Yes! I finished Bravely Default! I started playing this game in December. My 3DS registered ca. 185 hours spent playing the game, while my save file gives my time as 149 hours and a minute or so. (Which means that the minutes and hours of gameplay I lost through K.O.s amount to 1.5 days. You can play some entire videogames in 36 hours.
These numbers make me a little thoughtful.
And I have to shake my head at myself a little. I spent so much time playing that game, but could not wait another day to play the final battle, although I should have dedicated all my … emotions to the World Cup victory. Another thing I had been excited about, that had been a long time coming. (That team.)
Bravely Default is … strange. I went through four phases while playing it:
1. LOVE. Technically, it took a few hours for the love to kick in, but even while I was getting used to the battle system and regretting a few of the game’s stylistic choices, I found stuff to enjoy, be it the music, the awesome backgrounds or the funny dialogue. From then on, it was so much fun! So much fuuuuuun!!!
2. WTF. Yeah … the second half is weird. I would not say bad, but weird. Initially, I loved the twist and confusion of suddenly winding up at the beginning of the game again. I did not expect it at all. It was fun the first time. The second time, though … and the third … After a while, I had a somewhat disappointing realization: The last few dozens of hours, I had not met a single new character, explored a single new dungeon, heard a single new piece of music. My enjoyment lessened during that period, although I still enjoyed the new interactions among the characters, for the most part. But in the end, I became frustrated because I was stubbornly trying to beat all optional battles. I’d only managed to defeat my BroTP de Rosso/Yulyana thanks to a lucky streetpass encounter and “Summon Friends”. After countless frustrated attempts, I simply gave up on Ominas/Qada/Mephilia/Yulyana and proceeded with the main story. It was getting scary. I am not used to getting my characters beyond level 90 without a lot of grinding. In Bravely Default, though I spent some periods levelling up every now and then, my levels never felt like the problem.
3. Once I’d decided to progress with the story, and plot happened! Reveals happened! Yay! I forgot all about my frustrations and again, Bravely Default was the best game ever!!! Before I knew it, I had reached the end boss. And was distracted by obligatory football celebrations, but I returned to the paused game, defeated the end boss and enjoyed this great, no, bittersweet, no, confusing ending. Despite the bizarrely dragging middle part, I ended up wishing the game wasn’t over yet … and that’s saying something. How great Bravely Default could have been, without those few chapters of rehashing old boss fights.
My other issue is that a lot of interesting, even plot-relevant information was hidden in long, optional monologues or written sources. Diaries, notes. I did not mind as much as other players possibly would, but at the same time I wished that they’d managed to fit these things better into the game scenes themselves, the dialogues, the cut scenes. They often felt a little static, perhaps also due to this art style they often used.
I nicknamed Lord de Rosso “Lord Exposition” but he became one of my favourite characters at the same time, so even when it’s doing something wrong, Bravely Default is doing something right. Weird. But this is such interesting world-building, please make it more than just additional reading!
Regarding the twists:
1. Ringabel is Alternis. It’s funny that the game pushed you in the right, yet wrong direction when Ringabel leaves for a bit and misses Alternis’ appearance, or when a cut scene shows Alternis getting injured, and Ringabel – coincidently hurting in the same place the next tim he shows up. Stuff designed to make you think Ringabel is Alternis. But these things are total coincidences! And yet: Ringabel is Alternis, just from a parallel world.
2. Airy is evil. Alright, this I anticipated. But for all the wrong reasons. A fairy claiming to know what needs to be done to fight evil? “Haha, I don’t trust her, I bet she’s actually evil. Like in Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne!” was a joke I made right from the start of the game. So even the most subtle hints were so obvious confirmation of my “theory” that it almost confused me. I suppose that some hints – like that someone close to the heroes is going to betray them – could be seen to refer to someone else, like Ringabel, whose identity was very much a mystery. Considering that the revelation that Airy was, indeed, evil, came from Ringabel, I wonder what I’d have made of it, had not my mind been stuck on the big plot twist of a crappy Arina Tanemura manga. Who would I have trusted more, Ringabel or Airy? Man, had Ringabel turned out to be evil, I’d have been crushed. I was ready for the Airy twist.
Still, when I started my game again afterwards, and the subtitle suddenly changed from “WHERE THE FAIRY FLIES” to “AIRY LIES”, I got a pleasant jolt of … something. Of course! The truth had been here all along! Oh my god!
3. Tiz. Tiz …? See … That I was not ready for. There was a moment pretty early in the game when a character – I forgot who – notices something about Tiz’s aura (I think) but nothing is made of it. Until the end battle when Ouroboros straight-up says that Tiz is inhabited by a celestial being. OK, but I still was not ready for the very, very end, when Tiz says to himself that it’s time … to return something he borrowed, walks to the graveyard and … falls over with a bright light leaving his body. WHAT NO WAIT WOW NO NOOOOO?
So what was that about? What happened, how did it work, what does it really mean for the character?
What actually upsets me about this ending is that Tiz does not say good-bye and explain anything to his friends. They just find him – dead?
Considering the many open questions and how much about this world is still left unexplored, unexplored, I am actually glad that the sequel appears to be an actual sequel, rather than a stand-alone piece using similar story elements, like Final Fantasy and others.
So … Good job, Bravely Default, for making me care so damn much. But I really hope that the sequel will ditch the “I heard you like replaying, so we made you replay the game before you finish it!” angle. And integrate background info more organically into scenes and dialogue. While we’re at it, I was not too fond of these dialogue scenes in this flat side-view with the generic backdrops. Was anything really gained by them? Just use the normal sets for these scenes, and speech bubbles … These things are not a deal breaker, but it’d be nice to remove some of these flaws. And make Bravely Second the bestest game ever.