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Bravely Default Review: Is It Brave, Stupid or Just Crazy?
Bravely Default has made a sizable splash in the ocean that is the JRPG community. It’s colorful characters, winding story, boundless job system and innovative additions to the standard turn-based battle system have caused ripples that some can’t adjust to, but many may find refreshing. There are many crashing waves that cause the current of this game to vary, but I have to say that the tide pulled me under, immersing me into an imaginative sea of entertainment. I miss the beach.
WARNING! THE FOLLOWING REVIEW MAY CONTAIN VAGUE SPOILERS!
What appealed to me most in Bravely Default, as I’m sure many would agree, is the crazy level of customization within the Job system. It’s almost overwhelming, the amount of possibilities you have as you unlock more classes. Leveling each of the 24 Jobs grants you (mostly) spectacular Support Abilities, as well as regular abilities, that you can sift through and pull out the best combinations to make each character a machine of mass destruction. If I were to make one complaint about the Job system, it would be the disparity in experience needed between reaching level 9 and level 10. It takes 2500 JP to go from level 1 to 9 and 3500 more to reach level 10. It’s a small complaint, but it nagged me nonetheless. I suppose level 9 is the wall the game developers wanted you to hit early to mid-game.
Bravely Default boasts a couple ingenious additions to the battle system, which are of great help when you obtain another Job Asterisk and want to quickly level it up (to level 9 at least). The Braving/Defaulting System mixed with the encounter-rate slider, fast-forwarding and auto-play takes out 90% of the hassle that grinding can become. On the flip-side, turning off enemy encounters can be a godsend (especially for a select few chapters). I was never a fan of techniques that make you wait a turn to double damage on the next. Braving and Defaulting gives these techniques immense purpose though. It adds a whole new layer to the strategic overlay of turn-based battle. Auto-play got me into trouble at some points, but that’s my own stupidity. It’s not the developers fault that I chose to attack a monster with counterattack four times in a row.
Another aspect that Bravely Default succeeds in is story and character development. Some of the character progression felt rushed at points, but Square Enix and Silicon Studios does well to make you feel for the characters and want to see where their individual stories are heading. Ringabel, while having the most emotionally hollow story out of the four, has probably the most intriguing. His “D Journal” had me spinning many theories (one of which happened to be right). Tiz and Agnès are the actually story. Their stories are both spun from tragedy and both are sent on a journey of salvation. That being said, Edea easily became my favorite character. Though she can be a little too ferocious towards Ringabel at times, she proves time and time again that her resolve and heart are strong.
You might be saying to yourself at this point, “Where’s the crazy? He’s been doing nothing but singing this game’s praises.” Worry not. I’m no blind fan boy. Bravely Default, while having an interesting, twist-filled story arc, takes a few missteps in this department. My biggest complaint here would be the onslaught of mostly pointless dialogue you get that frequently breaks up gameplay. This is to be expected in a JRPG of course and I grew up on them, so the fact that I felt impatient going through the dozens of party chats should speak to you. I don’t want to speak for you in that regard. You’re probably more patient than I am considering that you’re still reading my article.
Bravely Default has an expertly crafted battle system that gives the player elation of not having your time wasted, but this gets slightly squashed by some repetition and quests that require you to run back and forth. This is majorly pronounced in Chapters 6 through 8. It happens in Chapter 5 as well, but the initial turn of the story peaked my interest. On a smaller scale, repetition can be found in the music and design. I love the artwork, but only saves the repetitive structure of the dungeons. The monotony is broken up a bit by a few tricks such as poison puddles, sand traps and crystal door switches. The music is well composed and produced, but having the same song for every dungeon really makes you feel like you’re playing one huge dungeon in small, scattered sections. Speaking of repetition…
Chapters 5 through 8. If you do a small bit of reading about peoples’ general opinion of the game, you are bound to hear complaints about the games second half. Cohering with what I stated above, I enjoyed Chapter 5. Trekking through the next three chapters is a bit like pulling teeth, though. ACTUALLY SPOILER AHEAD! Though it fits very well with the story, (HERE IT COMES…SERIOUSLY SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED) there is no reason that a player should have to fight the same four bosses five times and perform the same ritual to awaken the crystals (an exercise that contributes nothing to the game) TWENTY times. What saves this poor way of adding time to the game is that I found this to be the most interesting part of the story. It was pretty cut and dry up until then, and I know parallel worlds isn’t original, but I found the twist handled nicely. Edea takes more of the backseat, which kind of bums me out, but it’s appropriate. Also, there’s no fathomable reason that Braev or Alternis wouldn’t have told the party the truth of the crystals in Chapter 4. But oh well…
I can’t say what you’ll feel when going through each chapter, but I’ll briefly state what I went through and you might just find yourself going through a similar experience. Prelude: “This is certainly interesting.” Chapter 1: “I see what they’re doing and I’m into it.” Chapter 2: “This was definitely worth the money.” Chapter 3: “This might be the best game I’ve played in a while.” Chapter 4: “Yep. This game is incredible. I wonder how the sequel will be.” Chapter 5: “What? Oh! This is interesting.” Chapter 6: “Are they serious?” Chapter 7: “Is this a joke? Am I doing something wrong? Why are these separate chapters?!” Chapter 8: “These game developers are either very brave, very stupid or just plain crazy, but I do like the story.”
As you can see, the game and I went through quite the transformation. I paced and pondered how I felt for what seemed like hours deciding what I thought about Bravely Default. Ultimately, I’ve chosen to believe that the game’s “second half” (more like last tenth) is more on the brave side than stupid or crazy, and that the good aspects of this Bravely Default heavily outweigh the bad. Please, tell me I’m not losing it myself. I’m heavily interested in hearing what your thoughts on this anomaly of a game.