What's the first thing that pops into your mind when the subject of "mobile gaming" is mentioned? Various Match 3 games that try to hop on the cash cow Candy Crush made? Maybe a time management game like Simpsons: Tapped Out? How about the side-scrolling action games that use the touch screen as a replacement for a joystick such as Blood & Blade?
What about a game that successfully mixed Final Fantasy with Pokemon? No? Never heard of it? Brave Frontier, the game that I'm about to tell you all about? Not even a smidgen? Not really surprising, as it's hard to be both unique and incredibly successful in the mobile gaming market.
It doesn't help when the very first thing a new player encounters is a menu screen with big shiny icons that have almost no meaning and context unless they make the decision whether to learn more about this strange in-your-face looking game or just associate it with every other meaningless game that the market offers for free. Brave Frontier follows the tried and true strategy of being completely free and offer (a rather clever way of utilizing) "premium" currency.
All through my exploration of the mobile gaming market, Brave Frontier uses the only form of premium currency that is so accessible I had to force myself to stop using them to summon units. In hindsight I should have spent them to expand my unit and item inventory instead, but now I have almost thirty units that are awaiting for me to evolve them to their higher forms.
These units not only require other units to evolve, but they also require a ton of gold (Zel). A few of these units can only be found in special dungeons from the Vortex. Each day the dungeons switch to a different one, so grabbing these units is more of a race against the clock to get as many of these units as possible. It's a challenge for the beginning players, but the game offers enough content to last just about any mobile game.
The gameplay itself, as I've stated before, is Final Fantasy-esque. From timing out which units to attack in order to do the most damage to the unique
Limit Break Brave Bursts that can turn the tides of a battle. But alongside the JRPG style battle there comes the flaw familiar to every player of Final Fantasy- grinding. Luckily, Brave Frontier allows battles to be set on "Auto," which allows your units to battle without any input - at the cost of not being able to use items or choose how your units fight.
With this automatic sort of battle, the game can also be played as a sort of strategy game, where players can make the best combinations of units in order to maximize farming and battling in the Arena. The only form of PvP, the Arena, is a sort of automatic battle which pits a party that is currently in use by someone else against yours.
The problem, as I see it, lies in the fact that when the player cannot control the actions of their party they have to rely on the AI to time their Brave Bursts in order to secure victory against another party that does the same thing. It's not unusual to see an Arena battle lose simply because you were helpless to do anything besides yelling at the AI "Use your Brave Burst. Use your Brave Burst. No don't attack use your Brave Burst! YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DON'T USE IT."
In a way, trying to optimize your party to be as effective as possible while still under the cost limit reminds me of making a deck in a trading card game. The focus is more on the combinations of Brave Bursts, or the evolved Super Brave Bursts, the Leader skills, and even going as far as making each unit a specific type. The difference of these types would be which stat is increased and another stat is decreased by a certain percentage upon levelling up. For example, the Anima type of unit will increase HP while the REC is decreased.
There's so much to keep track of that could potentially lead to the slightest advantage needed in order to beat the toughest of enemies. I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing what kind of party we were working towards and all the possibilities that could come to making these the best combinations. And neither of us are even halfway through the current content of the game.
In the late game Brave Frontier offers other avenues of gameplay, but even after reaching level 81, I'm still too low level to effectively handle these missions. The main quests goes on much further beyond the original world, and the developers are adding more and more content all the time.
Most recently the developer, gumi, is preparing to add Raid Battles as another feature for late game. It isn't available just yet, but players are able to see the items that will be craftable. One only needs to look and prepare exactly what they will want to work towards - another feature of gameplay that is reminiscent of looking at the raid and dungeon bosses in MMOs to see which gear one would want to acquire to build towards the most effective build.
It's strange, there's so much packed within this game that reminds me of multiple genres combined into one, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly which one Brave Frontier fits. It's a JRPG, yes, but it feels more like Pokemon, especially when a lot of focus goes into acquiring certain units in order to evolve other units. And the late game will have content that doesn't fit neatly into the typical JRPG genre. I don't know how to describe it.
It's Brave Frontier. It's unlike anything I've ever played. It's the first JRPG that doesn't wear down the soul with forcing the player to pay attention to the farming. It's the first Pokemon game that forces me to desire leveling up myself in order to make my ideal party possible. It's the first mobile game that has a premium content that's more common than the in-game Zel.
This is the first mobile game that I honestly can say is the forefront of what is necessary in order to consider mobile gaming a serious competitor for console/PC gaming. It isn't making millions off of the premium content, but it has a very hardcore fanbase despite the story starting out very silly and very mediocre.
I haven't even scratched the surface of this game and I'm excited to delve deep into the lore of each Unit, as I've heard it's worth the read. The game is gorgeous to look at, and I've even had to turn off some graphic options 'because otherwise it would always crash due to my phone not being able to handle it. The music is on par with the music found in multiple AAA games, but as it's on mobile I'm not really one to listen to it while playing. Luckily the tracks can be bought with Zel, and the tracks I listened to were quite extraordinary for a mobile game.
Brave Frontier is a game I cannot see existing on any other platform besides mobile devices. This leads me to believe that the future of mobile gaming can grow and evolve beyond it's current condition into something amazing and unique. I can say with 100% certainty that Brave Frontier is the first thing I will point to for anyone who asks what good can come from mobile gaming.
I've never encountered a game like this. The execution of it's unique gameplay, while at first stifled with minor flaws present in most mobile games, shines through alongside its amazing art and character designs.