“A meeting…that’s all it takes. The whims of chance bring you together, eyes meet. A helping hand is extended. And the course of your life is altered.” Quote taken from Bravely Second.
Hello old friend. It’s been a while. Last time I saw you, I thought you were a one-off title on the 3DS. A very, very good one mind you, but I never thought our paths would cross like this again. Square Enix’s 2012 classic 3DS title Bravely Default is one of my favourite games ever, for both personal and professional reasons. But stepping outside myself for a second, I don’t need to justify my love for the game, because it is just that good. It brought a fresh take to the tried and true turn-based battle system, while introducing a lovable cast and world full of wonder and magic. Bravely Second is at a disadvantage because there are high expectations to live up to, as it follows up what was an almost revolutionary game. Yet somehow it meets them. Not only does it stay true to its predecessor, it pushes forward and improves on the groundwork laid by Bravely Default. In many ways, this is the natural extension of the previous title.
Players return to the Luxendarc, two years after the events of the first game. It turns out that whole peace thing they were trying out didn’t last long. An imperial force that looks suspiciously like a First World War era German army, controlled by an evil Kaiser, kidnaps Pope Anges. The game starts with one of her guards, Yew Genealogia (get it? His name is YOU!), waking up to realize he failed to protect the most important person in the land. So he does the most logical thing one could do under these circumstances and awakens Tiz from his slumber with the help of Edea, both of whom saved the planet from complete annihilation. Those three, along with a girl who crashed from the moon, are determined to take down the evil German-but-not-actually-German Empire and save the Pope of the Crystalguard to restore peace to the land for at least two more years.
They do so in a very familiar fashion. The Bravely Default battle system is back, but beefed up. If you’ve never played that game (go out and buy it right now), the combat revolved around Brave Points (BP), you spend BP to attack or use an item. You can store BP by defaulting, which makes you defend and skip a turn, or you can spend stored BP or future turns by braving. Now, on top of this brilliant system, players can craft spells mid fight to specially target individual enemies. These can cost extra BP, and take a little more magic, but it allows for more direct, and effective attacks. They’ve also made combat a little less tedious by adding three auto-attack slots instead of the standard one from the previous title. You can program them however you’d like, for whatever situation you’re in. Personally, this isn’t a feature I used much because I’m a little bit of a control freak, but if you’re trying to level up, this makes the process much more streamlined. This ability also helps in the new Victory Streak. It’s a new take on the usual grind, where if you defeat an enemy in one turn, you can face another wave. You can continue to do this for as long as you’d like and the longer you last the more rewards you get. It’s actually really fun, and gratifying to see how long you can go.
The key to your party’s success is picking the right blend of jobs across your party (like any RPG). Throughout the game, you’ll encounter bosses that carry “asterisks”. If you beat them, you can take the asterisk and the powers that come with it. Essentially it’s a class system. Each job has special abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Different jobs also have special moves that require triggers (like defaulting a certain number of times or casting a spell a certain amount of times in a row). Once that requirement is met you can unleash hell, and your entire party receives a temporary boost stat.
As a side, when combat is too much, players can rebuild a town on the moon. This works a lot like Norende in Default, but this time it’s in outer space and therefore cooler. You use Streetpassers to help rebuild town shops and such, and the more people you have on a given task, the faster it’s completed. So taking your 3DS with you everywhere is important. Tasks can take 5 minutes with four people on the job, while others can take an hour if you only have one Streerpasser. Opening different areas on the moon makes new items available for purchase, so even though it’s not really part of the main game, it’s worth your interest to at least give it a go.
All of this is done across a beautifully hand drawn landscape. Cities look bigger and more beautiful than ever, some rooms were breathtaking and took advantage of 3D in the best ways possible. Monsters recorded in your diary look amazing as well. It’s just a strange contrast between the character design and the setting. For the most part, they fit in this world they’ve created. However, the character models stand out in a bad way when comparing them to the world around them. I would have preferred a more anime/manga inspired direction like Shin Megami Tensei, but instead, your party looks like a bunch of unintimidating toddlers. In reality, I’m really just nitpicking because there isn’t much there to criticize.
That isn’t to say the game is perfect though. There is one major issue that I couldn’t shake throughout my experience, and it’s something that bothered me in the last game as well. Sleep Points are back. These points are used to stop time to give players a chance to get some extra attacks or heal while the enemy is frozen completely. It sounds like a good idea. But, there are two ways to get SP. The first is to just play for eight hours and you’ll gain one point. The second is to physically buy them. This is gross Square Enix; it’s like a mustard stain on a tuxedo. It becomes very tempting to use because boss battles are hard as hell, although I managed to get by without actually spending SP. But the fact that it’s there really bothers me, especially since that was the only complaint I had from previous game. I’m even willing to forgive the poorly performed voice work that seemed to carry over from Bravely Default because this game is so good. However, having a company ask for more money after I’ve already shelled a large chunk out to play just feels greedy.
At the end of the day however, that is one small optional feature in a full, robust game. Bravely Second tops Default in almost every way imaginable. It improves in combat, story, and scale in a way I never thought the sequel could. This is the best game on the 3DS and it may be one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played. Bravely Second was a treat that constantly threw new ideas and concepts at me throughout my entire play through. I didn’t even manage to tell you everything there is to do in here. Square Enix made the perfect sequel to the perfect title, and I can’t be happier with how it turned out.