Bravely Default is a new jRPG coming out next month by Square-Enix for the 3DS. They've put out a demo in the 3DS store and my sister told me I should go check it out. I don't really believe in playing betas but a demo for a completed cartridge game is actually more likely to be a finished product than most online releases. Plus I feel like I should actually make an effort to try games people think I'll like, at least until they suggest enough lemons that I stop listening to them.
The demo starts off by telling me that it isn't just a crippled version of the start to the real game. The stuff you do in the demo doesn't exist in the actual game and they build a bunch of missions just for the demo. There's some stuff that will carry over for you if you eventually buy the game and played the demo but it sounds like it's just some free consumables. I like this idea, a lot. It means people who skip the demo aren't going to be very far behind and people who play the demo aren't stuck replaying the same stuff all over again when they play the real game.
I've played a few hours and the game itself feels an awful lot like Final Fantasy V. You have 4 characters in your party and there's a job system. I haven't unlocked any jobs beyond the starting 9 but there's a wheel with 15 blank spaces which presumably get filled in either through plot or through leveling up a combination of other jobs like in Final Fantasy Tactics. The game doesn't have the Final Fantasy brand on it anywhere but three of the starting jobs are white mage, black mage, and red mage so there's certainly some influence from the past. The character models in combat are the same as those from the remade Final Fantasy III on the DS. So I'm guessing it was a deliberate choice to not use Final Fantasy branding but they liked enough of the ideas from those games that they used a bunch of them.
Combat is turn based like the original Final Fantasy with a twist. On your turn you can take the 'default' action which is basically the standard useless defend action except it lets you take an extra action on a future turn. So you can take half damage this turn and then attack twice next turn. Seems good. You can actually borrow turns from the future which seems broken right in half. On the first round of combat each of your characters can use the 'brave' action 3 times to borrow 3 turns from the future. Combined with your action this turn you get to attack 16 times in the first round. Awesome if you kill all the enemies! If you don't kill all the enemies they get to take 3 rounds after this one where you can't do anything at all. And if they took the first turn off with the default action they can all take half damage and still get their own solid 4 rounds of attacks back. I'm not sure how to feel about this. It's certainly busted for trash fights and Square-Enix seems to have accepted that since you earn bonus xp for winning the fight in one round and bonus jp for winning the fight without taking damage. But boss fights seem trickier. I can't burn them out and they save up a few actions and then kill multiple people at once. My plan has been to have my white mage just default over and over so I can bust out multiple raise and cure spells after the boss decides to blow my team out.
They've also tacked on a bunch of social networking features to the game. You need to street pass other people with the game in order to have them show up in your games. You use these people to build a town. I'm currently excavating some land for my town and it will take 10 hours for to do on my own. But if I street passed 9 other people I could get it done in 1 hour. Real time, ticks while the game is off. The sort of thing that made me stop even trying Facebook games... If there's some way to pay them for friends it's going to be terrible.
Friend are also used for two other purposes I think. I don't have any friends so I can't actually test any of these things out. There's a way to pull in your friend's characters as a summoned monster in a fight. And there's a way to link one of your characters with one of your friend's characters in order to use their learned job abilities. So I don't have to max white mage and black mage... I can max a white mage, Byung can max a black mage, and then we could link them together to both have someone who can use max white and black magic. You can only link one character per friend so you need at least 4 friends.
I like job systems and the whole storing/burning actions is interesting. I worry that not even street passing anyone is going to be a problem that makes the game unplayable. If I rode the subway to work every day I'd pick this up in a flash when it comes out next month just from the little bit of the demo I've played so far. But as an at home game? I'd need to see how crippled I'd be by not having friends.