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. ↩
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: A Game That Will Rock Your Chocobo’s Socks
Though the era of Rock Band, Guitar Hero and the like may have petered out, Square Enix has not tired of milking the Final Fantasy franchise with spin-offs. Theatrythm Final Fantasy is a great, nostalgic addition to the hardcore Final Fantasy fan’s collection, and anyone familiar with games like Rhythm Fever and Elite Beat Agents will get the hang of the similarly-styled gameplay quickly.
On the surface, the game looks kiddie, but in an Edward Gorey way: The characters look like a coloring-book interpretation of Limbo’s characters, stripping them of all their original visual appeal and their individuality. This chibi (albeit creepy) graphics ensure that you are always aware this is a spin-off game. But there’s a simple brilliance to Theatrhythm. The player is given the opportunity to choose a party of four from the main characters of Final Fantasy I through XIII (including unlockable characters), and the party is taken through each game’s soundtrack. (Final Fantasy X-2, XIII-2, and XIV are not included in the game.)
Mini Boss Diary: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Today, I fended off a handful of deranged, chibi-looking heroes who tried to steal the crystals we’ve worked so hard to acquire. But—get this—the jerks actually thought they could fell me with music. Ha! Well I made short work of them, just like when I fought that spoony bard with the harp! Boss, have you heard the term, “fight fire with fire”? Well I did exactly that. I threw tunes at them with such speed that they became disoriented and were unable to form a proper attack—beautiful songs too. (My mother always told me I could have been a performer, but alas, I chose a different route.) I finished them off with a complex rendition of “One-Winged Angel.” You should have seen them try to match each note in an effort to deflect my brilliant arrangements. In the end—even having used a potion—I drained the life from them. The weird-looking fools!
The Mini Boss
No Levels In FF13
When I first heard that Final Fantasy XIII would be doing away with the traditional level up system (article at Official XBOX Magazine) all my years of anticipation for the game came crashing into a mound of disappointment. Leveling up has been a staple of the franchise - and of most great JRPGs - forever, as well as a point of bragging rights and sense of achievement. Leveling also gives you a clear goal set where you can set out to reach Level XX by some obscure deadline you set for yourself. The leveling up system in games is more than a motivator, it pushes you to continue playing that one game, perpetuating the “just one more level” creed we begun as children in games that are more open and don’t have breaks between areas the way adventure games used to have 1-1 and 1-2.
The drive to level up also leads players to obscure areas of the map that fall outside of the main plot as they attempt to explore and fight tougher enemies for more experience points. But perhaps I’ll still feel the need to explore because of the drive to discover new items with new abilities.
According to the Official XBOX Magazine’s website, character levels and experience points will be replaced with Crystal Points (CP), which will be used on a circular chart to unlock abilities. This is similar to (AP) in Final Fantasy IX and X, or (LP) in Final Fantasy XII. The question will be how these abilities effect game progression. Will you have to manually upgrade your health points, magic points, evasion, agility, strength, etc. as well as your special moves? I think it’s also safe to assume abilities will be learned through items as in Final Fantasy IX or through equipped summons as in Final Fantasy VI and VIII. Although, the name “Crystal Points” denotes the points are earned through the usage of crystals, so I think it’s a safe bet that equipped crystals learn abilities and also equip summons.
If the system works out that way then the game should be fine, but I will sorely miss leveling up simply out of nostalgia. At the very least maybe no leveling system will mean the series will be somewhat challenging again. And that’s something I’ve missed for a while.
Game Developers Conference 2009Hey there. The Nintendo keynote of GDC has begun as of noon and Iwata of Nintendo is expected to make some big announcements. I’m following IGN’s live blog and they are also doing a live Twitter feed. I’ll post the highlights as I read the feed.
Here’s another feed from Kotaku. They’re posting everything line by line, not just the important points like IGN is doing.
EDIT: Some highlights:
- Last year, 47% of Nintendo DS users were female.
- Global Wii shipments have topped at 50 million.
- “Rhythm Heaven” for the DSi was shown and given out for free to all attendees. The DS version of the game has sold 1.7 million in Japan.
- “Rock & Roll Climber” for WiiWare was demonstrated, using the Wii Remote, Nunchuck and Balance Board together.
- A new Wii system menu will incorporate SD and SDHC cards as a storage solution. The menu has room for 240 channels. An SDHC card can hold up to 32 gigs of memory.
- The new SD storage/SD channel menu is available in an update that is currently ready to download.
- Games can be downloaded from the Wii Shop Channel directly to the SD card. Games load quickly from the SD card.
- Final Fantasy games will finally be coming to the Virtual Console! U.S. only gets FF1 and FFIV for now, though. Too bad I’ll have already finished FFVI on PS1 by the time it’s out on the Virtual Console.
- Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is coming to WiiWare. This is a port of the storyline sequel that appeared as a Japanese cell phone game.
- Final Fantasy: My Life As A Darklord announced for WiiWare (sequel to My Life As A King).
- MotionMemo for DSi demonstrated. Animates the player’s sketches.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks announced for DS this year. The video had a Phantom Hourglass-style Link driving a train with a cannon on it. Link can direct an armored sidekick with the stylus. They fights a huge crab thing boss.
The Legend of Zelda: The Spirit Tracks (DS) as unveiled at GDC ‘09. Photo from WiiNintendo.net.
Thus ends the Nintendo keynote of the Game Developers Conference. Overall, not bad, but could’ve been crazier.
New FFXIII Global Trailer!
There’s no option to embed the video, and if it’s possible than I guess I’m just not as web saavy as I would like, but here’s the link to the full trailer:
(Japanese with subs.)
Please Note: It looks totally awesome!