Waking up on a beach must be a scary thought, especially when you’re fairly sure you were spoken to by an ethereal voice after being shipwrecked, but Seth (our hero) takes it rather well. The first people you see after opening your eyes are, conveniently enough, Princess Gloria and her knight Sir Sloan who proceed to bring you to the nearby town to recover.
After some political intrigue and typical fantasy nonsense involving some laughably obvious villainy, you begin travelling across the world in search of the four Crystals of Light; Fire, Water, Earth and Wind. So far, so JRPG, but this time around you have the aforementioned princess with you, along with a travelling Scottish scholar and a chipper mercenary to round out your misfit JRPG party.
This plays out much like before, with turn-based battles, a myriad of Jobs for your characters to adopt, and various towns to explore. The Brave/Default system also returns, allowing the player to pass on a character’s turn to allow more options on subsequent turns. Furthermore, you still have the ability to have two Jobs equipped at once, giving a large amount of party utility even with just a few Jobs.
Speaking of which, Bravely Default II hits usual beats through the first few chapters, so your White Mage, Black Mage, Vanguard (essentially a knight) and Monk are your first Jobs out of the gate. It doesn’t matter who you equip them to as the characters appear to have no particular affinity to a certain role, so once you defeat the Asterisk holder for a Job, it’s good to just experiment and see what works with your playstyle.
Having spent twenty-something hours with the game so far, Bravely Default II has mostly made small but worthwhile tweaks from the 3DS originals. There’s now checkpoints in dungeons that warp you to the beginning so you can rest and save before warping back into the fray, for instance. Also, enemies now appear in the field, giving scope to avoid combat should you wish, and weaker enemies will run from your party too, which is a neat twist.
It would be remiss of us to not mention the addition of character skits called Party Chats that appear throughout, which are unvoiced text dialogue between the party members in a similar fashion to the skits from the Tales series. These are optional, but they do often help with remembering the task at hand or give additional information about where you should be going.
The biggest change, even if it initially appears inconsequential, is the sword slash that Seth has outside of combat. On the world map or in dungeons you can swipe with a blade at will. If you use it to strike an enemy in either instance, you gain advantage in the battle, with your entire party starting with a Brave Point each. Also, you can cut grass and bushes in the field to find money, items, or even weapons and armour. Taking a swipe at everything you see is a good strategy.
Aesthetically, this is a bit of a mixed bag. The classic fairytale book style visuals are back from previous titles in the series, as you can see above (plus the characters still have tiny feet), but the visuals look rough when played in TV mode. Not bad enough to ruin the experience but, based on my time with the game, Bravely Default II looks far better in handheld mode.
Bravely Default II makes up for it with the audio. The full voice acting really adds to the player characters, and makes the villains so much easier to dislike. Furthermore, Revo returns to compose for this title, so expect a similar whimsical soundtrack to the first game, with some more epic-sounding moments for good measure. The battle theme is a particular highlight here.
Bravely Default II might not be messing with the formula much, but this luckily falls into “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” territory, and feels somewhat cosy and familiar. What has been tweaked really benefits the game on the whole, especially the addition of the blade in the overworld and dungeons, and the great voice acting really adds to the overall experience.
There’s so much more to tell as we work toward a full review, but we’re clearly only just scratching the surface of what Bravely Default II has to offer, especially given some of the Jobs we’ve come across towards the end of the first few chapters and the options they give in battle. We’re looking forward to seeing what the rest of the game holds for us… we’ll just be playing in handheld mode from now on.