There’s no use mincing words — Bravely Default is an awful name for a game, even if it makes reference to said game’s battle system. In fact, I can only think of a few more titles that are worse (Divine Divinity and Killer is Dead come to mind). However, Bravely Default is much more than an ill-conceived name; it’s a deep, gorgeous JRPG that harkens to the golden 16-bit age of RPGs that dominated the late ’80s through the ’90s. Titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana hold a special place in many gamers’ hearts and stand the test of time as some of the finest RPGs ever made.
Bravely Default belongs on the same shelf as those classics. It’s an important release for Nintendo’s 3DS and for JRPGs as a whole. An entire community of gamers have become disenchanted by the genre, what with all of the stale genre tropes and trappings like unrealistically long swords (unpacking the symbolism of this alone could fill its own essay), precocious teens with spiky hair and broken hearts, a steampunk/fantasy world in need of saving from (insert Dark Lord or army of evil here) and airships floating in the sky. We’ve all seen these examples so many times in JRPGs that it’s difficult not to roll your eyes when you encounter them no matter how great the game is.
Bravely Default isn’t free of these trappings, but it is one of the strongest JRPGs to be released — especially by Square Enix — in a very, very long time. And it’s a breath of fresh air for those of us who grew up on Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) and Chrono Trigger. Bravely Default is a time machine of the very best kind. The art direction, graphics, character models and gameplay and battle systems are all familiar and amazing. It does everything that the Final Fantasy series unfortunately hasn’t done since FF XII on PS2 in 2006. Bravely never lacks for charm and it’s stuffed with absolutely beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds that will have gamers smiling from ear to ear. It’s a shame Final Fantasy fails to invoke the kind of reactions that Bravely does. Even though it doesn’t hold the name, Bravely is the best FF game to grace shelves in years. And that is wonderful news indeed.
If you enjoy a great JRPG or RPGs in general and own a 3DS, Bravely Default should be the very next purchase you make. Furthermore, if you’ve grown out of JRPGs and moved away from the genre, you’ll still find yourself right at home and enjoying every minute of this nostalgic treasure. It’s 70 hours deep with a vast amount of character and party customization and will transport you right back to the glorious era of the very best games that paved the way for it.