What's the story?

Despite loading itself up on typical Japanese role-playing game tropes – four young heroes set out to save a steampunk-esque fantasy world by re-igniting elemental crystals – Bravely Default impresses by dealing with far deeper themes. Faith, obligation, the conflict between tradition and progress, even grief; all are explored with tenderness over the course of this epic adventure.



Bravely Default is defined by its battle system. It offers a refreshing risk/reward factor that keeps each encounter unpredictable. To "Brave" takes an early extra turn but leaves you defenceless next round, while "Default" banks a turn, letting you unleash hell down the line. Outside of battle, rebuilding a ruined village adds an unexpectedly compulsive Farmville-style background game.

Highs and lows

Like many JRPGs, progress can be grind-heavy – meaning spending time levelling up characters before the team is powerful enough to tackle the next dungeon. The frequency of random battles can be controlled by the player, even turned off entirely, eliminating the frustration of game-ending encounters right before save points.

The verdict

In Bravely Default, developer Square Enix has recaptured what made its earlier Final Fantasy games so wonderfully absorbing, while addressing many of the flaws inherent in the genre. It's quite the technical masterpiece, packing in fully voiced cutscenes in English and original Japanese, plus clever uses of the 3DS' online and StreetPass functions. Practically perfect, and thoroughly entertaining.



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