Bravely Default and the struggle to make a standard (but not stodgy) JRPG

Bravely Default, which comes out tomorrow in Japan, is a bit of a weird one: part extremely standard Japanese RPG, part pioneering title with a bunch of new gameplay systems wrapped up in its familiar exterior. It's a balance that Kensuke Nakahara, director and head of development at Silicon Studio, struggled with at times.

"The main challenge was to make this a 'traditional' RPG and not an old-fashioned or overtly nostalgia-inducing one," the game's lead designer told Famitsu magazine in a postmortem interview published today. "There are tons of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy fans on the team, and a lot of the ideas they threw around were the sort that you've seen in previous titles and would make certain fans really happy, but we were careful to avoid putting stuff in simply because it'd give players twinges of nostalgia. For example, the way characters swing their weapons really fast and you see a 'HIT' display onscreen; that's classic FF there, but I think it's also something that modern users also find pretty neat."

The main novelty in Bravely's battle system is the option to "default" on a turn to store up battle points later, or select "brave" to execute multiple actions in a single turn. "In part that's because it always annoyed the hell out of me whenever bosses in DQ or FF got to do two different attacks in the same turn," Nakahara said. "We were discussing something in the battles that would be simple yet provide deeper strategy, such as the 'charge' command in the DQ series. When this project got started, this really was an incredibly standard RPG, a bit like FFIII or FFV, but the concern was whether this was the best thing for a new IP like this. With this gameplay system, I felt like it really had the chance to turn the whole game around, so I was incredibly excited about it."

For Nakahara, whose last published work was 3D Dot Game Heroes on the PS3, it's a package he's overall quite excited about. "I've got my regrets in certain little parts of the game, but we've gotten a lot of praise from gamers," he said. "I think all our efforts resulted in a really well-put together game. I'd like to suggest to people to try out the demo first, and if you like it, definitely buy it because the full game's even more fun than that."

US gamers will have to wait a while, though, because publisher Square Enix hasn't discussed overseas release plans yet.

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