Handheld Game of the Year (2014) – Bravely Default


Everyone has a favorite game (or at least I like think so). For me, it’s Final Fantasy VI. But what does a console game released in 1994 have to do with a one-man website’s “Handheld Game of the Year” in 2014?

This: Bravely Default is perhaps the closest any game has come to knocking Final Fantasy VI from that “coveted” top spot.

Someone’s “favorite game” doesn’t necessarily need to be the “best” game. Instead, it simply needs to connect with them in a way that no other game has before. In my case, Bravely Default was purchased with a skeptic’s dollar. It almost never made it to my 3DS, but is now a handheld experience that I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone.

I hated the demo, but I stuck with it, despite a salvo of second guesses and nearly cancelled pre-orders. When I first played Bravely Default, my entire block was suffering a power outage from an ice storm. My wife was in China, visiting family, and my aloof cat was uncharacteristically willing to sidle up to me, if but for the sole purpose of bogarting my body heat in our arctic apartment. It was the perfect time for a handheld RPG.

In my (late to the party) review, I describe Bravely Default as “deceptively dark, yet charming,” calling it, “one of the best JRPGs I’ve played.” While the developers took an approach to the story that many consider lazy and (even I’ll admit this one) repetitive, I found these choices to be innovative – at least in the context of the game.

Likewise, Bravely Default‘s battle system is challenging and clever. Even conquering common enemies requires some strategy, and I found myself quickly addicted to the intense, turn-based combat.

At its core, Bravely Default is an excellent JRPG, though it will demand your time and patience. If you’re even remotely interested in this game, there’s no reason not to play it. Even when it starts to feel redundant, keep playing and be willing think outside the box – the payoff is well worth the effort.

TL;DR – Bravely Default is the finest traditional JRPG on any current-gen handheld, stacking up with the best of them (Final Fantasy VI included).

Official Website – BravelyDefault.Nintendo.com


About Author

Perry currently resides in Philadelphia, PA with his wife and cat. His favorite games include Final Fantasy VI, Muramasa, Portal, Pokémon, Bravely Default, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

  • MHOrtiz

    Can you elaborate more on the “hating the demo” part and what changed between playing that and the full game, or why the full game ends up being better than the demo? I’ve downloaded the demo, but I’m wary to play it in the case that it might turn me away from the game (I know demos can often be awful representations of the actual game).

    Also, would you recommend this to someone who doesn’t often play JRPGs? I would love to get into a deep game like this, but I’m not hardcore about the genre in general. It’s a very once-in-a-long-while sort of thing.


  • The demo lacks the substance and character development you’ll find in the full game. I don’t think demos convert well to story-centric games like Bravely Default (I couldn’t even make it through the demo for Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire for the 3DS). While demos generally represent the gameplay mechanics, you still need to account for character development, atmosphere, and so on.

    As for a recommendation to someone who doesn’t typically play JRPGs? Bravely Default is a very interesting place to start. It’s very accessible, which is nice. The repetition near the middle acts of the game can be somewhat confusing, but I insist that the player should stick it out and play through to the end – it’s worth it. When I say I loved this game, I mean it.

    If you’ve ever dug a classic JRPG like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, or any Pokemon game, you should be alright for Bravely Default. If turn-based combat and a lot of menus turn you off, stick to more action-oriented JRPGs like Kingdom Hearts or Paper Mario: Sticker Star (great alternatives that will surely go overlooked by too many gamers).

    Even so, Bravely Default is willing to dance to your beat, and you can tweak the encounter rate, battle speed, etc. to your liking.