Bravely Default: Demo Review

The demo for Bravely Default dropped about a week ago, and took me completely by surprise.  Bravely Default is a turn-based RPG on the 3DS from Square Enix that was originally released last year in Japan. It did very well over there, and after releasing a new version with updated features and story in Japan again, they decided to localize it in North America at last. In short, we are getting a well polished edition of the game that has been proven great in Japan already, and it has added features and story while losing nothing from the original edition.

Still, knowing all that, I was skeptical. Bravely Default is reportedly the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light for the DS. I’m a Square Enix fan as much as the next RPG-lover, but 4 Heroes of Light had somethings left to be desired. I only got about 5 hours into it, and I’m sure it pays off well by the end, but the beginning is typical of JRPG’s in North America: it involves a lot of floundering, trial and error of walking into areas with monsters surpassing your level, not knowing how to navigate menus and skills because they’re always trying to make those new, trading intuitiveness for novelty. And the beginning of the 4 Heroes of Light story had no great hook to keep me playing despite it’s difficulty. I regret not having played it more now, but Bravely Default seemed like a good way to make up for that.

So, I planned on giving Bravely Default the old “buy-it, if-it-sucks-i’ll-trade-it-in” treatment. Until I played the demo.

So far, I’ve logged 5 hours into the demo. The DEMO. Now, it’s not unheard of for me to play a demo for a few hours. Mirror’s Edge, for example, had a great demo I played 3 or 4 times. What sets Bravely Default’s demo apart is the ability to save and continue, with up to 3 save slots, AND certain bonus items and features can be transferred from the demo to the full version of the game when you buy it.

The Demo itself is a scenario that is reportedly not in the game, though I suspect the places and map may have been derived from places that do exist in the full version under different scenarios. Off the bat, you have all 4 party members: Tiz, Agnes, Ringabel, and Edea. After a brief dialogue and some tutorial slides, you’ll find yourself in the city of Ancheim, a steam-punk looking clock town in the center of a desert. Talk to the villagers and you can take on one of the demo quests at a time, each taking you to a different corner of the map to complete. You also automatically have the ability to change any of the character’s jobs from the beginning. Jobs(Knight, Black Mage, White Mage, etc.) determine what skills you learn as you level up, and what abilities you are capable of performing at the beginning. Some skills you learn from a certain Job can be used even when you change to a different Job. For instance a Knight will learn to hold weapons two-handed, increasing the power of attacks. Change from Knight to any other Job, and you can keep the two-handed skill, maybe giving your new Black Mage a little extra oomph with that Staff for when they run out of magic.

 

Another great feature you can experience off the bat is Norende, a town you are constantly repairing and rebuilding. On the bottom screen is a pop-out menu, opening it reveals the Save option, an update option and the village option. As you streetpass people who have played the demo you will gather guests, and when you click the update option those guests will become workers in Norende. You can set them to the tasks of rebuilding shops or clearing paths to get to other shops. You can assign as many guests as you like to each task, the more you have working on a particular task, the faster it can be completed. For example, it’ll take 1 worker 4 hours to repair the item shop, or 2 workers 2 hours. It measures real time, but only when you are playing or have the game in sleep mode, not when you are playing other games or just have the home menu up. Once a task is completed you get a bonus stock of items, for instance the item shop will give you a Hi-Potion or an Ether or the like.

 

Another unique feature is Abilink, which allows you to take skills from friends who might have played longer than you or may have just used different jobs for their characters. Each character can use 1 skill from 1 Friend on your Friends list. I’ve streetpassed people who have spent 15 or more hours playing the demo, so it’s possible to get some heavy-duty skills early in the game that way.

You also have the ability to summon friends in battle, using their streetpass data to bring in one of their characters to do a turn for you. This and the Abilink feature make it a great game to play with simultaneously with friends, though there are no multiplayer options.

 

The note I would like to end on is this: the game is just beautiful. Borrowing from the old Final Fantasy style while implementing new, and quite fresh, features, the demo alone is so polished it shines. I would have paid money for this demo, frankly. The battle landscapes, the monsters, and the music stand up with the best of them, and it utilizes the 3D very well. And with the ability to pass on bonus items you earn from defeating each of the demos FIVE bosses to the full version of the game, while spoiling NONE of the actual story, the demo itself is a worthy investment of time.

The full version of Bravely Default drops in North America on February 7th, and you can get the Collector’s Edition in stores, which includes the soundtrack, AR cards, and an art book for around $54.99 USD.

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About The Author

Reporter/Reviewer

Hey folks! I'm Nick. I live in Atlanta and have been playing Nintendo games fervently for over 20 years. I also keep tabs on Sony, and Steam for PC games. My favorite games are adventure/RPG and platformers, and my favorite console is my 3DS. Thanks for reading, keep gaming! Current recommendations: Fantasy Life, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and Mario Kart 8.