"Oh, that game must be good, because even [some person] likes it". Bravely Default is that game, and I am that person.
I am Jason's worst enemy. I am a casual JRPG player. It's not that I despise the genre. I am instead just incredibly picky about it. I don't care much for the core systems (combat, levelling, etc), and most JRPG's settings/characters don't do much for me, so most games in the genre pass me by. I liked Ni No Kuni for the animation, not the combat. I liked Lost Odyssey for the voice acting, not the short stories. I love Persona games because they're about being a high school kid, not because you have to grind levels.
I like Final Fantasy XII. Yeah. I'm that guy.
So while a JRPG fanatic like Jason can dissect the game and break down the nuances of its combat and level progression, and even the game's producer Tomoya Asano says Bravely Default "is definitely suited for a certain market" that likes "rather old game mechanics", I can tell you that I'm having a blast in spite of all that.
Why? It's a beautiful game! The background art is gorgeous, and the elaborate cities are a joy to simply wander around inside. The characters look childish at first glance, but soon take on a cartoonish charm of their own, which suits the children's storybook art style perfectly.If you play games to look at pretty art, this is a very pretty game.
It also sounds fantastic! Kirk touched on this last week, but if you're not playing this with the headphones on and the volume turned up, you're missing out.
Best of all, though, if you just want to play a game to have an adventure, then Bravely Default is willing to get out of your way and let you catch it. As mentioned in the review, you can skip random battles entirely if you want. Another nice touch is that a lot of the really drawn-out chit-chat between your party members - little of it really necessary for the main story - is segregated into a mode you need to consciously activate to take part in. So those super into it can catch up on all the inane banter between the characters, while those short on time/patience can skip right by, eliminating one of the more alienating aspects of the genre.
What I find really interesting about this game is that, in spite of its accessibility for players like me, it's not a compromise. This isn't a game that was designed for JRPG newcomers, or Westerners put off by the genre's stubborn traditions. Producer Tomoya Asano told us that the game was designed for a traditional Japanese audience and the Western version we're playing (or that Europeans and Australians have been playing) hasn't been changed a bit.
Which really puts the arguments about hardcore vs accesible, Japanese vs Western in a new light. Here's a game that through deft design and a few key sliders (as a sports gamer I wish AI/difficulty sliders were in every game) can be everything at once. A JRPG for Jason, and an adventure for me. That's one hell of an achievement, whether the game's creators were actually trying to do that or not.