[This review of Bravely Second is currently a review-in-progress. The second half of the review, as well as a final score, is forthcoming!]
If you played Bravely Default through completion, then you've probably been champing at the bit for Bravely Second: End Layer since 2013. You probably also won't be surprised to learn Bravely Second is very much a direct sequel to Bravely Default, both in terms of its story and its battle mechanics.
After all, you knew this was coming. You likely saw that cool teaser video at the end of the first game that let you know in no uncertain terms that Bravely Default's hero, Tiz, still has a lot of unfinished business to mop up. Maybe you watched the teaser again and again. Maybe you even found a way to liquefy it and bathe in it until Bravely Second's release.
If, however, you missed out on the teaser, or you didn't get around to finishing Bravely Default, or if you just want to jump into the franchise mid-ride, Bravely Second has you covered with a brief narrative that summarizes series' events up until the start of the new chapter.
Veterans are welcome to skip the cinema, of course. That's the nice thing about Bravely Second: Like its predecessor, you have a lot of control over the game's speed, delivery, and difficulty. Bravely Default and Bravely Second serve up a very traditional JRPG experience but hand you a knife in case you want to carve out tedious bits of the genre.
In other words, if you appreciate Bravely Default on any level, you'll have no problem getting comfy with Bravely Second. The reverse holds true, too: If Bravely Default didn't carry you away, you'll find nothing appealing about Bravely Second. It's very much an extension of the first adventure, and while you can expect to see new faces and new jobs, you can also expect to see a lot of familiar sights, too.
Even the new characters feel a bit worn. Our new main character, Yew, comes from a common breed of JRPG hero-dork. He's not unlikeable -- my cynical black heart is already thawing in the aura of his exuberance -- but neither does he offer up a lot of surprises in the first few hours of gameplay. If you watch a lot of anime and play a lot of JRPGs, you have a good idea of what this guy's about.
Obviously, Yew and I have only just hit the road together. Maybe he'll pull a few tricks out of the bottomless item bag game heroes always seem to have handy. Who knows.
Yew and Bravely Second's other characters are backed up by voice actors who try hard, bless them, but sometimes fall flat because of awkward dialogue. You probably won't cringe too hard, though. Bravely Second more or less adopts the same tone as Bravely Default, so the story's dark moments are diluted with plenty of light banter and humor in between.
Two of Bravely Default's most popular features are back for Bravely Second: The job system, as well as the option to "default" in battle. The job system is easy to grok if you played Bravely Default, or even if you're just familiar with how jobs work in Final Fantasy games that emphasize the system (Final Fantasy V, for instance). When you beat a boss character, you gain that boss's "asterisk," enabling you to switch to their class. As you fight, you learn skills exclusive to that particular job, and can keep using them even if you switch to another job.
Needless to say, Bravely Default and Bravely Second both have a nutty amount of character customization. You can spend hours just putzing around with jobs and skills. Don't feel intimidated, though. There's really no right or wrong way to go adventuring. It's all about finding what you're comfortable with. And if you do feel a little uneasy with how battles are going, you can switch Bravely Second's difficulty level any time you want.
That probably won't be necessary, as the early hours of Bravely Second are obviously tooled to be friendly for newcomers. This gentle introduction gives you plenty of time to learn how to default, an action that's usually unnecessary against vanilla enemies but will save your bacon when you're up against a boss.
Defaulting is, simply, defending. However, defaulting also adds a point to your BP meter, which depletes with every action you make (aside from defaulting, of course). You can, for instance, defend for one turn, then attack twice on the next turn. Or you can defend on one turn, then use your next turn to attack once, and heal once.
Or you can go for broke and opt to "brave," which lets you queue up four actions at once. If you don't have the necessary amount of BP, you can operate at a deficit up to -4. This can be quick way to end a battle, but it can also leave you standing around like an idiot for four turns while the enemy you couldn't quite finish off kicks you around.
Enemies and bosses are ruled by BP as well, so survival is a matter of reading your foes' intentions and reacting accordingly. Again, Bravely Second's customizable battle speeds are a big help. Braving and auto-battling help you blaze through the grind sessions that are necessary to build up your levels and jobs, but you can take boss fights as slowly and as steadily as you like.
If you never played Bravely Default and Bravely Second sounds complicated and frightening, don't be worried for even a second. The game explains things succinctly but thoroughly via instructions and notes you can access at any time, and it even offers you rewards for completing tutorial-related quests.
I've only just burrowed into Bravely Second's crust, so I obviously need more time before I can dole out my final impressions on the game and assign a score. But even the brief spell I've spent with the game gives me enough confidence to recommend it to fans of Bravely Default. There aren't a whole lot of new ideas on parade here, but given what a treat the first outing proved to be, maybe "more of the same" is perfectly acceptable.
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