Recurring themes, partly recognisable characters, and the referencing of previous works. Usual traits in the world of Square Enix, the Publisher who likes to maintain a hinted sense of cohesion in its titles. Or, for the more imaginative, the publisher who likes to suggest parallel or alternate game worlds. Into this mix steps Bravely Default, a game whose name is…well, unusual for Square Enix’ Final Fantasy-dominated nomenclature.
Yet that name exists for more than to simply distinguish it as a unique property. As more than a few JRPG and Square Enix watchers have suggested, Bravely Default may owe much of its inspiration to 2010’s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. In fact it likely owes it its very existence. If we note that T4HoL sold out in Japan while receiving mixed reviews, there was maybe a feeling from Square Enix of “we can do this better”.
Yet Bravely Default bears more poignant clues. The developer for BD is relative newcomer Silicon Studios and not T4HoL‘s Matrix Software, yet the full title given to its Japan release was “Bravely Default: Flying Fairys”. The alliterative clue of Flying Fairy’s “FF” is a smart little nod to the game’s inheritance. Further, it’s left some suggesting Bravely started life as full-on sequel, before the Square Enix decided a greater overhaul might be required.
Finding more connections we come to the team and Atihiko Yoshida, a veteran of Square Enix art departments. Yoshida was responsible for character design in The 4 Heroes of Light, as well as a raft of FF games across the publisher’s handheld releases. His role on the Bravely Default team was to take charge of ‘Main Character Design’, a clear suggestion that Square Enix is aware of the power of its visual tradition, and that gamers more readily accept new titles when confronted with a familiar feel. Also returned for Bravely was Tomoya Asano as Producer, having held that role while also contributing to writing duties for T4HoL.
In fact much of the familiarity of Bravely Default may appear in such parallelism and half-links. A direct connection to stories past isn’t something which Bravely Default‘s plot (or Square Enix, traditionally) seems to offer; except in passing glances. The world inhabited, the systems used and the style of story in Bravely are quite faithful to The 4 Heroes‘ formula. And there seems to be more than a hint of “welcoming back”.
Bravely Default is set in the world of Luxendarc, the “land of light and shadow”. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the shadow is threatening and Agnes Oblique (a 17 year-old girl who may have the power to fight it), is joined by three other playable characters: Tiz Area, Edea Lee and Ringabel. This ‘gang of four’ approach is adjoined by the idea of overcoming a great evil/darkness, as something seasoned FF fans will be well used to. But players of T4HoL perhaps more intimately than others – particularly as some darker refractions of the earlier title are more keenly felt.
Players of T4HoL will know it featured four characters (Brandt, Jusqua, Yunita and Aire) who of course also needed to face the darkness and win out. But in doing so they came up against some fairly powerful bosses. To name a quartet: Beelzebub, Lucifer, Asmodeus and Mammon. Each of these returns in Bravely Default, allowing players to either (a) imagine that such bosses and powers can travel throughout game-world dimensions to appear in alternate releases or (b) simply that Square Enix enjoys providing its players continuity and another chance to beat its bosses into the dirt.
Such beatings might not be all too unfamiliar either. Bravely Default takes its name from a new tweak to a battle system, but the main framework persists from The 4 Heroes of Light‘s setup. Turn-based, ‘jobs’ are still the driving force behind the type of attacks party members can unleash. The major change here though is that Bravely Default‘s random and boss battles allow players to opt for ‘Brave’ or ‘Default’ options on their turns (hence the game’s title). Brave will allows users to attack and perform an extra move in a turn, while Default won’t provide any attack, will increase defensive abilities, and also provide a boost to Brave points.
This notes a key changes from The 4 Heroes‘ approach to battles, which had a hankering for Magic and Action points, and which provided a 28 ‘Crown’ system where Bravely Default now offers players 24 jobs. All variations on a theme, but the impression is that Bravely Default takes its cue from The 4 Heroes blueprint and then adds its own extensions including: job-levels, friend-summons (rather than a true multiplayer mode), and the introduction of “Special Moves”.
All of this is while staying fairly true to the feel of T4HoL. Unsurprisingly the game looks similar, although more lavish, as the idea of world-map travelling that is crucial to the Square Enix FF ethos returns. In fact it’s entirely likely that even more parallels can be drawn between Bravely Default and its sister from another mister. But with this publisher, you may need to play it to truly find out.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.