There once was a proud and marvelous RPG series called “Final Fantasy.” These games wove fantastical tales of good and evil. They featured fast paced combat systems, plenty of real estate to explore and a perfect marriage of story and gameplay. They also let you ride around on a giant chicken. Gamers the world over swooned.
All good things come to an end, however. With advancing hardware and shifting consumer demands, the series found itself relying less on gameplay and more on flashy cinematics. While not bad, newer entries in the franchise lacked the satisfying rhythm that made the first several so essential.
Enter “Bravely Default,” an old school “Final Fantasy” game in everything but name. Four plucky heroes? Check. A bona fide overworld map that can be explored however you see fit? Check. An absolutely addictive job system that lets you play as a thief, a ninja or even a merchant? Check. Confusing nonsense about the four elements? Check! However you multislice it, this stellar old-school JRPG could just about have come out in 1992.
I said “just about.” Square Enix wisely added some modern accoutrements to all of this retro goodness. Many of the things that scare people away from the genre are tweaked here. There is a fluid difficulty slider and the ability to change up how often you are attacked. There’s full, if a bit cheesy, voice acting in both English and Japanese. You can speed up battles to a dizzying degree, making level grinding a breeze.
However, just because it is being rewarded five globes doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are some late-game pacing issues and a rather strange attempt to throw micro-transactions into the mix. Barring these, though, it is a simply stunning addition to the JRPG canon and is absolutely guaranteed to make your next horrible Greyhound trip go by quicker.
Follow Lawrence Bonk on Twitter at @sidescrollers