Going Back in Time with Brave Frontier
Everyone appreciates a good RPG. Especially the old console-types and the JRPG ones like the Final Fantasy and Suikoden franchises. The genre of turn-based strategic play has become a classic “comfort food” type of title that gamers over the age of 12 tend to latch onto from time to time out of an uncontrollable urge to feel nostalgia.
That being said, it’s such a shame that we don’t see a lot of these types of games anymore. Sure, there have been a few note-worthy RPGs here and there, but the genre itself doesn’t seem very prevalent with the current fast-paced generation.
This is why certain companies have tried to revive it, to try and milk the want and need for it. There have been a lot of attempts, but few seem to hit that sweet spot old time RPG gamers crave. One worthy of mention of that sweet spot hitter would be Brave Frontier.
I admit I didn’t really think much of Brave Frontier at first. I thought it would be the Farmville of the mobile app world, in the sense that it would be overplayed because of hype, but wouldn’t really satisfy in the long run.
Brave Frontier is a classic turn-based strategy game with the elements of monster card-collecting thrown into the mix. You play the role of a summoner capable of calling various beings to gather and aid you in your strange and not quite clear quest.
In campaign mode, you travel from land to land, battling monster spawns for experience, resources and the chance to recruit the monsters you encounter. In each quest, you are allowed five units, plus one helper sent by another player to take on multiple waves of enemies.
At the end of a set number of waves, you get to fight a big bad boss. The basic point of the game is to gather, fuse and level up summon units and form them into unique battle teams.
All units follow an elemental system which determines attack and defense advantage against another. Affinities include Fire, Water, Thunder, Earth, Light and Dark – the first four following the rock-paper-scissors rectangle while the last two trump each other.
Exploiting elemental weakness is key in successful combat, as it helps you net that extra damage in battle, as well as helping you decide which units to bring to a particular fight.
Units can be leveled through monster fusion, meaning you feed less desirable lower-leveled units to beef up favorites, and each can be evolved to attain a more powerful state of being.
As usual rarity plays a big part in this whole monster collection business. The higher the rarity, the more powerful your summon would be.
There’s also the part where you can play around with your squad formation. Assigning the lead summon can activate a special ability (if your leader has it) which can grant your squad stat bonuses like increase in strength or defense against certain elements. As for the other positions in the squad positions, they seem to be purely aesthetical in purpose on the surface. Melee based monsters’ time to attack delay can be impacted by their position in the squad, but I’ll explain more about the combat first to show how this has any consequence.
Combat is turn-based but you don’t really have much choice in what you do save for attacking. Your team always attacks first, so all you need to do is tap on a target, then tap on any one of your units to strike.
Everyone can attack simultaneously in your turn, but there is something to be said about timing. Lower level units tend to have one to a few hits in their attacks but higher level and better units perform longer flashier combos.
This is not purely to look cool while doing more damage. It’s also to increase the likelihood that your units would hit the enemy at the same time during their attack strings.
If your units simultaneously hit an enemy at the same time, it will perform a Spark, which is a critical hit in this game’s terms.
So mastering the timing and knowing the rhythm of your unit’s combos allows you to optimize your damage in one turn, allowing you to have a concrete yet difficult way to control and continuously produce critical hits. As such the positioning of melee units can impact your ease of rhythm by reducing the time between initiating their attack, and when they actually connect with attacks.
Any enemies left standing after your turn will return fire, then it’s your turn again and so it goes. Defeating an enemy makes them drop coins, materials for item fusion, their essences (which means they will join you after you have cleared the map), health hearts and gems that fill up your Burst meter.
These gems go to a random character in your team so there is no real way of controlling who gets to fill their meters first. Bad thing is, sometimes these gems and health hearts can still go to characters whose HP bars and Burst meters are already filled, but I guess that’s the hefty power of RNG in this game.
Going back to the Burst meter, filling it enables you to perform that character’s Brave Burst, which is their ultimate attack. They take the form of either single or multi-target attacks, team buffs, heals, or a combination of everything. These skills also come with the flashiest animations in the game. To activate burst simply hold down on a unit and swipe through a confirmation meter.
Like normal attacks, you can also time it along the team’s attack strings to optimize damage as well.
Nothing Else For You
Outside of that, there really isn’t much to do. You get to craft items like potions to take with you in battles, gather more materials and upgrade various resource nodes in town, fuse monsters you have to make them stronger, or summon even more monsters to join you in battle. There’s also the PVP battle where you can pit your best team against other players’, but that isn’t really a viable option until you’ve gotten some considerable playtime under your belt as match-making seems entirely randomized.
All of this is wrapped up with a nice artistic package. The art itself isn’t much to brag about but the battle sprites have the nostalgic 2D treatment.
The character designs are great, though they become simplified in sprite form. Unlike most mobile games that take the lazy route when it comes to attack animation, Brave Frontier’s sprites are surprisingly fluid in battle animations. These look especially cool when you order your units to attack one after the other in a choreographed sequence, or even just sending them all out at the same time.
It gives you that wondrous feeling of amazement when you see heroes going for an all-out attack which can only be described as cool and badass. And it doesn’t help that the soundtrack is really reminiscent of old JRPGs, sending you back to the time before digitally downloaded games and DLC content.
A simpler time where you can enjoy a game presented for what it is. A time where the grip and grind were worth it and every single fight was a battle well fought.
There isn’t much I can complain about in the current system Brave Frontier offers. I guess the only real complaint about is the constant free-mium problems like the energy system and the game badgering you to make in-game purchases.
Also, since it’s all just battling through tapping, grinding and fusing, it could get old real quick. But the point is, Brave Frontier is meant to be fan service for those who came to appreciate console-type RPGs. This audience grew up and gained an intense resistance to grind burn out.
That may sound really vague and irrelevant to you if you’re just here for a casual review, but the nostalgia it delivers is the main appeal of the title.
It wouldn’t be fair to compare it to the legendary hotshots like Final Fantasy or Suikoden, but it’s got its heart in the right place. Brave Frontier may not be timeless, but it’s alright for its time.