Bravely Default Demo review
3DS RPG Bravely Default (not Flying Fairy) releases in the US on February 7th, but to tide fans over until then and give them a taste of the full release, Square Enix has released a playable demo on the 3DS eShop. This demo is a little different from most other playable demos though; instead of letting you play through some early section of the game like most demos do, you’re given a demo exclusive side story and set of quests to help you familiarize yourself with the game mechanics and world. Not only this, but as you play the demo you’re given sets of rewards that you can transfer to full game, should you decide to purchase it.
The demo consists of a portion of the game’s overworld, the desert town of Ancheim, and three dungeons. You’re tasked with helping to restore the village of Norende, which consists of doing sidequests for the people of Ancheim so they can send relief supplies. Restoring Norende gives you access to supplies and weapons that you can buy that are more powerful than those you can get in conventional shops. The quests you’re assigned by the townsfolk are sadly rather lackluster though, they pretty much consist of “kill so many of this enemy to collect their drops” and “go to this dungeon and kill the boss within.” So, they’re not exactly the most interesting quests in the world.
The real aim of the quests though is to get players exploring the world so they can get familiar with the battle and job systems. As the different areas you visit and enemies you fight all call for different strategies which require the player to experiment and learn the games mechanics. If you’ve played the DS game Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, to which this game is a spiritual sequel, you’ll be fairly familiar with both the combat and job systems, although they have gone through some changes.
The battle system revolves around two modes: “Brave” and “Default” (I see what they did there). Every attack or ability your characters can use takes one Action Point or “AP” and each character get one AP at the beginning of each turn, so it evens out. When you use the Default command though your character defends, skipping your character’s turn, not costing them any AP. Doing this lets your characters store up AP. Using the Brave command allows a character to attack multiple times taking turns in advance, but at the cost of one AP per extra attack. This interplay between Brave and Default means the player has to think strategically about when to have their characters attack and use AP and when to defend and store it. Some of the stronger enemies can use the Brave and Default commands as well, requiring the player to plan out their actions to avoid being defenseless during an enemy onslaught, or wasting AP while an enemy is defending.
The job system is taken almost directly from 4 Heroes of Light (which itself used the job system from Final Fantasy III). In the demo you’re given access to 9 different jobs (none of which were the ones that were censored for the US release), each with different abilities, stat changes, and weapon proficiencies. The more you have a particular character use a certain job the more abilities they get from that job class. You can assign abilities from job classes different from your character’s job class to them, thus increasing their versatility and giving the player an incentive to have their characters master as many job classes as possible to increase the potential pool of abilities each character can use.
Used in conjunction, the battle and job mechanics provide a great degree of variety to the game, and allow for a good degree of strategy and experimentation on the part of the player. The battle mechanics especially make what would normally be a rather bland turn based experience feel fresh and new. Some players though, might find that some of these mechanics aren’t explained very well, but they’re easy enough to figure out in practice.
Story and Characters
Although the idea of have a demo with a story separate from that of the main game is novel, it does lead to some small problems. Mostly that, while it’s easy to get a good grasp of the battle and job systems playing the demo, it’s hard to get a handle on the characters or story, which don’t get much elaboration here.
At the very beginning of the demo you’re given a small bit of exposition on the characters and backstory. You learn that your pary consists of the “wind vestal” and her three protectors. Of course, what a “wind vestal” actually is, does or why they’re important is never really explained. You’re also told that village of Norende was destroyed sometime before the start of the demo and that one of your party members used to live in that village before it’s destruction. That sets up the plot of the demo when the Prime Minister of Ancheim asks for your help in sending relief to the unfortunate village, which is why you’re doing fetch quests for NPCs.
The problem is that aside from those few lines of exposition at the beginning you really aren’t given any other hints as to what the world, characters, or story are like. You don’t really get a good grasp on your party member’s personalities, and aside from some hints the game’s backstory is left pretty vague. Which makes some sense, after all this demo’s story is not actually in the final game and they wouldn’t want it to have too many spoilers from the full game. But still, if story or characterization were to factor into your reasoning as to whether or not to buy this game, it’s would be hard to gauge from this demo whether or not they make it worth buying. If you do want to know more about the characters, you can watch the character trailer here, which will give you some insight into their backstories and personalities at least.
One character who gets some decent characterization in the demo suprisingly is your fairy companion, whom you might call your “flying fairy,” who gives you tips on the pause menu about what to do next, reminds you where you’re supposed to be going, and has more dialogue in the demo than any other major character combined. …So, it’s good to see that Navi was able to find some work after Ocarina of Time 3D. Good for her.
Bravely Default supports StreetPass, even in the demo, which we’ve heard about in some detail before. Basically, if you pass by people who also have the demo the number of villagers in Norende will grow, allowing you to restore it more quickly. Also you’ll be able to summon people in battle whom you StreetPass and borrow abilities from them if you’re friends.
…In theory anyway. I wasn’t able to pass by anyone who had a copy of the demo during my time with it. Even if I had passed by someone with it though, it seems like some people are have trouble getting StreetPass hits even from people whom they know have the demo, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if had anyway. On the other hand if you’re just looking to get villagers to repair Norende faster and don’t care about the combat bonuses, you can use this little trick you can use. Keep in mind as well that you can transfer up to 20 villagers from the demo to the full game, so you’ll get a head start if you do this trick and decide to get the full game.
As far as demos go, I found this one pretty interesting. I was intrigued by the concept and found that it was executed well. The gameplay mechanics were interesting, and while they retained a classic feel, managed to bring a new freshness to the genre at the same time. The combat required a degree of strategy and kept me on my toes, and the job system brought variety to the game and left room for several different strategies.
That said, it’s not quite perfect. While the combat was fun and interesting, the quests which form the backbone of the demo were boring and lackluster, and that might turn some people off. The characters and story also got almost no focus, which was frustrating, as I feel those elements are important in RPGs and would have liked to get to see more about them. One thing that might prove inconvenient to some people would be limited number of uses the demo affords them, especially since rewards in the full game are tied to completion in the demo. While 30 uses should be enough for most players to get through the demo, it still seems like a fairly arbitrary limitation.
But if nothing else the demo did it’s job. After having played it I was intrigued enough that I’m probably going to get the full game. Which is all Square Enix probably wanted. And since it is free, there’s no reason you shouldn’t check the demo out if you haven’t already.
So for those of you who have played it, what did you all think about the Bravely Default demo? Was it worth your time? Did it convince you to get the full game, or convince you not to? Let us know in the comments below!