Bravely Default is a series from Square Enix being brought back from the dead. I know what you're thinking, “why does that matter? It’s just another RPG” That’s where you're kind of wrong; imagine this.
When you want to escape from everyday life, you pick up a book or watch a movie/series that is your favorite genre and let it fully captivate you. Distracting you from what’s around you and taking you away, something out of the norm and lets you explore other sides of yourself you can't have in day-to-day life because it’s out of this world. Normally, fantasy, or science fiction are the popular genres that people go seeking, but the great thing is that those genres aren’t restricted to one type of media.
From Mario trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser, or Sonic racing to save the animals, to awaking in Skyrim and being told you are a Dragonborn and you need to do everything in your power to defeat Alduin, the World-Eater. These stories are as iconic as the plot to Star Wars or Harry Potter. Though, most games don’t need a huge story to be successful, it’s a lot of time to commit to opening a new game up and players don’t always have they luxury. Shooters, rouge-likes and puzzle games are most commonly known as just “sit and play” styles, though these are just some examples, they are wildly popular with tons of people.
Stories and plots in games are, really, hit-or-miss. Not every game needs a story and not every game has a good story. Over the last few decades, as more companies rise up, certain companies specialize in different assets. Once a laughing stock, and now a titan of adventure and feelings, Square Enix is the company you want to see behind a games' development. Bringing life to the well-known Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest series; Square is known for making engaging worlds and characters, and has storytelling like no other company. When playing their games, it’s a treat, highly regarded, and experience nearly everyone should try if they haven’t. Mostly, favoring classic turn-based combat that’s been ever-growing and changing through the years.
Though, there're times when you just want a more classic feel to a game. There’s a reason why 2D fighters and platforms still exist, pixel art has made a comeback, and why even Pokémon came back to doing eight gym leaders instead of trails again. Changing up style or the norm can be refreshing, a new take to something you're used to but it’s not always welcomed. There are times people don’t always want that high-end, HD experiences.
This is where nostalgia comes in to play. Nostalgia is intense. It’s common knowledge, and the main reason why remasters and remakes sell so well. We tend to over-romanticize it and generate false expectations when we look fondly back on an experience. Though not intentional, we tend to look at it with a grin on our face and have a swell of happiness course through us. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can make revisiting something a tad disappointing when it’s not the same as you remembered it. Removing those rose-tinted glasses and it hits you that maybe it wasn’t as you imagined, it sucks but it’s not always a bad thing. When you love something, you look at both the negatives and positives and accept it because you liked what it had to offer. In the end, nostalgia isn't all that bad.
Bravely Default, a spin-off series to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, was kinda like a love child for that type of experience. The idea was simple, go back to classic turn based gameplay in a fantasy RPG, and maybe even change it up in its a own way. Airship, elemental crystals, everything down to Onion Knight making an apprentice, every element that Final Fantasy is known for is there, however, with two rework systems that are Bravely Default’s biggest strengths. Not new, but changed systems.
Battles are still turn based but with the added addition of “Brave” and “Default”, making every turn count. Making battles either longer to be safer or faster but at the risk of not being able to attack or heal. So it becomes a game of thinking; do you stack up "Defaults" for more defense and save BP or do you use up "Braves" and do a ton of attacks on your turn and leave yourself open? The other change being the way you get new classes, or jobs as they are called. Bosses are known as Asterisk holders, a person that is a representative of that job and defeating them unlocks that job for your team. Additionally, levelling up any classes has passives and abilities you can equip as a side job. It sounds like a lot, but really, it makes sense and fits with the genre perfectly.
What is Bravely Default, and why is Bravely Default 2 a big deal?
A quick, spoiler-free summary of Bravely Default (not that you need this information to play Bravely Default 2) is the game goes back to classic Final Fantasy in a new way no other RPG or series does. While being more of a spin-off to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default is a game about four charming characters set in the world of Luxendarc, which is kept in balance by four elemental crystals: Wind, Water, Fire and Earth. After being corrupted by darkness, our four heroes are set to try to revive the crystals to save the world. Classic Final Fantasy stuff.
Though Bravely Default did amazing numbers wise globally, when word came out about Bravely Second, things got messy. After work on the first game wrapped up, Octopath Traveler began. At the time, the desire to make a sequel was replaced by wanting to make a mature, but still classic style game. Most of the team who work on Bravely Default took part in that project, so when Bravely Second was greenlighted, it was mainly a different group.
You can see where this is going, right? While Bravely Second is a good game, it didn’t live up to what people expected. People could tell it wasn’t the same as the first and didn’t give it much attention. Because of this, the series was thought to be done, the idea that Bravely Second didn’t do the best left a sour taste in both producers’ mouths and made them have no real desire to continue. However, as much of that was true at a time, it’s obvious it’s not anymore. Wanting to try again and see if they could do the series justice, as of the Game Award 2019, Bravely Default 2 was brought back one more time.
Coming back to the series, Bravely Default 2 Producer Tomoya Asano agreed that he, too, was not a fan of the results of the previous game and it’s been a fear while making the new game that it would be another failure. While being interviewed by Famitsu, he apologized for Bravely Second and explained that any issues and problems in the previous game were the main focus point in creating Bravely Default 2. Later that same interview, he elaborated about the weird title choice, and simply said he wanted the clean slate.
It’s weird to think about Bravely Default getting a new game in the series. Comparing the success of Bravely Default to Bravely Second is a sad joke, to put it bluntly, however, the game didn’t do the first game justice. It’s not a terrible game by all means, and has some elements that would welcome return in Bravely Default 2, but the series needs a new light to bring it back in the world and hopefully, make it well-known too.
Bravely Default 2, as many know, is a standalone and will not need to have prior knowledge from the first games. The team behind the game believes that, though the characters are loved, much like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, they want fans to know that every new game means a new adventure and story every time, so in doing so, they went for a new cast. The game will still have the defining “Brave” and “Default” battle machine, and customizable jobs and passives. Using previous experience from the first two games and Octopath Traveler, Bravely Default 2 will be more refined in every way. Though it’s been a rough year to finish the game, much of the original team that worked on the first game has made a comeback to assist and try to really make this game not fail.
Main character artist Akihiko Yoshida won’t be returning, which is a little upset, however, eagle eye fans can easily tell that the game’s direction is in the hands of Hajime Onuma and Naoki Ikushima who have been a part of Octopath Traveler’s art team. The game doesn’t look out of place compared to the first two, and in-game models still have their cute chibi versions due to limitations on the Switch, but they do still have their level of charm the series is known for.
Probably the most exciting return is composer Revo, it’s a well-known fact that if there’s a track like "That Person’s Name Is" or "Love's Vagrant", then fans won’t have a problem at all. Past experience was not the only inspiration for the game’s story and overall development, the team looked towards games like Undertale and Suikoden with their player input impacting the game and tried to see if they could possibly have the same effort. The main goal for the game was for it to be a return to the series while still being a new experience, to be a storytelling RPG but not be like every other game on the market. As we eagerly wait for the release, at least we have the demos, and they’ve been nothing but amazing, but only time will tell for the overall picture.
As a recent fan to the series, playing through both games in anticipation of the release to only find out it would be its own game, I’m really hopeful for Bravely Default 2. My biggest problems being no returning characters and that I wished they favored the simpler in-game models. Ringabel and Edea have been some of my favorite characters recently, individually and together, and I hate that I won’t be seeing them return. Other than that, I love the classic feel the series gives off because it's just nice to have that retro style game but it still feels new. I fondly remember one time when I had to grind levels, I decided to change the difficult too hard to gain more experience, however, when going back to the boss I was stuck at - Red Mage - I didn’t change back from hard to normal. Though knowing Red Mage was a good job type, the fight was challenging and just exciting, getting the class after the fight was rewarding to no end and really was a fun challenge I don’t think I could have anywhere else.
It’s nice having a game go back to its roots and just be that, Bravely Default is a series that’s just another turn-based, fantasy RPG but not in a bad sense. Think of it as going back home and having your favorite meal only your mother can make, it makes you feel loved and cared for because sometimes you want something that is not extra, you want the original. Be hopeful, classics come back for a reason, and I think with time now, we need a game that is what it says it is and is fresh and new to everyone.
Bravely Default 2 was released February 26 for Nintendo Switch and I’m excited to get playing. Let’s see how well it is and just maybe we’ll see more from them soon after.