The sequel to Bravely Default has arrived
Back in early 2014, Square Enix gave us Bravely Default, a decidedly traditional JRPG masterpiece with everything old-school Final Fantasy fans love: four heroes, turn-based combat, a job system, airships, an epic story, and dungeons galore. It was a superb throwback adventure to a bygone era and made many of us only crave more. Fortunately Square Enix has been listening and now, two years after the original, we’re given Bravely Second: End Layer for Nintendo 3DS.
Here’s the great news: Bravely Second takes the same formula that worked so well in the original, and kicks everything up a notch for an even better experience. The classic Brave/Default combat system is back with a few improvements, there are 30 different jobs to explore (including 12 all-new ones), the stereoscopic 3D effects are much improved, the story pacing is smoother, and there are lots of subtle refinements that add to the overall enjoyment. If you loved the original, you’re sure to have fun with this sequel, and if you’ve yet to dive into this exceptional franchise—now’s the best time to come onboard.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS – Regular Edition / Collector’s Edition
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Role-playing game
ESRB Rating: T (Teen, 13+)
A short-lived peace
Set two and a half years after the events of the original game, Bravely Second opens on a joyous occasion: the Crystal Orthodoxy and Duchy of Eternia, two long-time bitter war rivals, have set aside their differences and are on the verge of signing a historic peace agreement. In attendance are Agnès Oblige, the Vestal of the Wind Crystal and a main protagonist in Bravely Default, who has been named Pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, and Grand Marshal Braev representing the Dutchy of Eternia. Just as the proceedings begin, a mysterious new enemy ominously named Kaiser Oblivion, and his cryst-fairy companion Anne, ambush the ceremony, defeating Braev and kidnapping a frightened Agnès.
Yew to the rescue
Bravely Second thrusts you into role of Yew Geneologia, a brave young leader of Agnès crystal protection unit, the Crystalguard, who wakes up from a deep sleep following the assault by Kaiser Oblivion. Yew is brave beyond his years, deciding to immediately head out in search of Agnès, in spite of the immense danger and overwhelming odds stacked against him. In short order, you’ll recruit a party of three heroes, including a mighty moon-dweller named Magnolia, and two returning familiar faces—Edea Lee, the always hilarious, hot tempered Imperial Guard, and Tiz Arrior, the main protagonist from the previous game.
Much like the original cast, it’s easy to fall in love with these new and returning heroes. Each has their own very unique and charming personality that straddles the line between silly and serious, and the majority of dialogue is expertly voice-acted to accentuate their eccentricities. Yew, for example, is oft-heard proclaiming his abnormal love for gravy (“coup de gravy!”), while Magnolia seems to be English/French bilingual with her regular injections of offbeat French lines like “ah, la vache!” Edea and Tiz retain their light-hearted dispositions from their last adventure, but seem a little wiser and more mature this time around. It’s not all jokes and one-liners however, as the entire team can be serious when the situation calls for it, and that’s the mark of great story writing.
Brave and Default your way to victory
The big risk, big reward battle system from Bravely Default returns intact in this sequel, albeit with some convenient new additions. The basic premise is this: you’ll begin each battle with 1 Brave Point (BP) per character, which enables them to perform a single action like attack, cast a spell, or use an item. Every round, your characters will recoup 1 BP, letting them take another action. However, the real strategy lies in effectively utilizing the “Brave” and “Default” options that empowers your characters to expend extra BP, or store up BP, respectively.
Using Brave, a character can take up to three extra actions in a single turn, but at the cost of one Brave Point (BP) per additional move. You can go as far down as -3 BP, but then that particular character will need to sit idle for three turns while they recover their BP. Conversely, by choosing to Default, you can bank 1 BP per turn, up to +3 BP, then unleash a barrage of actions in one turn and act again the very next turn. This deceptively simple system of Brave and Default opens up a near limitless range of strategic opportunities for your party, as you can mix and match multiple actions in a single turn with huge results. Have your Red Mage heal the entire party and unleash powerful offensive spells all in a single turn, or have your Charioteer wield four weapons, and attack four times in a row, for a total of 16 attacks; these kinds of game-changing tactics are yours to dream up.
One aspect I love about Bravely Second is how apparent it is that the developers clearly respect your time as a player given the slew of new battle options. For starters, you can now save up to three auto-battle pre-sets that give your party members instructions on how to fight, until you decide to intervene. Also, a new element called “Consecutive Battles” lets you challenge waves of enemies, provided you can defeat them in a single turn, with the reward of multiplying your earned PG (money), XP (experience), and JP (job points). Using consecutive wins, I was able to level up my characters way faster than usual; ideal for those times when you’re about to face a challenging dungeon or boss. When you add in welcome returning features from the last game, like being up to speed up or slow down battle time, adjust the game difficult on-the-fly, and tweak the enemy encounter rate, you have an RPG that you will tailor itself to exactly how you want to play in the moment—it’s just great.
New jobs, and returning favourites
The job system in Bravely Default was one of its best features, and it returns here with even more exciting new jobs to take on. There are 30 different jobs you can master, each acquired through the collection of Astericks from defeated bosses. New jobs give you completely new tactical possibilities since they all possess their own weapon proficiencies, battle commands, and passive abilities. And, as you can see to the left, each job comes with its own ridiculously cute outfit too.
The 12 new jobs available in Bravely Second are mostly front-loaded during the adventure, so very early on you’ll have a chance to try out the Charioteer, Fencer, Bishop, Wizard, and other fun new jobs. Some of my favourite new jobs include the Patissier who bakes up deadly desserts to debilitate your enemies, the Exorcist who has the power to undo the actions of others, and my #1 new addition: the Catmancer who can copy moves from monsters, but also gives you the power to communicate with cats and hear the latest feline gossip. These interesting, enjoyable new jobs complement the 18 returning favourites like the Thief, Summoner, Ninja, Knight, and obligatory White/Black/Red/Time Mages.
StreetPass for even more fun
Bravely Second, like its predecessor, includes a plethora of social elements to bring even more excitement into the game. To begin with, similar to how you could StreetPass other Nintendo 3DS owners to rebuild Norende in Bravely Default, in this game you’ll do the same thing with Magnolia’s lunar town Fort-Lune, which was destroyed by Kaiser Oblivion’s empire before the events of the game. Each person you StreetPass will add one citizen to your town that you can then assign to forging new paths or leveling up facilities. It takes a certain amount of real-world time to reconstruct specific elements of your town, so proper allocation of your citizen resources is crucial to your success. As a reward for rebuilding areas of Fort-Lune, you’ll receive new items, weapons, and special move components—all useful to have making this a fun and practical diversion to the main game.
A few other useful returning social elements include Ablink, which enables you to borrow Job abilities from a friend and use them in a battle, and the Summon command that uses the power of Yew’s pendent to call in friend to perform a powerful assist attack or heal spell. Both of these social features can give you the upper hand, or sway battles in your favour, so it’s great to see them back again.
On top of the social features, Bravely Second also has an all-new Chompcraft mini-game that is as addictive as it is weird. Any time you want to take a break from the adventure, your entire party can enter a toy-making facility and form a production line to build odd-looking Chompcraft plushies. Each toy initially takes 20 seconds to produce, and can be sold for 50 CP (chompcraft point currency), but you can become more efficient and create higher-value toys if you spend CP to upgrade your hand tools. I spent far more time playing this mini-game than I probably should have, but I couldn’t stop myself from coming back for repeat sessions to build an even more efficient assembly line, plus it was fun to unlock new music tracks as my heroes toiled away.
Bravely Second: End Layer is a superb turn-based RPG that fans of the original game, and JPRG fans alike, are sure to love. There’s so much good stuff to mention here, like the charming and well-delivered voice acting, beautiful water-paint style graphics, catchy soundtrack, superb use of 3D effects, and the dozen new, sometimes quirky jobs you take on. This is a classic RPG tale with modernized controls and convenient new features to maximize your game time enjoyment. Whether it’s the deep strategy of battle, the epic scale of the quest, or the wonderfully magnetic characters, Bravely Second is sure to draw you in.
+ Excellent story
+ Endearing conversations between characters, all superbly voice acted
+ Chompcraft is exceptionally addicting
+ Interesting and useful new jobs to master
+ Beautiful graphics and a rich soundtrack
+ A lot of content included
– May be too similar to previous game for some
– World of Luxendarc still feels a tad small
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating 4.25/5 (85%)