With its release in 2012, Bravely Default was celebrated for being a return to form for traditional turn-based JRPGs. It was, for many, Square-Enix going back to the genre that made them household names in the 16bit era.
Right from the start, its innovations on the tried and true turn-based battle system were critically lauded. Its signature mechanic being the ability to store turns for future use, or borrowing turns and unleashing a barrage of attacks at the expense of the ability to move in the next turns. Outside of that, a varied job system with a number of unique and well-synergized gave a lot of variety to the combat.
Then, with the ability to customize the frequency of battles, as well as the difficulty level, it was obvious that Bravely Default set out to streamline most minor annoyances in JRPGs while maintaining their best features.
Almost universally, the gameplay was widely celebrated.
On the other hand, the biggest complaint was regarding the game’s story and characters. This blog will be a spirited defense of those aspects of the game and will contain spoilers for both Bravely Default and its sequel.
Starring the lone survivor of a destroyed village, a holy figure in a journey for a holy ritual, a rebellious child of the king of the nominally evil empire, and a lecherous amnesiac, the game aggressively features every archetype from the old book of JRPG clichés. These characters then proceed to defeat other archetypes who are part of the “evil” empire, while simultaneously completing the holy ritual.
Basically, you have four characters that must go and revive four crystals to defeat the evil empire. Which, many found to be a cliched story in and of itself.
However, what is the number one complaint I found, is not this cliched story itself, but what happens after you revive the fourth crystal. In that moment, which should supposedly be the end of the game, the entire arty is transported to the beginning of the game.
You are tasked with repeating the same process again, defeating the same bosses (who are stronger and come in different combination). Once you do it for the second time, you repeat the process again and again. The process, of course, being shorter every time.
And that’s why it is so bloody brilliant.
Wait, you are probably thinking, why is it bloody brilliant to repeat the game again and again?
The answer to that this is a game that respects your intelligence.
Here, the game shows its hand. It is not a simple cliched story like it first appears, that is if you are willing to understand it. During the game, as you revive each crystal, your guide fairy (who acts like the companion characters in Legend of Zelda) warns you against overloading the crystal and breaking it. As the cycle is repeated, you should note that this fairy is not all what she seems to be, and that there is something sinister about what you are doing.
Put simply, you the player, and the four characters you control, are going through this quest with very little information and murdering all your opponents to complete it. You are doing that naturally enough because that’s how JRPGs are, and that’s how the story unfolds.
Except, in Bravely Default the story doesn’t end with the fourth crystal revived, and instead repeats. At the third repetition at least, the player should notice that this fairy is evil. The game throws so many clues, as the characters realize the different facets of the bosses they keep on killing. At that point, you the player, without any explicit prompt from the game, should overload the crystal and ruin the fairy’s plan.
At that point, you get the first ending of the game, which exposes the fairy as an agent of a great evil that has been devouring each world you revived the crystals in. You can then choose to accept that you stopped him at the third or fourth world, or continue the devouring more worlds until you reach the last parallel where you get the chance to fix everything you ever did.
In that way, this “repetition” that is the number one issue critics note, serve as an effective deconstruction of the genre. It exposes the early naivety of both the main characters and the players themselves, as they simply accept their roles with no reflection on other points of view.
In my opinion, that’s some brilliant storytelling that is being facilitated purely through gameplay.
A similar effect is used in the sequel, where after “finishing” the game the first time and getting disastrous results, it is suggested you bravely try again with the information you gained through the experience.
Similar to how we, the players, gain experience by dying in games and loading from checkpoints, the entirety of the Bravely Default universe exist in those boundaries where we fail and learn from our failure and bravely go forward.
Back to the issue of repetition in Bravely Default, there is another factor that I feel is ignored when discussing it.
Namely, the aforementioned “brilliant gameplay”. If someone really does appreciate the gameplay, then I cannot see how the remixed bosses are a bad thing. They are not repeated the same in any way and instead come in different combination that forces you to use the combat system to its fullest. Especially since in each subsequent cycle, you can quickly go to each boss and fight them, most of which is optional.
To conclude, I think the cycle repetition trick Bravely Default pulled is brilliant from both a story and gameplay perspective. It effectively deconstructs the entire story and make you reflect on your actions, and also encourages you to use its excellent combat system to its fullest potential.
*-This may be a late October Band of Bloggers blog, and it may be highly encouraging of Necrophilia, but its nevertheless a brilliant blog by RottySiets about the unlikely cuteness of a brainless zombie.
*- Since hearing about Fallout 76, I felt it was taking the series farther away from my interest zone even more so than Fallout 4 which I didn't care for. Well, even if you did enjoy Fallout 4, like Adzuken here, then there is probably enough problems in Fallout 76 that you might wish you are playing another game. Maybe Sea of Thieves instead.
A- Last week, two sets of fans became unreasonably angry because their unreasonable expectations were not met. I am not entirely sure what's Dwavenhobble's position in that, as I could not understand which way the sarcasm is pointing at. Maybe, in typical fashion, he is just shooting at all front.
A- As gaming continues its steady encroachment into the mainstream, this will lead to a significant culture shift in both game design and game appreciation. While it doesn't go deep enough, Gestalt ponders that shift with a special emphasis on eSports.
S- In celebration of his 30th birthday, Adam P is going to review 30 little-known games throughout the month of December, wish him luck in completing that quest:
R- Here is a review of the Eldritch horror game that is Bloodborne, which jobejoe appreciated the horror themes and world-building, but grew bored of the game's more action-oriented combat compared to Dark Souls.
T- Thoughts about Red Dead Redemption 2 will continue to pour in the coming days and weeks. However, I don't think I am going to see such a backhanded compliment of the game like this one from Ryu2388, who thanks the ludicrously time-wasting elements of the game because they teach him about the importance of patience.
Last week, we managed to get 19 blogs, which is a good rate.
Next week, you will get another Weekly Recap, covering the days from 11/11to 11/17. So keep reading and writing these blogs.
Blog Count: 19