Title: Bravely Second: End Layer
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: 04/15/2016
The main game/story
Taking place a couple of years after the true ending of Bravely Default, the world of Luxendarc is in peril once again, thanks to a mysterious conqueror known as Kaiser Oblivion, who kidnaps Pope Agnes and throws the world into a frenzy with his mighty empire! Taking control of Yew, a knight of the former Crystalguard, you must guide him and his three new friends on a quest to stop the Kaiser and discover the mystery behind the strange creatures known as Ba’al.
The general art design is brought over directly from Bravely Default, however there are a few minor touches added here and there, such as the fact that the chibi sizes for the characters no longer apply, instead being replaced with better anatomy for the main characters along with the majority of NPCs and enemies. The menus are slightly touched up compared to Default, so they should feel right at home for those who enjoyed the interface from the first game.
Music and Sound
Despite a change of composer, (A new composer known as ryo takes the place of Revo from the first game) I actually found the OST in Bravely Second to be more enjoyable overall compared to the one from Default. While there are a few recurring tracks such as some of the dungeon and boss battle themes, the majority of the songs are brand new compositions, and a lot of them sound really nice, especially the new battle themes, which really push the intensity up a couple of notches and blend in quite well with the returning tracks! There’s even a sound test option hidden in a minigame for those who take a liking to certain themes and want to listen to them while playing the minigame. (Even if that requires having to be good at the minigame in order to get the themes you want)
Quite a few of the voice actors from Default return to reprise their roles, which they do so rather well. Of course, some of the new actors that were brought on board aren’t that bad either, with the majority of them sounding just as you would expect the character to sound, although if you don’t care for the english dub you can always switch the settings to Japanese for the voice acting.
The main game mechanics are mostly unchanged from that of Default, with the battle system, overworld and even a few dungeons being completely unaltered from the original. Surprisingly, I didn’t find this to be much of an issue at all, since there are quite a few new areas to explore and the new jobs add a layer of strategy to the game, especially since some powerful jobs from the first game are completely gone. (Bye-bye Conjurer…)
For those not aware of how the battle system works, I’ll do my best to give an explanation. You have your standard turn-based combat, operated by turns where you select the commands of your party members to attack your opponent. What makes the Bravely series unique is the titular Brave and Default mechanics, where you can build up Brave Points to spend on extra actions during a turn. These extra actions can of course lead to a wide variety of combos, even more so when you take into the account the wide variety of jobs at your disposal. If you want to take a risk, you can even spend brave points to go into the negatives, (Only allowing you to go to – 4 however) at the cost of being defenseless as you wait for the points to build back up.
This entire risk and reward system is crucial to survive the boss encounters and to gain enough levels for the dungeons ahead, as there are a few extra options to adjust the difficulty depending on your playstyle. If you prefer going through dungeons and enjoying the story, you can set the encounter rate to – 100, eliminating all non-boss encounters at the expense of the amounts of EXP you would have normally gained. On the contrary you can also max out the encounter rate to + 100 and make encounters appear every few steps in order to gain boatloads of EXP and Job Points (Which level up the jobs you currently have on you in order to allow you to gain extra abilities, such as new moves or support commands!) Along with the encounter rate, you can also adjust the difficulty level at any time if you don’t care for the one you chose, which causes the health points and strategies of the enemies to change slightly.
With the battle system and difficulty explanations out of the way, now is the time to mention some of the new, major additions to Bravely Second that tweak the gameplay experience ever so slightly. The biggest addition is the change to the end of battle bonuses. In Default, doing certain tasks like defeating all the enemies in one move would grant you bonus EXP, Money or JP, which allowed for slightly easier grinding but not enough to help much during the later parts of the game. In Bravely Second however this mechanic is completely scrapped in favor of a battle chain system, where defeating all the enemies in a single turn would allow you to fight another set of enemies, each subsequent chain offering a higher multiplier bonus at the end of the battle. If you play your cards right and manage BP wisely, you could theoretically get a huge chain going and gain lots of EXP and money in no time! (Job points cap out incredibly quickly so chaining won’t help you gain too many of those.)
Another new feature is the addition of a minigame known as Chompcraft. While it seems like an incredibly basic game that would have you leave your 3DS on for a long amount of time as you go about doing other things, it actually demands your attention more than you would expect it to, as you need to keep an eye on the different powerups available for you to use to increase the production quality of the toys you create, along with needing to sell them off when the tray gets full. With this mode also including the sound test I mentioned earlier, it gets surprisingly addicting, more or less to the point where I’d play it for a good half-hour or so at once when I initially planned to pop in and play for a couple of minutes. While doing well in this game isn’t required to advance the story, it is a nice diversion that also opens up ways to gain the best equipment in the entire game.
Last but not least, another changed feature is how sidequests operate. In Default, the sidequests were just simple mini-quests of sorts with the reward being a specific job class. In Bravely Second however, the sidequests are a bit more risky, with you being forced to have Edea choose between two sides in order to receive the job of your choice, with the other job being unobtainable until later in the game.
Folks on the internet will yell and pout remove the “bad endings” from the Japanese version, but I’ll take the time right here and now to point out that there was nothing of significance removed. In fact, if anything it removed the biggest issue folks had with Default, where after a certain point in the story you’d have to fight the same few bosses over and over and over again to get the true ending, a decision that angered a lot of players when the first game launched over here. In the Japanese version of Bravely Second, this dreaded mechanic made a comeback in the form of the outcomes of the sidequests. Normally what would happen is that when you choose the side you agree with and defeated the opposing side, Edea would have regrets over her actions and feel that she should have gone for the other side, even if you reloaded your file and choose the opposite side.
This pretty much meant that the first time through the game these choices made the whole idea all the more pointless unless you replayed the game on New Game Plus and chose the same decision as before just to see Edea gain more confidence, pretty much meaning you’d have to replay the entire game a ton of times just to see all the confident outcomes. The fact that the english version removed these redundant outcomes and practically cut off a ton of unnecessary padding should be seen as a blessing and not a curse, although I do wish they were translated and hidden away in the Event Viewer for those who wanted to see a “What if” scenario. Overall, these sidequests end up feeling satisfying in the end, and really do make you think about the motivations behind each and every scenario.
In conclusion, Bravely Second is a significant improvement over the original game, removing a lot of the unnecessary padding and having a more engaging story, despite the disappointing rehash of a few areas from the first game and a boring introduction chapter. The battle system is still just as good as it was in the original, and the variety of jobs almost guarantee that you’ll eventually obtain a set that’ll work out well for you. Honestly, I found myself so interested in the game that I practically spent the past week marathoning the game non-stop until I completed the main story, which took me about a good 35 hours. Even when you do complete the game, however there’s still plenty to do, from mastering the addicting chompcraft minigame, completing the bestiary, obtaining all the unlockable titles and going through the game again using New Game + to plow your way through the early game with an overpowered team.
If you’re a fan of a game for its story, you’ll certainly love Bravely Second after the initial hour, where things really start to pick up, and if you aren’t that good with RPGs then the game’s options will allow you to go at your own pace, making this game a rather enjoyable experience for practically everyone interested in RPGs or the Bravely Series. Despite what the internet would tell you about the sidequests, they are still here to stay and also a fun way to get some extra hours on your playtime.
A word of warning however; Bravely Second immediately reveals major plot twists from the Default the moment you begin the game, so if you’re interested in playing through Default blind you should probably go through that game first before moving on to this sequel. Whichever option you choose, you’ll undoubtedly have a blast with Bravely Second!
I give Bravely Second: End Layer a 9 out of 10, and strongly recommend it to fans of Default and to fans of RPGs in general!