Game: Bravely Second: End Layer
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Family
Developer: Silicon Studio
Release: April 15, 2016 (NA)
(While available to play on the entire Nintendo 3DS/2DS family, I have solely played this game on the New Nintendo 3DS, so my time with Bravely Second is based on that. Enjoy.)
Bravely Second: End Layer is the sequel to critical darling Bravely Default on the Nintendo 3DS, a fantastic JRPG that brought back memories of the classic Final Fantasy Games that came before it with Its job/class system, turn based battles, and epic story. Square-Enix was looking to tug at older gamer’s heart strings while also showing a new generation why the Squaresoft of old was so revered. Would Bravely Second: End Layer meet with the accolades so rightly deserved by its predecessor? I’ve played a little over eight hours and made it to chapter two and if I may offer my humble opinion, I’d say so far so good.
The game starts out with a quick synopsis of the events that took place in Bravely Default. Good news for those of you that may have missed out on the previous game or those that just needed a refresher. Agnès Oblige, a main protagonist from the first game, has become Pope Agnès and brokered a treaty with Eternia: only to be interrupted by the Kaiser Oblivion, where he wrecks everyone, and kidnaps Agnès. Your basic hero saves the damsel story ensues.
The main protagonist this time around is Yew Geneolgia, leader of the Crystal guard, and one of the Three Cavaliers. He can be annoying at times but I couldn’t help getting caught up in his naïve enthusiasm and admire his “at all costs” attitude. He’s joined by Janne Engarde and Nikolai Nikolanikov (The free demo of Bravely Second takes place before the prologue of the main game that features these three as the protagonists) to go and take back Pope Agnès. To go into any more then that would spoil a bit of the twists that happen. Just know you do run into old faces and old places, and your party is subject to change. All the cut scenes have been voice acted and I found them to be well done, although sometimes I found the over acting to be a bit much, but still enjoyable. The characters, while fitting into normally used tropes for Anime/JRPG’s, I find enduring and entertaining. They care for each other, crack wise, and are all around lovable.
Square-Enix has gone with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach when it comes to Bravely Second’s game play. The standard RPG elements of side quests, grinding, and loot finding are all here. The job/class system has 30 classes to choose from, a lot returning and a few new. You gain jobs by facing usually a mini-boss or boss that has a job skill you don’t have and beating them in battle and stealing their asterisk. Again you can main one job and attach a second to your abilities in the character menu. Another great feature is the ability to adjust the enemy encounter rate. You can adjust it to double the encounters or zero. Perfect if you want to grind a little bit, or if you just want to run through dungeons or the over world quickly. While I do like the convenience of it, I wouldn’t advise keeping the encounter rate at zero for long periods. You will run into bosses that will outmatch you.
What stands head and shoulders above anything else in this game is the battle system. If you’ve played Bravely Default, it’s more of the same, with slight enhancements, such as the ability speed up battles up to x4 and being able to have presets before the battle begins. You can either set them up yourself or the game will learn your attack patterns and set them for you. You also have the option after a battle victory to take on a successive battle to multiply the earned XP. This makes grinding much faster, but be aware if you lose any of the successive battles you take you lose all the XP. Even XP from prior battles in the chain that were won.
If you’re unfamiliar with the battle system let me break it down. What sets this game apart from other turn based RPGs is the ability to Brave or Default. Turns take up battle points (BP), which determine when you can do an action. You can brave up to x4, which can put your BP to -4. This means you have to wait for the enemy to do an action 4 times until you’re able to take a turn again. If you default, it adds BP. You can build BP up to +3 if you default. You essentially forfeit a characters turn to do an action, your character goes in a defensive stance and takes much less damage. If you learn the ins and outs of the battle system you can do quite a bit of damage without ever taking any. I know in Bravely Default, if you have the correct team set up, you could literally play through the latter half of the game without ever taking damage. Another feature of the battle system I don’t quite remember from the last game is the Bravely Second ability. It’s an ability to stop time mid-battle and take a free turn, but there’s a catch. It’s locked behind a paywall or refills by one point per eight hours of in game time. So take that for what it is. It’s not surprising for Square-Enix or Nintendo to pull something like this.
Much like the first game, Bravely Second’s aesthetic is a joy to look at. While in 3D or not. When in a town and standing still, the camera zooms back to give you the full view of the entire town; more akin to a living painting because of all the NPC’s going about their business. The character designs take on a more anime style, while being still retaining a slightly chibi look we’ve grown familiar with in JRPG’s, so if you hate that in games, this will surely not change your mind. The over world is your standard over world, no real frills about it, you seen one you got a good idea of what it looks like.
Yes, the graphics are outdated for the graphics whore culture this generation has become, but with the seemingly hand painted backgrounds and well done enemies and characters, much can be forgiven. Frame rates have remained constant and jaggies are at a minimum. The only issue I’ve had is sometimes the camera can be too far out making it harder to see your character while running about town or in a dungeon. It can get confusing where the path starts or stops, but thankfully the bottom screen shows you exactly where you are in any area and paths available for you to traverse. I find myself looking toward the bottom screen exclusively when I’m trying to get from point A to point B in a hurry.
So far I’ve played a bit over eight hours, done half of one side quest, unlocked six job classes and just got to chapter two. So I think it’s safe to say I got a long road ahead of me. Much like any JRPG, length is not going to be an issue. I’ve run into two side-quests just going through the main areas with minimal exploration so I’m sure there’s no shortage, especially if you’re thorough. There is also an area rebuilding mini-game, much like in Bravely Default, where you help rebuild a destroyed town. This time the town is on the moon, because one of the main characters is from the moon, because…reasons. There’s also a mini game where you build little dolls and get money, but not in-game currency, a mini game only currency as far as I can tell, so I suggest not wasting much time on it; or do, I’m not the boss of you.
Bravely Second: End Layer so far is living up to its predecessor and I do plan on finishing the game. If you have a Nintendo 3DS/2DS and love JRPG’s you may want to give this a shot. If you’ve played Bravely Default and adored it, you’ll find more to love with the sequel. So what do you guys think? Did you enjoy the first game? Anyone running into any issues I may have missed or just haven’t run into yet? Let me know in the comments below.