Bravely Default’s Second Half is Inexcusably Bad

Before we get started, I want to note that this post will contain major SPOILERS. For those of you still playing though Bravely Default, you may want to avoid this post until you’ve finished.


I wanted to spend a second week looking at Bravely Default because its Final Fantasy roots aren’t the only notable thing about the game. Bravely Default is a good game, sometimes very good, but it is dramatically held back by its second half which devolves into probably the laziest, most boring mess of a story I’ve ever seen. Because this is going to be a very negative post about a fairly popular game, I want to mention up front that I actually like Bravely Default. However, that fondness does not overlook the mess that sets in once chapter 5 hits, and it’s only because I was so disappointed by it that I am bothering to cover it at all. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the plane crash that is Bravely Default’s second half.

Bravely going through the Default motions.

Bravely going through the Default motions.

Chapter 5 begins a recreation of the movie Groundhog Day without any of the fun, charm, or purpose. Up until this point, the point of the game was to revive the four crystals and then save the world, meeting various characters and overcoming obstacles along the way. Chapter 5, 6, 7, and 8 require you to repeat this entirely, but without any new content and immediate access to your airship, which allows you to skip almost every character interaction in the game. The reasons for this is that your characters start jumping into parallel dimensions, and must revive the crystals in order to save the new world’s populace as well as to hope that they’ll manage to end the cycle.

A groundhog driving is analogous to how badly Silicon Studios managed this back half.

A groundhog driving is analogous to how badly Silicon Studios managed this back half.

And what a cycle it is. Each crystal is guarded by the exact same boss every time with the exact same cinematics playing before and after the battle. You have to button mash through a lengthy crystal revival afterwords before moving onto the next crystal dungeon (probably with the encounters turned off because the whole process is tedious enough as it is). There is some new dialogue parsed out in Tales series style optional cutscenes, but it consists almost entirely of the party complaining about the tedious process, as if the developers understood how bad an idea all of this was. The only other new addition to these four chapters is that you get to refight old boss battles with some new dialogue attached. While the bosses are more interesting than your characters, as I mentioned last week, having to hunt around the world just to kill these bosses for no reason is cheap and badly thought out for a game that previously weaved them into the story.

Let's kill this guy over and over again with each time more meaningless than the last.

Let’s kill this guy over and over again with each time being more meaningless than the last.

I’ve heard people on message boards exclaim that this part of the game isn’t that bad, that one can clear through each chapter in about 40 minutes and get to the more interesting end sequence in less than three hours if you ignore the sidequests. I cannot agree with this. Bravely Default commits the cardinal sin of being extremely boring for a protracted period of time. Rarely to I ever feel like giving up on a game simply because I no longer have any interest in it, but Bravely Default came dangerously close. Being able to plow through it quickly if you put a concentrated effort doesn’t excuse how bad it is. Actually, the fact that this is the solution to the problem shows how bad this part of the game is. For all of the people that complain about the first thirty hours of Final Fantasy XIII, at least you kept getting new hallways to run down over and over again.

At least Lightning doesn't have to button mash through 20 crystals.

At least Lightning doesn’t have to button mash through 20 crystals.

Some people say that the story requires this boring part because we have to see the alternate universes and the team has to get increasingly discouraged while they find out why this is happening. I agree that the parallel world jumping has to happen, but it can occur in literally any other way. It is established early on that the parallel worlds aren’t exactly the same as the original world. This opens up tons of possibilities. Bad guys could become good through a single change in their past or former allies could be rounding up a legion of the dead to march on the crystals. New dungeons could arise from alternate resolutions to conflicts. For example, the holder of the Thief asterisk gives your team a sob story about being abandoned as a child and how that impacted his entire world view. What if he wasn’t abandoned? In a new universe, he might not be a thief. He could be an upstanding member of Ancheim or a dread knight hunting you down. This would allow the developers to play around with societal notions, circumstances and the like. Do Victor and Victoria need to die? Couldn’t they use their powers entirely for good in at least one of the parallel universes? But no. Everyone is always basically the same and they all just exist as optional boss battles that aren’t worth your time.

Why even have parallel universes if you aren't going to bother using the concept?

Why even have parallel universes if you aren’t going to bother using the concept?

It’s this waste of opportunity that really gets to me. Why give your team access to the airship immediately? This is an excuse to have them discover a completely new world the same way your party did in Final Fantasy V’s other and merged world, and Final Fantasy VI’s World of Ruin. Even Final Fantasy VII threw in new events to a fully opened up world post-meteor. Why is it so easy to just waltz into every single crystal temple? Why not have new obstacles preventing you from achieving your goals, maybe obstacles that would simultaneously shed light on the world? For example, Sage Yulyanna forces you to march through a long, and previously completed, dungeon twice in the parallel worlds in order to give you a tiny bit of exposition. Why not have him leading a band of orthodoxy fanatics, having not had the change of heart while fighting DeRosso in one of the parallel universes? You could have him parse out new information he learned through this experience instead of just giving you bits and pieces at some times, while holding back critical information for no reason whatsoever.

Another massive case of Final Fantasy V did it way better.

Another massive case of Final Fantasy V did it way better.

Chapter 5 and onward was Silicon Studio’s chance to make a game that really made me sit up. The story in the original world was flat and boring, but the opportunities of the parallel world could have shed new light on original world events and characters that let me appreciate them in an interesting and nuanced way. Instead, we received no character development aside from Ringabel shouting exposition when his memories suddenly return. This could have been a game I would consider a must have for the 3DS as many reviewers and fans have shouted. Instead, it falters in some pretty key areas and disappoints bitterly in the end.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


7 thoughts on “Bravely Default’s Second Half is Inexcusably Bad

  1. I agree and disagree with what you say. For me, chapter 5 and 6 were painfully slow and boring and only slightly redeeming because of the mystery of the worlds and Ringabel’s memory. For me, Chapter 7 amped it up with the sidequests and sidequest bosses being totally different and a real challenge. (The girl power cutscene was truly enjoyable and made me laugh.)
    I do agree that there would have been a much better way to do this. I’m almost at the end, and I’ll be glad when I’m done, but also, I didn’t hate the experience. I just hope they learned their lesson for the second game and don’t try to pull this crap again.

    • The side quests, particularly chapter 7 as you stated are fun, but I just can’t help but feel bad due to all of the wasted potential. What fun there is in chapter 7 could have at least been the baseline instead of a surprise.

      • Agreed.
        Have you finished the game? I finished it this weekend, and I 100% loved the “ending” chapter with the boss battles. I cannot say enough good things about that. It seemed it all tied together and made me feel somewhat that it was all worth it. Plus, that trailer of Bravely Second after you finish the game? Loved that! What a great use of the 3D and the gyroscope. I was severely impressed.

        • The end sequence was definitely better than the previous chapters. Despite my problems with Bravely Default, I’m looking forward to Bravely Second. The first game was a success and they were probably given a larger staff and more resources to make the game really shine.

  2. This game had one of the best build ups that brought me soaring to the waves of entertainment. I had so much fun with the first 4 chapters, minus all the perverted dialogue and pedophilia hints aimed at the under aged female characters.

    Once I had to awaken the crystals again and again and again, it ruined the game for me. I couldn’t even finish it cause I got so sick of doing it over and over. This game was a good 40 hours at first, and then turned into a long snooze fest.

  3. I feel like Bravely Default had the potential to be a nearly perfect game. The first four chapters had me hailing it as the greatest game I had ever played. Then, of course, came the reawakening of the crystals over and over again. This, of course, is tedious, but isn’t my main complaint with the game. My main complaint is with the fact that the ending was handled very poorly. Many things could have been altered to make the game both cooler and more emotional at the end. First thing I noticed was that the final boss looks too much like a clown for my liking. Seriously, what is that around his neck? Could we not have a darker, more mature version of this game’s effective Death Incarnate? I had heard the final boss theme, Serpent Eating the Ground (Horizon in some places, I believe) before fighting the final boss, and I expected something truly intimidating. Something that I actually felt was fit to be Death, Destroyer of Worlds. Instead, we get a clown with a horn. After that comes my BIGGEST complaint. All through the game, I had been shipping Tiz with Agnes, and Ringabel with Edea. I loved all of the little bits and pieces throughout the game that implied that those ships would actually come true. I was SO excited for something near the end, maybe even in the credits. Nothing much, really. Just Agnes saying that she loves Tiz, Ringabel finally, as they say, “getting the girl.” Anything showing that these two couples end up together and STAY together. But no. After all my shipping, all of Square Enix’s playing with my heart, they make NO mention of them character’s relationships at their end of the game, and everyone SPLITS UP. The four best friends don’t even stick together. They go back to the lives they had before the game started. When this happened, I was just staring at my screen in disappointment. Just a little hand holding is all I want. They played with my emotions, and then left me to die. The moment I had finished the game to see (If I hadn’t believed my ships would come true, I probably wouldn’t have finished the game) never came true. The game felt incomplete, and I felt, as a HUGE fan of the game, very betrayed by the people who made the game. I had been shipping Tiz and Agnes ever since he said that Agnes’s pendant fits her, because it was pretty. I went to bed that night with a hollow feeling, as my most anticipated moment of the game was basically forgotten and thrown out by the developers.

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