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More Japanese role-playing games should offer the player freedom beyond just choosing character costumes and attacks.

But for the majority of Japanese role-playing games, the player doesn’t feel as actively relied on for decision-making between narrative beats. Enter Bravely Default, the upcoming Silicon Studio-developed JRPG for the Nintendo 3DS from Square Enix (it launches Feb. 7). We got a first-hand look at just how much of the game’s core gameplay was at the whims of our imagination in a recent preview opportunity with Nintendo.

Experimenting with specific attack patterns during Active Time Battles plays as central a role in gameplay here, as it has for decades past, but players will be able to have a lot more control over fights. Bravely Default enables the player to change the rate at which you encounter random battles and the overall difficulty any time, to the point where a tedious dungeon crawl becomes a fight-free stroll with the scroll of a menu option. You can also speed up combat to rush along attack animations and get to the next action. It even has an option to switch back to the original Japanese audio, if that better suits your needs.

A wholly new mechanic Bravely Default pits the flow of battle on is special attack customization. Past RPGs have given some control over to the players on dealing out damage or which status ailments they can use, but it has largely been limited to the order in which these moves are taken. Even the most modern RPGs heralded for giving complete control to players eventually put limits on how effective each status boost can be and which of a select few compatible items it can be put on.


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Bravely Default lets players loose when it comes to special attacks. Every time you let loose with one of these specials, you may assign a percentage of effective damage, elemental effect(s), and/or a relative strength against certain enemy types. In a fight against a smattering of goblin grunts, you can use a flurry of fire sword blows, while a particularly gruesome boss encounter may inspire a poisoned staff wallop.Characters also have a long list of taunts for when they land a successful hit, and that’s if the player isn’t feeling creative enough to write their own.

While it is currently unclear how (or if) the game will be able to maintain a difficult curve while giving the player so much control over the fight structure, few games give this many options over in the first place. And if players truly have free rein over characters’ victory slogan, Silicon Studio and Square Enix should expect a lot of profane references to mothers. From what we’ve seen of this 3DS RPG adventure so far, customization will mean a lot more than wardrobe changes and gem sockets.


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