Bravely Default was a game that sold so well, it even shocked Square Enix. It was a game that proved that there is still a huge market for classic JRPGs, a genre that many seem to think has lost its relevancy over the years. Its sequel, Bravely Second, has a tough act to follow, but it’s here now, carrying that JRPG torch with pride.
Bravely Second takes place sometime after the first game, when peace has finally returned to the land. Agnes, now pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, stands as the beacon of hope to the people tired of war and conflict. Unfortunately dark forces lurk in the shadows and a man calling himself Kaiser kidnaps her. As the sworn protector of Agnes, the protagonist, Yew, sets out on a journey, with some new and familiar faces to rescue Agnes and put a stop to the Kaiser’s plans.
The story itself is actually good, with some really neat twists, but the writing really lets it down. Bravely Second feels like a comedy trying to be serious. Throughout the game you’re presented with some pretty heavy themes but when characters start spouting catch phrases like “for the gravy!” or “Ba’al busters” during pivotal moments, I’m left wondering what exactly was the intention of the writer. At one point my party was carrying a wounded soldier back to town, but instead of tending to his wounds first, as soon as they arrived they decided to have a long discussion about pastries. These things were funny at first, but as the story progressed, it ended up watering down some of the better, more interesting revelations. At the very least though, I thought the characters were really likeable and relatable.
Aside from the bad script, it also feels like I was playing Bravely Default 1.5 at times. You visit a lot of the same towns and dungeons, side quests involve fighting the same bosses from the first game and even some of the story elements feel way too familiar. The town re-building mechanic makes a return too, albeit in a different location. The battle system itself remains largely unchanged as well and while it may seem like a negative statement to make, the job and battle system is just so much fun that the déjà vu hardly detracted from the overall gameplay experience.
It may seem as though this is just another turn-based battle system, but the Brave and Default mechanic is what puts this above the rest. Each turn a character can either act and use up their turn, or Default and accumulate one Brave Point (or BP for short). You’re able to store up to 3 BP which can be used when you choose to Brave, which grants you up to a maximum of 3 extra turns. If you don’t have any BP stored up, you can still Brave, but this means you’ll be unable to act for the amount of times you chose to do so. It’s a great risk-reward system that often had me just staring at the screen, planning my next move. On its own, it might not sound all too impressive, but once you start experimenting with the extensive job system, you’ll begin to see just how deep this game truly is.
Each character is able to specialize and progress in one job which affects their stats and weapon proficiency while also being able to choose the main ability of another job as a sort of secondary class. There are passive skills across jobs that you can set as well and jobs can be changed at any point outside of battle. This was honestly the part I enjoyed the most and thanks to some of the new jobs, even after all the time I spent with this game I was still discovering new combinations and ways to approach battles.
While the jobs from the previous games do make a return, the new ones introduced here are the real highlight. The Wizard, for instance, specializes in spell modifications that totally changes the way magic is cast. One modifier, called Wall, activates a spell upon taking damage, so if cast on a party member, and an enemy proceeds with their assault, Wall will activate and counter with a magic spell. Isn’t that cool? No? Well, spell modifiers can be used with any and all magic, so you can even go crazy and cast Wall on the enemy in conjunction with a healing spell so that when you’re the one dealing damage, Wall will cast the set spell on you each time you attack, and remember how I mentioned you can use Brave to increase the number of turns you have, well, attack four times and bask in the light of health restoration each time. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and while I could literally talk all day about this, I’ll leave it up to you to discover the many, and I mean many ways to setup your party.
One of the things I loved about first game is that it took age-old JRPG conventions and made it much more accessible and modern by allowing you set the rate of encounters, speed up battles and even change the battle difficulty any time. All of those changes made for a much more enjoyable experience and that hasn’t changed in this one, only now they’ve made it easier to grind as well. By defeating the enemy in the first turn, you’re able to immediately enter battle again, but with a bonus to the amount of EXP you’ll earn. The bonus will also increase as you fight more consecutive battles. This is a really important addition as it allows you to quickly level up jobs and get straight into the good stuff. I should also mention that I played most of the game on hard difficulty, and if you’re looking for a challenge, I highly recommend cranking it all the way up as it really forced me to strategize and use every tool the game had provided. Great, great fun.
Visually, the game looks the same as the last one, which isn’t a bad thing, really, as the hand-drawn backgrounds are still as beautiful as ever. Character models and animations do well to visually represent each of their respective personalities and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the somewhat excellent voice work in this game. One thing that may be a bit divisive amongst fans is the soundtrack. Revo did an excellent job with the first game by producing a catchy yet thematically consistent OST and with the composer changing to Supercell’s Ryo in Bravely Second, I was worried the soundtrack might not be anywhere near as good as the first. Thankfully, my concerns were soon crushed as it’s actually pretty good with some real stand outs like Tiz’s new special move theme and a particular boss theme in Chapter 3.
Last Updated: February 18, 2016