Expectations have been very high for Bravely Second. After all, its predecessor, Bravely Default, was largely hailed as the “Best Final Fantasy” in years, thanks to the way it approached the classic JRPG turn-based gameplay in fresh and interesting ways. I’ve currently spent over 70 hours with the sequel and I’m happy to tell you that this sequel is well worth tucking into.
Set two years after the events of Bravely Default, our story begins with the kidnapping of Pope Agnés by the dastardly Kaiser Oblivion and his band of nefarious rogues. It is up to Yew Geneologia, the captain of the Three Cavaliers, to save the Pope, and he is soon joined by the Ba’al Buster Magnolia – I’m not making this up – along with Tiz and Edea returning from the first game.
One of the things that irked people about Bravely Default was how the final third felt laboured. Without going into detail, Bravely Second handles its overall plot and its pacing in a more tolerable way than the first game, but the script has a few strange quirks. As an English lad with northern heritage, whenever characters say “Coup de Gravy”, it doesn’t even make me awkwardly laugh, it just makes me hungry.
This storybook world borrows a lot from the first game, including the pop-up book aesthetic. It works really well when the 3DS’ 3D is turned on, further emphasising the charming design. Locales are borrowed from the first game, so I was treading familiar territory; yet somehow this never really bothered me thanks to the ability to bypass battles altogether.
If only I could say the same for the sound. While I generally loved the music, with particular highlights for some of the later game boss battles, I wish that the voice acting was a little more consistent. Male characters generally sounded fine, but the female ones all sounded as if they were too close to the microphone, leaving all of them sounding like they have lisps. It’s an unfortunate oversight from generally great performances.
Bravely Default changed up the turn-based RPG mechanics by introducing both Brave and Default, in order to allow players to store up or spend turns. Bravely Second capitalises on what made this work so well in the first game by making the skills more diverse. As such, combinations of jobs and skills make for some really interesting effects. Spellcasting on the Wizard is an early example of just how the system can be exploited and works wonderfully.
A lot of what makes the battle system so compelling lies in the makeup of the party. Jobs provide the bread and butter, with a selection of old and new ones to sink your teeth into. Each one requires you to beat a certain boss to obtain their asterisk, meaning that you first learn about how broken the abilities can get by fighting the bosses.
On top of this, each party member can also equip another job to use learned skills, as well as learned abilities from any class. This led to some interesting combinations in the first game, but with the host of new jobs in Bravely Second, finding these combinations is all the more rewarding.
Battles are the meat of any JRPG, and fighting foes here is a generally enjoyable process that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Boss battles, however, do occasionally require some setup to make things a little easier on yourself. I did find towards the end of the game that there was a steep difficulty curve when it came to the boss battles, with one or two utilising some rather cheap tricks to keep you from pummeling them to death.
If Bravely Default respected your time, Bravely Second cherishes it. In addition to being able to manipulate the encounter rate, you can also make grinding much quicker by chaining encounters, should the enemy perish in one turn. This makes grinding for new jobs, saving for new equipment, and levelling up a far more tolerable endeavour, which in an otherwise lengthy JRPG is a godsend.
As for that little bit on the side of the plate, there’s more than enough to sustain you. Side quests act as little separate stories that will force the player into choosing a side to not only resolve the issue, but obtain the asterisk of the opposing side. There’s always opportunity to obtain the other asterisk by playing New Game +, but that initial dilemma makes each side quest well worth undertaking.
Bravely Second also introduces a rather time-wasting mini-game called “Chompcraft”. Essentially it works by crafting enough Chomps to sell for chomp currency (CP), in order to buy better equipment that requires more CP to use for a short duration. The party can also be given snacks to gain a temporary boost. It’s a nice way of unlocking the sound test, but aside from converting CP into otherwise easily obtainable money, it’s not worth pursuing.
Some of the more useful things in Bravely Second occur when the game is on standby. Much like the first game, the player is tasked with rebuilding a colony wrecked by tragedy. This in turn unlocks items for sale at save points and augmentations for Special Moves. Your population goes up whenever you meet with someone in Streetpass, including those who are playing the game’s prologue demo.
Other Streetpass functionality remains the same as per Bravely Default, such as linking heroes to characters from other people’s games. What also remains is the Bravely Second mechanic, which is mildly confusing considering it was a tool named after the sequel. You can use it by spending SP, accumulated either by paying real world money, or just by waiting eight hours per point. I honestly never felt the need to spend a penny, so the monetisation strategy feels rather redundant.
Bravely Second is a sequel that is bursting in flavour. It features a world with so much depth, a story which twists and turns in meaningful ways, and clever tweaks to the combat that make the turn-based battles fun. Some sections drag on a little bit and a mild amount of dialogue tries to spoil the broth, but this adventure has had me hooked from beginning to end.