Bravely Default feels less like a demo, and more like a game made as proof of concept. Now this is not to say the game feels unpolished, quite the opposite actually. It isn’t like that video Squaresoft made way back when showing Final Fantasy VI characters on the technology of the N64; it is an oddly complete package that shows in full the promise of the systems contained over a longer narrative. What is even more impressive about this package is that while the systems are (from what I am guessing) abbreviated, they are by no means anything short and easy. This is a demo that requires genuine effort to get through (which in RPG terms usually means grinding), and from what I can tell, gives the player an accurate prediction of what the final product will be, while not giving any of the plot away.
That is really the key here for the Bravely Default demo; it is not a piece of the game cut up and given for free for people to try. From what the demo says at the start, and from what I have read elsewhere; the fine people at Square-Enix and Silicon Studio crafted a unique adventure for the demo. This adventure comes complete with its own story; which is a little shallow, but gets the point across. This also allows the experience to remain entirely self-contained, spoiling nothing in future play. It also has its own system of upgrades and leveling that keep the demo tightly contained. While in most longer JRPG’s, going from a Long Sword to a Mythril Sword isn’t often a big deal (it happens usually very quickly in most Final Fantasy games), this small, 6 hour adventure made me feel like a badass when I finally got access to those Mythril weapons. The combination of the equipment and Job Class leveling loops allows the demo to keep expectations right where they should be in terms of scale, and time reward for time invested. While I have no doubt the proper game will have an expanded loop of equipment and skills to gain, the demo does a good job of giving us just enough items and new abilities to make the time sink of grinding and using the social features worth it.
Speaking of the social features, allowing a large number of the Streetpass bonuses to carry over to the main game is probably the best reward this demo offers. It seems like the optional quest to rebuild this town to access extra supplies will be one of the more time-consuming things Bravely Default has to offer. This is especially compounded if you aren’t able to amass Streetpass friends to help cut the time requirements down. By allowing us to start building a decent construction team of at most 20 going into the game when it comes out, Square is allowing us to get a big head start on the beginning of Bravely Default, which is honestly a very nice reward.
Everything about this demo can be easily summed up by a very simple statement: This demo, and the game by extension was crafted by a team of RPG veterans who have seen what works, and what doesn’t over their careers. Everything in Bravely Default’s very long and satisfying demo is tightly controlled and is there to show the players exactly what they will be doing, on a far larger scale when the came finally comes out in North America. More companies should take notice of what Square-Enix has done here and think about how they present demos to their players. While I am sure this isn’t the first of its kind, it is the one that has resonated with me, as it seems to have for gamers everywhere. The combination of free, extra content, decent story and long-term rewards is a very enticing carrot that was dangled in front of 3DS owners. It was a great 6 hours of my time, and I hope Square remembers how fun this demo was when it comes time to make future RPG’s.