4/2: Animal Crossing: New Leaf
If we’re being honest, I’m not actually sure what I like about Animal Crossing: New Leaf, or why I feel compelled to jump into the game multiple times a day. I can sort of pinpoint what it’s all about, though: It’s about getting off of a train and being told you’re in charge—but also that you’re in debt. It’s about the player’s secret lust for power, and how good neighbors can transform that into a good thing. It’s about the feeling of getting out of debt so you can begin to do some good. But mostly, it’s about getting rich off of hobbies and light farming, and living the virtual life you would rather have in a virtual town that’s better than your own (because you have a major say in its evolution).
When I arrived in the town of Robopoli, it was just a few houses and some trees. Now it’s a minor tourist attraction, with beautiful flowers, a comedy club, and a boat to a tropical island (Kapp’n sings me the sweetest songs).
The game is full of heartbreak, too: when you take a break for a while you run the risk of neighbors moving out because they don’t feel special. But new animals will move in and grow to love you in their place—as long as you make sure you never, ever stop playing for more than a couple of days!
I was going to gather screenshots of my exploits, but instead I’ll just post these, my favorite two moments that all players will experience in the game. They’re older screenshots from around when it launched (you can see it’s summer), they really bring a human experience to what quickly becomes an unhealthy obsession with selling beetles.
There’s a magic to Animal Crossing and to New Leaf in particular which Nintendo captured so well. It’s a world that owes everything to you, but that you owe so much to as well (quite literally—building a house and upgrading a town really costs you), and in that way, it’s very much a mirror into your own life—but one with so much more charm. You’ll fall in love with it, and then you’ll get stung.
Why you be hatin’, mosquito?!
2/7 through 3/24: Bravely Default Impressions, 40-ish Hours In
When Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light released for the DS, I wrote a positive review. It looked like a moving painting, the characters were adorable but hardcore, and the battle system took old mechanics and adapted them to feel good both on the go and on the DS specifically. Bravely Default is a great spiritual successor to that game—both by Square-Enix—despite not carrying the “Final Fantasy” label. You’ll see shared themes like huge, elemental crystals that need tending to, and spells like Cura, Fira, Esuna, etc. The job class system is straight out of earlier Final Fantasy games (with added tweaks), and it hits all of the required Final Fantasy notes like airships, a seemingly evil empire with their own agenda, and a main character with amnesia (who adorably goes by the name “Ringabel” since he doesn’t know his real name).
Here’s the gist: The game takes the traditional JRPG model and adds a few modern touches, like the ability to speed up battles at any time and change the encounter rate on the fly. There’s also automatic dialog scrolling, auto-battle based on your previously selected moves (which is fantastic when you up the battle speed), and the addition of “braving” and “defaulting.” This new trick allows you to queue up turns (“Default”) or spend future turns at once (“Brave”), which puts that character in a turn deficit but lets them to brave their chances by going all out at once and risk taking no action for several turns, adding additional strategy to the turn-based mix.
Otherwise, Bravely Default is fairly by-the-numbers, but with charm. From Edea murmuring “Mrgrgr” out of frustration, to Angés sternly stating “unacceptable” when someone speaks rudely, to the adorable illustrations and clever dialog, the game manages to keep the mechanics of ye olde RPG and still feel modern. And then there are the 24 job classes you’ll unlock along the way, which can apply to any character and also assigned as subclasses (you can use the abilities you’ve already unlocked, but no job points will accumulate for that class). On top of that, StreetPass gains you villagers to repopulate main character Tiz’s town, Norende, which is destroyed in the game’s intro scenes. You’ll manage the restoration of the town, and restoration happens in real time as you play the story. StreetPass also lets you collect other players characters, who you can then summon during battle to use an ability set by their owner (damage/healing is based on the borrowed character’s level).
So there’s your intro. Now on to my thoughts.
Just One More Job Level
After curiously glancing at GameFaqs, I learned that there are eight chapters to the game. I’ve spent 41 hours playing and I’m only at the end of Chapter 3 (I became obsessed with job-leveling). Bravely Default is the first game in a long time that’s made me want to grind, and that’s had me do it willingly. I’m level 44, each job I’ve unlocked is between levels 6 and 9 (of 14) with at least one of my characters, and I completed the restoration of Norende hours and hours ago (in Chapter 2). I’ve probably spent at least 15 hours more than I would have if I’d have just played through the chapters at a regular pace. Doing side quests for new job classes added time, too.
But that’s what I love about Bravely Default: it keeps you engaged, whether you’re doing menial tasks like grinding for your next job ability, watching cutscenes, or reading Ringabel’s journal. The heroes are heroic with a dash of gray, and the villains become increasingly complex as you learn more about their backstories and character—a staple of a good Square-Enix game.
The job class options can become overwhelming: The game’s 24 classes unlock slowly by progressing through the main plot and by doing sidequests, so I’m constantly trying to decide which character should use which class, and which other job should be their subclass. In the end, I’ve assigned jobs based on what I think each character’s strongest personality traits are (after all, it is a role-playing game): Angés is my castor/healer, Tiz is mostly support, Edea is damage/tank, and Ringabel gets the sly/narcissistic jobs (currently Thief1/Performer2).
The beauty of the sidequests, though, is I can’t envision going through the main plot without the knowledge gained from those quests. Each sidequest introduces you to another enemy you must defeat to gain their asterisk (orbs that allow you to use a job class), but through a series of cutscenes and in-battle dialog you learn about who that enemy really is and what their goals are in relation to the main plot. You may also unlock journal entries or reports from those enemies, further deepening their character and motivations (the summoner Mephillia’s story and journal pages particularly struck me).
I guess what I’m saying is I’m really attached to Bravely Default, and that this is, so far, the best Final Fantasy game I’ve played in a long time—even if it isn’t titled that way.
One last thing you should know: There’s a lot of innuendo in the game’s dialog, and it’s almost always used humorously, mockingly, or for flattery. While it at first felt like it could be going down a sexist route, it becomes used on both male and female characters, and the female characters do not take well to being talked to in a sexist or sexual fashion. These characters are strong, largely independent women, and will fiercely defend themselves with their words or their fists, depending on the situation. Still, a lot the innuendo and straight-up pickup lines are actually funny and shows that, though the game may look family friendly on the surface, this is a game for a more mature audience.
I’ll write more when I’m further in, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the game so far.
The Thief attack “Godspeed” is ridiculously damaging to the point of being overpowered and unbalancing most battles; it does damage based on the user’s speed and ignores the target’s physical defense, though it comes at the cost of losing that character’s next two turns. ↩
Uses MP to cast buffs on the whole party. Yes, this is a support ability and should go to Tiz based on how I divvied out jobs, but Performer matches Ringabel’s personality better. ↩
Q:Sorry about my possibly late response. I actually have not played the full game yet however I have been a thorough fan and was on top of all news as it was released. I also watched streams of the full game (I spoiled sooo much haha) and learned a lot of things that will answer most of your concerns :) So I say yeah sit back and enjoy the ride. You may find a couple things you dont like but this game wraps up the trilogy very nicely and I mean no game is absolutely perfect anyways :D
Hm. I’ve been avoiding spoilers plot, so my view of the full game is limited. I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for your advice.