Bravely Default — Review

Game: Bravely Default
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG

Bravely Default is a spiritual successor to classic Final Fantasy titles, being inspired by the former’s aesthetics and gameplay.
The story is that of four, young heroes out to rekindle the dying crystals to save the world. Tiz, the main protagonist who loses his home village right as the game begins. Agnes, a priestess at the Wind Temple that was recently raided and destroyed. Edea, the daughter of the snow emperor who wants to dive into the rabbit hole of the empire she was raised in. And Ringabel, a mysterious man searching for clues to his past.

I followed this game since its original release in 2012, and I got to play it when in released in the United States two years. And I must admit, the wait was worth it. The version that released internationally made Bravely Default one of the most user-friendly games. While the gameplay is very reminiscent of classic turn-based JRPGs, there is a twist in its simplicity with the job classes and the Brave system. Below, I will go into the details.

Elemental Tetrad

As someone who believed that job classes were pretty much perfected in Final Fantasy V for single-player JRPGs, I can gladly say that Bravely Default brought the job system into the modern age. Characters are able to select any job they want at any time they want. This gives each character in the party an advantage or disadvantage during any particular battle.
While the turn-based battle system is relatively standard, as far as JRPGs go, the Brave system adds a satisfying aspect to a given battle. The Brave system adds a risk-reward to the mix. If you select Brave, you can attack more than once in a turn, but have to wait as many turns as they attacked. If you select Default, you can stack Brave Points to be used later.

Seeing as this is an RPG, I can only go into the story so much without getting into spoiler territory. It initially starts off like a classic RPG, wherein the heroes are in search for the crystals to save the world from its demise while trying to stop an evil empire. While yes, the initial plot is very basic, how the characters react both to the situations, their own group, and the others that inhabit the world is what carries the first half of the game. The main characters all meet up pretty early on and have fantastic chemistry that you can see in the frequent party chats. There is are a number of wild plot twists that I do not want to spoil here, as this is a game I feel needs to be explored.

All backgrounds are hand-drawn and painted, and they all look gorgeous. The characters and world map are 3D models, which look fine considering they are on the 3DS, but the backgrounds are beautiful. The aesthetics of the world vary depending on the town, having many anachronisms, but having an overall “middle ages” feel. My favorite areas are tied for the water town Florem and the sand town Ancheim. Not to mention that the orchestrated soundtrack is outstanding.

This game did not break any boundaries or push any limits for the 3DS. But what it did do was use the 3D to have a parallax view of the gorgeous towns.


4) Surprise
The game lures in fans of classic Final Fantasy and other JRPGs, but gives classic fans a surprise with the later twists in the plot, well-established characters and their interactions, and a gorgeous parallax world.

21) Flow
The plot tends to flow very smoothly for the first half, with very clear goals communicated by the characters (save the crystal’s destruction, stop the empire, save the world). The “distractions” from the main plot usually tie in at one point or another, but they’re mainly there to expand the party, the world, or to gain jobs to enhance the gameplay.

40) Triangularity
The Brave and Default aspects to the battle system offers the risk-reward of the game. The job classes also help to expand the gameplay. The challenges to get the classes are arguably tough to obtain a good 40% of the time.

63) Feedback
The game has great user-friendly feedback and customization of gameplay. In terms of customization, you can speed up battles, turn off random encounters, and set your party to level 99 (max level). The feedback given during any particular point is also pretty good. There’s an on-screen map that shows where you are at any time, the characters will bring up where to go next, and even if you lose a battle, you know what to do the next time you go against them with a different strategy.

SIGGRAPH 2018 – AnimVR

AnimVR is an animation tool shown during SIGGRAPH 2018 that released later that year on Steam and their site. In the program, you can draw from scratch, set the keyframes, color, and storyboard, just as a start.

It looks like a great tool for anyone in animation, as it can be exported to a standard device.
But, you might ask, why in VR?

AnimVR was made with VR in mind to help make an easier transition into creating 3D production content. When something is already made in the desired platform, there is less of a need to fix it up for a new platform. Now, it is easier than before to create animated 3D films and shorts.

That being said, the reviews are mixed. The main complaint is that the controllers tend to register strokes when drawing, even though the users never inputted the command. Some other complaints are that the tutorials are almost non-existent and not helpful, leaving the user to attempt to learn the program by themselves.

However, seeing that AnimVR was publicized at SIGGRAPH 2018 and also has some larger studios using the program, such as Aardman Productions (of Wallace and Gromit fame), there is potential to this program. And it seems that there are continual updates to this program, at least to fix bugs, but also to try and streamline the creation process.

Since it’s the 1st of its kind, in terms of an animation program pre-made on a VR platform, there are bound to be bugs and missteps. But I think with time and continual updating, there could be something outstanding to work with here.
Below are links to the company site, Steam game, and SIGGRAPH article:

Current XR Devices (Review)

Thanks to advances in both technology and commoditization of components and overall products, XR has become more and more common. Now, it can even be included in your everyday smartphones, game systems, and plenty of others devices. The development that goes into the hardware and software has also begun to be streamlined, so it is much easier to have access to these devices than it was, say 5 years ago.

So without further ado, here are some current XR devices that don’t come 1st to mind.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Nintendo Labo (VR Kit)

Nintendo Labo are a set of “toys come to life”, as Nintendo puts it. They are cardboard sets that encourage building, engineering, programming, and of course, playing games. Each set comes with a number of designs and minigames that correspond to each Labo design.
However, we will be focusing on the VR kit.

There are 6 designs included with the VR kit:
* VR goggles
* Camera
* Bird
* Wind flap
* Blaster
* Elephant
And in particular with the VR kit, it is compatible with some other non-Labo titles such as:
* Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
* Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
* Super Mario Odyssey
* Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The VR kit also allows you to write your own small minigames.

+ Gives the skills of building and programming to beginners– No strap for the head
+ Lots of variety both in Labo kits themselves, as well as this particular VR kit– Only 3 DoF
+ Able to create your own games, furthering creating your own experiences– Pricey and a bit flimsy (USD $80)
+ Wireless– Timely setup
+ Starter pack is cheap (USD $40 for goggles and blaster)– Short games
– Poor visuals (720p screen and 2 lenses)
– Cardboard granules appear after use, lots of cleaning

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is Google’s current foray in XR, as well as their most successful. Previously, they tried their hand with Google Glass, an AR set of glasses, and Daydream, an enhanced Cardboard.
But seeing as they failed, we will continue with Cardboard.

Seeing as Google Cardboard is just a cardboard headset with a phone placed in there, it functions about the same as a normal smartphone would. That being said, there is a Cardboard app that pairs your phone and allows you to tap into VR apps more. The momentum for Cardboard has been falling, due to no killer apps.

+ Open-source– No standards in development
+ Cheap (USD $15)– Resolution and refresh rate is only as good as your phone
+ Easy to assemble– Makes VR seem gimmicky
+ Inspired many cheaper methods to achieve VR– Lots of knockoff headsets that, admittedly are more stable
– Easier to experience dizziness and nausea, since the screen is 2 in from your face
– No dedicated controller comes with the device, unless you have a Daydream (failed) or buy a controller separately

Relativ (Relativty)

Relativty is a completely open-source, DIY VR headset. Built using Arduino, anyone is able to create, develop, and contribute to this small project. This project pretty much just focuses on the headset itself, but others in the community have made games and peripherals for this.
Because it’s 100% open-sourced and relatively new as of writing, there’s only so much I can comment on, so I will leave the site and GitHub below:

+ 100% open-source– Arduino Due sensors don’t work well, so that code is being deprecated
+ 9 DoF is coming– No standards in development
+ Multiple 3D-printable models exist– No controllers (at least officially supported ones) exist, but are in development
+ Small, but active community– Check the 3D models on the sizes of components, as they might not be the same as the ones listed in the Wiki
+ Based on OSVR– Not standalone
+Works with SteamVR
+ 100% customizable to individual needs, due to being open-source and Arduino-based

Winner: Relativ (Relativty)
I love open-source projects and I love DIY projects. I also have a bit of a bias, as I recently just built this and am trying to figure out controller support. If you just want to have a go at VR on your own, I’d highly recommend this, as you get a basic idea on the ins-and-outs of what’s in a VR headset, as well as specify this to your own needs.
For all the materials, it was supposed to cost around USD $100, but I was able to get it down to about USD $80.

Augmented Reality (AR) / Mixed Reality (MR)

Vuzix Blade

The Blade, unlike the other glasses in Vuzix’s lineup, bill themselves as a head’s up display rather than a fully MR device. The OS is Android, and while you can somewhat use it as a standard Android device, there are several apps developed specifically for the Blade.

Some companies that have developed or worked with the Blade include:
* Amazon
* Accuweather
* Yelp
* Google

+ Simplistic UI– Bulky and uncomfortable
+ Alexa is built-in– Has few apps optimized for it
+ Rechargeable battery, with up to 8 hours– Pricey (USD $800)
+ Touch pad– Battery drains very fast
+ Motion detection
+ Expandable memory via MicroSD

Magic Leap 1

Magic Leap 1 is the 1st generation MR device from Magic Leap. It uses its own custom OS known as LuminOS. LuminOS is designed with spatial computing in mind, dealing with motion detection and object placement.

There have been a number of games and art installations revolving around using the Magic Leap 1, and the 2 is on the way. But since it is the 1st of the company’s, there is only so much software.

+ 8 GB RAM, 128 GB of storage– Very little software
+ Comes with controller– Pricey (USD $2295)
+ Custom OS to fit the needs of the device– To use the simulations, you have to hook it up to a battery pack
+ Sleek design, comfortable– Battery life of 3.5 hours
+ Motion detection for head, hands, and eyes; object placement and interaction

Varjo XR-1

Varjo’s XR-1 is the 1st of the company’s Mixed Reality line. It is mainly aimed at businesses and in the field of medicine. As a full on headset, the virtual view can be turned off in favor of the real world view.

The main use cases of the XR-1 is for R&D teams, as seen by the requirements for using it. It has near photorealism in the virtual world.

+ High-end graphics– Very pricey (USD $10000)
+ Can go in and out of virtual world– High requirements for use
+ Motion detection and object placement– Use cases are currently only for businesses and R&D
– Some of the photorealism leans into the uncanny valley
– Not standalone, tethered

Winner: Magic Leap 1
While still in the early stages, the Magic Leap 1 shows a lot of promise in all industries. LuminOS seems to work relatively well, considering its not even in 1.0 yet. If the price can be lowered and more developers get interested, I think the Magic Leap will not only be a good competitor for Microsoft, but a great device to own.