ringabel. Through it, players get to learn the history of this world, character backgrounds, and story details through Ringabel’s notes, which portray him as a much more mature and relatable character.
Despite its flaws (which are rampant in Bravely Second), the story is enjoyable thanks to fully voice acted cutscenes, key moments when the party has casual discussions about ordinary things, and darker sections where the world history and the protagonists’ humanity truly flourish.
Old, but also new
Its art direction and soundtrack aside, the combat is the most appealing aspect of Bravely Default. Following the success of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (which in and of itself is a tribute to old-school Final Fantasy), Square Enix started to work on a sequel that would later become Bravely Default. The new IP keeps itself related to its parent franchise by making use of common elements such as the crystals and their relevance, magic spells, and job names.
It also improves upon the systems found in The 4 Heroes of Light. The combat is still turn-based, but it’s much faster with the introduction of the “brave” and “default” features. In short, “brave” allows the party and enemies alike to attack multiple times within the same turn. It’s possible to sacrifice future turns in order to deliver several blows at once or store battle points (BP for short) through the “default” option, which is a basic defensive stance that mitigates damage. It’s a unique and fresh approach to an otherwise primitive system.
Tying it all together are the asterisks, Bravely Default‘s version of The 4 Heroes of Light‘s crowns. Much like the crowns, each asterisk contains a job (or class for those not familiar with Final Fantasy lingo) which can be changed on the go. The asterisks also make it possible for players to customize the party beyond weapons and armor by providing a selection of skills that can be set regardless of which job it belongs to or which one the character is set to. For example, it’s possible to be a knuckle-wielding white mage loaded with thievery skills—not that that’s optimal. The downside is that characters have a level separate from their job. It’s necessary to level each job separately in order to unlock their respective skills.
A port of the franchise would present many advantages such as enhanced graphics (which would benefit the gorgeous artwork used as background), sounds, and the improvement of some mechanics. For instance, Bravely Default makes use of the Nintendo 3DS’s StreetPass system, which is practically useless in regions where Nintendo isn’t popular at all (I know, shocker). It’s possible to make use of your 3DS’s friend list and connect to the internet to achieve the same goals (summon other players, increase Norende’s population, and send your own summon to other players), but the process is unnecessarily confusing and flawed.
Both games in the series make little use of the 3DS’s bottom screen, with most features being perfectly possible on a single screen. Yes, even managing Norende or the moon. It’s already practical to play exclusively with the 3DS’s buttons since most menus and their information are located on the top screen, so it’s easy to imagine how the titles would translate to keyboards and controllers.
Even if the 3DS lives for as long as Nintendo promises, a port will be a way to keep this great IP alive while also introducing it to a new audience who didn’t want or couldn’t have access to the handheld. Seeing as how other DS titles were successfully ported to other platforms (The World Ends With You, Scribblenauts, Final Fantasy III and IV, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, and more recently Lock’s Quest), it’s only logical that Bravely Default would find its place under other suns.