Back for more.
Bravely Default on the 3DS was the traditional JRPG that many fans of the genre were waiting for. Being that the game was released by Square Enix, it could quite easily have had a Final Fantasy title, harking back to a simpler time for the Final Fantasy series. The game was not perfect, but managed to offer a traditional experience with a few nice, modern twists. Bravely Default was relatively successful, so a sequel was inevitable. Welcome to Bravely Second: End Layer.
This sequel on the 3DS takes place a short time after the events of the first game. There is a nice intro sequence which loosely explains everything that happened in Bravely Default, but this acts as more of a refresher for returning players than an introduction to new players. To get the most from the story and the returning characters, of which there are many in both the main characters and the supporting cast, players really would do well to play the first game before this.
That being said, Bravely Default was nothing if not accessible, and Bravely Second follows suit. There are a few complicated things to learn in Bravely Second, especially if the player doesn’t know the first game, but everything is well explained as the player progresses. Despite the story and character knowledge, a new player can quickly pick up everything they need to know to enjoy the game.
Bravely Second also makes certain options available to the player to tweak their experience. The difficulty level, for instance, can be changed at any time, and the game can be saved at any point. Players can speed up the combat and adjust the random encounter rate to suit. Even the grinding offers the player options, in that they can choose to fight an easy battle again for an increased experience reward, making leveling up much more enjoyable. Then you have the mass of jobs available, each offering different tactics and abilities for the player to employ, which can be switched at will.
The job system was one of the highlights of the first game, offering the player a massive selection of different “classes” to apply to their characters, changing their role in battle. The 30 different jobs are unlocked through the game, and over 300 abilities, giving the player loads of options for how they build their team. New jobs such as the Catmancer and Patissier join the returning jobs such as White Mage and Knight, giving returning players not only something new to learn, but also some new looks for their characters to take.
The job system may have been a highlight, but the real twist in Bravely Default was the actual Brave/Default system. Combat is pretty much a traditional turn-based JRPG affair with the player and enemy AI taking turns for each character or enemy to act, be it cast a spell, use an item or attack. However, making the combat much more interesting, the player can Default a character on their turn, leaving them to defend and do nothing else. This earns Brave points and can be done multiple times to collect multiple Brave points. The Brave points can then be used to take an extra turn for each point, allowing a character to attack multiple times at once. Adding more risk, the player can use Brave points they have not yet earned, putting them in debt and running the risk of being unable to act in subsequent turns. But the reward is that often the encounter will be over before the enemy even has a chance to act. It forces the player to stop and think before acting, weighing up the risk and reward, and is incredibly enjoyable.
A new system has been thrown into Bravely Second, imaginatively named Bravely Second, which allows the player to freeze time during combat. This may sound like a handy mechanic, but the cost for this action is Second points, which are earned through leaving your 3DS in sleep mode or purchased through microtransactions. Fortunately, this system is not essential to enjoying the game and players can easily enjoy the experience without splashing out any cash.
When it comes to the story, the main character Yew is charged with rescuing Pope Angés who happens to have been kidnapped. While not exactly the most unusual setting for a story, there are some nice twists and turns along the way, and the game does try to make the player think from time to time. The characters are pretty much all enjoyable, if not making quite so much of an impact as in the first game. There is a slight awkwardness when the games’ humour gets imposed onto serious situations. In all though, the story is good and returning players will get a kick from finding out what happened to characters from the first game.
Visually, much like the first game, Bravely Second is very nice to look at. As one of the best looking games on the 3DS, the developers should be applauded for their gorgeous art style, detailed and varied backdrops, and well animated characters. Bravely Second even makes a strong case for turning on the 3D, something which many 3DS owners haven’t bothered with in a long time.
While not making huge jumps from Bravely Default, Bravely Second: End Layer is a traditional JRPG with some modern twists. With a great art style, some really deep and enjoyable systems, and an accessibility to be proud of, Bravely Second follows the first game in being an essential purchase for any JRPG loving 3DS owner.