A new JRPG came out for the 3DS called Bravely Default. It’s by Square Enix and is apparently a lot like older Final Fantasy games (which I never played).
The game’s name comes from its combat mechanics, which are pretty cool. As the thread title says: the defend command isn’t useless in a turn-based RPG. Which is pretty novel. (I am prepared for the litany of counterexamples you all produce).
The idea is that rather than one turn being one move, you instead have a point system. One point is one move (I haven’t found any exceptions to this yet, but there may be later). Every character starts each battle with 0 points. The system gets slightly confusing here, you can attack at any non-negative amount of points, including zero. As mentioned, by using an action, you consume a point. Each turn, you gain a point.
Now here’s the mechanic: every character has two special abilities: brave and default. When you brave, you consume an extra point in exchange for extra attacks. When you default, you defend, but it doesn’t consume your point for that turn. You can store up to 3 points, and brave up to 3 times per turn (for a total of 4 points). But you can go into what I call “brave debt”, if you really need to deal damage or heal a lot, or whatever else, you can brave 3 times all the way down to -4 points. This means that character can’t do anything for 3 turns, but if the character NEEDS to act that turn, it might be worth it. Conversely, if that character has nothing interesting to do, or you want to set up a combo, you can default and bank up to 3 extra points for whenever you need to use them. This means that after 3 turns of waiting, you can do 4 actions in a turn without “losing” a turn. Since default doubles as “defend”, this is balanced to be better than going into debt.
It’s an incredibly good system. Though you quickly learn that random encounters can be curbstomped relatively easily by making your melee characters go into brave debt on the first turn. It really shines in new areas (where enemies are tougher) and boss battles, though. Generally the strategy is just to keep your melle users attacking (or occasionally setting up minor combos), your mage casting whatever spell the boss is weak against, and your healer defaulted so they can heal and cure status ailments immediately.
The game has some nice quality of life touches. It has a slider that allows you to adjust the number of random encounters whenever your want, up to double the rate to no encounters at all. You can set your characters to autoattack, which as far as I can tell makes melee characters use their standard attack and magic users auto-default. You can speed up battled to 4x animation speed. And you can turn off EXP, money, or job point gains, in case you want to focus on one thing without hilariously overlevelling yourself. Of course, I’d say if you’re going to do all that then just eliminate grinding in the first place but… eh… genre conventions.
I don’t want to make it sound like this game is grindtastic, I don’t know if it is yet, I’m not very far in, but I’ve only grinded because I wanted specific job abilities on certain characters and it certainly wasn’t necessary.
As I implied with the grind-lessening thing, the game has a job system like some Final Fantasy games. Any of your 4 characters can pick any job. Monsters give Job Points as well as experience, though the gap is much smaller than EXP. The monsters in the earliest tutorial areas only give maybe 1JP less than the 3rd dungeon’s. The jobs are standard so far and I assume they’ll become more complex. The game claims all of them are locked behind bosses, though how many of these are sidequest tied, and how many have special conditions like “max out X and Y job class” I don’t know. You do get to equip one passive and one set of abilities from any job that character knows, however, which is nice. So I have my healer with both White and Black magic, for instance, just to help my actual black mage guy in we need to quickly do a sweep.
One thing I would recommend: get to level 4 freelancer on everyone (or maybe just one person needs the ability?) before focusing on other jobs. It gives you a passive ability to ignore environmental hazards, which I’ve been told are abundant later on. So being able to equip an ability to just no-sell, say, environmental poison is rather nice.
The only real downside of the game is the writing. Not the story, which is bog standard but just interesting enough to keep me wanting to know what happens (so basically like every other JRPG story). Just the writing which is… ugh. “You can write this stuff, George, but you can’t SAY it.” Everyone talks in the strangest most stilted manner possible. It’s hard to describe, but it just sounds like you asked a high school student to write medieval dialogue. Overall I keep wanting to scream at the screen “NOBODY ACTUALLY TALKS LIKE THAT.” Bless the voice actors’ hearts, though, they try so hard to deliver their terrible dialogue as best as they can.
Finally, there is a weird real-time minigame. Where you rebuild a town to give you access to certain special moves and items. As far as I can tell, this minigame is necessary to… not proceed, but definitely to get all the cool stuff and make your life generally easier. You can’t get the poweful special moves without it, for instance. You’re basically building a town, but any given town improvement takes anywhere from 30min to 99hours or so of real time. You can drastically cut build times down with “villagers” which you get from StreetPass (walking past other sleeping 3DSs while your DS is in sleep mode). Once a day, you can also get 5 villagers by going online at a save point. Like I said, it seems kind of necessary, which I don’t like. But it’s not the end of the world.
I think you can also get villagers via friend code, so mine is 0173-1397-2821