First things first, if you’ve not played Bravely Default, this games’ predecessor, I would very highly suggest against purchasing this game, due to it’s numerous throwbacks to that title, and given that the two are very similar, playing the first game will do a lot more for you than jumping in headfirst with the sequel.
Bravely Second leaves off fairly soon after the events of Bravely Default, with one of the previous protagonists, Agnes Oblige, now Pope of the fictional land of Luxendarc, being captured by the tyrannical ruler of the Empire, Kaiser Oblivion! Yew Geneolgia and his comrades, Magnolia; a cheery young lady who hails from the moon (and makes it apparent that the native language of the moon is in fact, French), Tiz and Edea (returning party members from the first game) must now travel to the flying fortress Skyhold to rescue her! Sounds a bit cheesy, right? But that is both the beauty and the weakness of this games’ setting. It harkens back to the days of old-school JRPG’s, and retains the charm of them to a T, but in doing so, can appear dated and melodramatic to those who didn’t grow up with such games.
The exquisite combat system returns from Bravely Default, and is still as wonderous as ever. The terms Brave, Default and even Second are more than just title words in this game, they provide the backbone of the series’ intriguing evolution of the classic JRPG turn-based combat. ‘Default’-ing replaces the generic ‘Defend’ command in favour of passing up your turn to defend and save said turn to be used later, by way of ‘Brave’. ‘Brave’-ing uses up turns all at once to unleash multiple actions and attacks all at once, but leaves you open to being attacked in return if you don’t finish them off (unless you’ve saved up turns through the ‘Default’ command). ‘Second’ takes more of a backseat by being a command you can only use once every 8 hours, unless you’re willing to fork out real money to have more… *shakes head*, and is more or less a free turn and nothing more. It upsets me that almost every game on the market seemingly feels the need to attack your wallet one way or another. I understand that games cost a lot more to make nowadays than they used to, but I’ve never agreed with the ‘pay to win’ mentality a lot of games take.
It bears mentioning that the locales in the Bravely games are absolutely beautiful and created with a clear amount of thought put into them. From the very steampunky vibes of the wind-powered city Ancheim to the holy themes of the initial city, Gathelatio, there’s a diversity to the cities and towns in this game that are rarely found in todays games.
The job system of the Bravely series is where its’ heart and soul lies, with classic Final Fantasy classes such as Black Mage, Thief, Dark Knight, Red Mage etc, but introducing some… exotic (read: questionable) choices, such as the Cat Master, who takes the place of the classical Blue Mage, taking attacks taken from enemies and turning them on their owners, but with a lot more, well, cats, involved. I am however, absolutely in love with the new Wizard job, which differs from the traditional Black Mage by giving you access to Spellcraft, a mechanic in which you put a spell from any magic-based job together such as Cure, Fire, or Protect with a suffix like Mist to cause it to do the spell continuously over multiple turns, or Dart to make it the first move of the turn. It adds a lot of depth to a fairly generic skill set. In general, the job system does a fantastic job of bringing a more vintage style of JRPG combat to the modern era by simply tweaking and toying with an already fantastic concept. However, while the new jobs are fantastic, you are often forced to choose between jobs from the first game in arbitrary side-missions that force you to side with one asterisk wielder (Bosses from the first game that hold asterisks, the crystals that give you the aforementioned jobs) and alienate another. In my opinion, the interesting moral dilemmas feel a bit forced here and you will often make choices based on what you will get out of it rather than the characters involved, and not being able to collect the other asterisk until New Game+ will drive completionists like myself absolutely insane.
Also returning from Bravely Default is the Streetpass-based mini games, involving rebuilding a city from its destruction. In this case, it’s a city on the moon being continuously attacked by demons known as Ba’als. (Magnolia refers to herself multiple times as a Ba’al Buster, which made me cringe as many times…) You assign the people you Streetpass to rebuild different parts of the city, and doing so not only allows you to obtain items in the game earlier than you should be able to, but the friends you come across can also be used as Summons during fights. While this feature is cool, it does alleviate some of the difficulty of the game, to the point where if you’ve had friends play through the game already, you can sail on their much higher stats for quite a large portion of the game, detracting from it’s enjoyment a little. Though, if you like to make your games easier than they should be, you might feel differently from me!
As someone who loves the traditional JRPG, Bravely Second (and Bravely Default) are a dream come true for me. This series is PS1 era Final Fantasy in all but name, from the adorable characters to the names of the spells, to the job system that hails back to even the Super Nintendo era of Final Fantasy! If you, like me yearn for the 90’s days of JRPG, then the Bravely games are very much for you. If they aren’t however, I doubt that Bravely Second will do much to change your mind. Bravely Second doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from its’ predecessor however, and the few things it does do differently, such as the forced moral choices and inability to collect everything in the game in one playthrough, are questionable choices. This doesn’t however change the delight of the visuals, the wonderfully diverse cast of characters or the sublime combat system. I would readily recommend Bravely Second to anyone who has a 3DS and a passing interest in the JRPG genre, but as said at the start of the review, I would most definitely recommend playing through Bravely Default before playing Bravely Second, as it will give you a delightful entry point into the world of Luxendarc.