Bravely Default: the Final Fantasy we deserve

Whether through nostalgia, or simply the different sensibilities of an older time, people like retro. Black and white films, throwback board games, and in the case of video games, the sensibilities of retro games are no different.

When <em>The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds </em>was released, it was hailed as a return to form and to the retro sensibilities of the original <em>Link to the Past. </em>It &nbsp;became a huge critical success, and proclaimed as many people&rsquo;s new favourite game in the series.

In the same month we got <em>Lightning Returns</em>, another entry in the more often beleaguered Final Fantasy franchise receiving incrementally lower sales and lower reviews.

Even as a man who tends to be a bit of a <em>Final Fantasy XIII </em>apologist, I&rsquo;ve been increasingly cynical of the competency of Square Enix to create a compelling RPG. The troubling lack of self-awareness of Square Enix&rsquo;s directors and the horror stories of the internal turmoil of the company more or less has soiled my expectations.

And so, while I am sure to pick up <em>Lightning Returns </em>through some sad obligation to see the train wreck through to the end, I sigh for the days when the games were just <em>good, </em>despite the lack of triple-A budgets.

And so, Final Fantasy got its own <em>Link Between Worlds, </em>its own successor with retro-sensibilities coupled with understandable advances from our modern sensibilities, to create a new and great experience. And it&rsquo;s not even a Final Fantasy game.

Put straight, <em>Bravely Default </em>is everything Final Fantasy used to be, and should be.

This game doesn&rsquo;t need some strange hybrid RPG system like <em>Final Fantasy XII or XIII. </em>It&rsquo;s classic RPG turn-based action with just a bit of a twist. The delightfully &ldquo;engrish&rdquo; title <em>Bravely Default</em> stems from the Brave and Default options in battle.

Essentially, these options allow players to store up additional actions, letting you choose the best time to act or make an all-out attack at the risk of not being able to do anything afterwards. I haven&rsquo;t seen such a keen usage of turn-based since the <em>Persona </em>games.

Coupled with the fun Job system of older Final Fantasy games, mixing and matching abilities, and attacks into your ideal adventuring party, this is pure old-school RPG at its best. And it goes to show that you don&rsquo;t need &ldquo;Gambits&rdquo; or &ldquo;paradigm shifts,&rdquo; the ideal state of an RPG can exist in the simplicity of the past.

The biggest kick to Final Fantasy&rsquo;s balls is that <em>Bravely Default</em>, a portable 3DS title of all things, honestly looks prettier than anything the PS3 and 360 Final Fantasy entries have put out. It goes to show that all the polygons in the world do not beat spectacular graphic design.

The towns of the game provide the greatest example. The spinning windmills of Anchiem or the flowers of Florem are striking, with the camera zooming out to show the city in its full glory. It feels like you&rsquo;ve entered a fantastic new world without needing expensive engines and lengthy cut scenes.

Even the more cartoony style is a breath of fresh air. People have forgotten the kooky stuff that would happen in older Final Fantasy<em>, </em>the same series that had Cloud dress up as girl or snowboarding in a minigame. <em>Bravely Default </em>keeps angst in its place, balancing it out with whimsy and fun.

Because of that, I care more about Agn&eacute;s, Tiz, Edea, and Ringabel than I care about any of <em>XIII&rsquo;s</em> characters, despite the lack of realistic proportions. They&rsquo;re just fun to adventure with.

And really, it just <em>feels </em>more like a Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy, in my opinion, in its ideal form, is reduced to that feeling of having your little party, well equipped and finely trained by you.

The tone of some recent remakes of your party facing down the fantastic enemy with the nostalgic tones of the Final Fantasy theme is Final Fantasy to me. Not teenage angst or complicated, nonsensical plotlines.

This is what I look for when I buy Japanese RPGs, a flowing, effortless experience that&rsquo;s just fun to play, to get involved in, figuring out strategies and having a simple but fun adventure.

Honestly, it&rsquo;s hard to really put any egregious faults on the game at all. I&rsquo;d just say they haven&rsquo;t quite broken into the hallowed quality of games like <em>Final Fantasy VI </em>or <em>VII </em>or even recent darlings like <em>Persona 4. </em>But it&rsquo;s clearly a good start.

But with a sequel <em>Bravely Second </em>looking to advance the series in terms of darker, more realistic tone, it seems we may just have a second renaissance of RPGs.

And at the very least, between this and <em>Final Fantasy XV, </em>things are looking a bit better at Square Enix, despite my general cynicism. I honestly just hope that <em>Bravely Default </em>lets them know that there is a great hunger for the old-school JRPG.

And given that it was so hard to find a copy of the damn game in this city, I&rsquo;d say it&rsquo;s a good sign.


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