Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's too good to end - what Bravely Default can teach us about prolonging the inevitable

As many of you know, I've been evangelizing for Bravely Default on here for quite some time - and so I'd like to make a confession to all of you.

I've only just beaten the game.

Yeah, I know.  It's been out for three months already (longer in Europe!) and I should turn in my geek card.

But here’s the thing - I’ve been covering Bravely Default for my day job for almost *two years* and I've been listening to the soundtrack for almost that long. I even pre-ordered the special edition and got it on release day.

...and then a hectic game review schedule, GDC, and a cross-country move all popped up and my time to spend with Bravely Default became quite limited.  But I'll also admit that I started dragging my feet as soon as I made it to Chapter II, mostly because - perversely - I didn't want the game to end.

This is a phenomenon that any real otaku - be they a bibliophile, TV nerd, or VG enthusiast - will understand, as the completion of a game, book, or series means that your time in the fantasy world of your choice has drawn to a close.

Video games offer a bit more of a gradual easing out process here - with hidden achievements, side bosses, and bestiaries to complete - but still, at a certain point you know that you're just forestalling the inevitable and you know deep down inside that you're probably way too overlevelled for the last boss to be a challenge anyway. 

This is a curious conundrum, because as we get older our time to game is often more limited than it was when we had limitless weekends to devote to our games of choice.

It's natural that competing priorities (school, careers, relationships, etc.) eat into the time we have to play video games, but there's a happy upside to all of this - this same scarcity of free time makes the time we spend with games that we actively want to play that much more precious and enjoyable.

This becomes doubly true when you work as a games journalist, as you're often required to sink tens of hours a week into reviewing games you might or might want to be playing.  And in the odd chance that your schedule lightens up - even for an evening - playing a game you want to play becomes positively, deliciously decadent.

Still, I realized toward the end of Bravely Default's last act that I wasn't savoring it any more, I was just spinning my wheels.

I'd already cleared the alternate ending, the optional dungeon was blitzed through in under an hour, and I had collected all the genomes / Blue Magic for the Vampire job that I could (yes, even the hidden ones from Nemeses).

Then - when I saw the 98% complete marker on my inventory screen and started looking up where to find the handful of items I was missing, I knew it was time to put Bravely Default to bed.

This was a difficult decision to come to, but for a packaged game with no real DLC to speak of, I accepted that there was a set end point to the story and my enjoyment thereof as soon as I pre-ordered the game.

So after powering through the final boss fight (see again: completely overlevelled), I put my party in my favorite jobs and outfits and left them in my town of choice (Florem, for its music above), just so I'd have everything perfectly arranged to my tastes if and when I decide to log back in to finish off my nearly complete inventory.

Sure, there's the New Game + slot that opened up on the menu screen - but that's a challenge can wait for a year or two from now when I'm eager to dig into the game all over again.

Until then, well - I'll just look back fondly on the time I spent with Bravely Default, convince all my 3DS-owning friends to try it, and hold my breath that Square Enix / Nintendo doesn't take two years to bring over the sequel.

It's a rare game that can evoke that sort of reaction in a player.