Fans of the old turn-based Final Fantasy games lament the lack of this style of game, but if only they would look to the Nintendo 3DS they would find the distillation off all that is great in turn-based JRPGs! Bravely Default: Flying Fairy was a wondrous thing. Many of us feared it would be a one-off, but the good people at Square Enix and Silicon Studio have answered our prayers with Bravely Second: End Layer!
Picking up some two and a bit years after the conclusion of Flying Fairy
we find Agnes taking up the mantle of Pope for the Crystal Orthodoxy. Her other friends are off doing other things and Tiz is in a coma and being kept alive in a tank. The villain of End Layer
kidnaps Agnes and does a number on her bodyguards, including the hero of this new game ? Yew.
Events transpire and Yew and friends begin their adventure to save Agnes and somehow get roped in to solving the problems of various nations, as is the norm for JRPGs. They story is wonderfully self-aware and sticks to the tone set out by the original Bravely
game, although the overall writing quality has improved and the same can be said for voice acting across the board.
I am going to avoid saying anything more on the story because it is a genuine delight to follow the little quest markers and to go further would also spoil the original game, which I also heartily endorse you going out and buying if you don?t already own it.
Once again the game's art is beautiful. The various hubs all have that hand painted style, some people may complain that the game revisits and re-uses too many locations from the original game without doing much to improve the art. This is a valid complaint, but it can also be said that you shouldn?t try to fix what isn?t broken and having these familiar locations helps cement the world as a complete thing.
Combat remains largely unchanged - you can still elect to default, which puts you in a defensive stance, or Brave up to four times to take multiple turns in one go. Various skills across jobs make use of this system in numerous ways.
Speaking of jobs, there are a lot of them, I?m not entirely sure on the exact number because I missed a few optional side stories that get you extra jobs, plus these side stories make you choose one of two jobs depending on how you resolve the situation.
does a great job of making levelling new roles easy. If you want to grind to get a new job's abilities unlocked you can adjust encounter rates on the fly. You can save a list of commands and have them run automatically each time you enter combat and if you are levelling in an easier area you have the option to continue fighting. This summons more enemies and grants experience bonuses for both characters and jobs. It completely removes all the pain and frustration from grinding.
On the other hand, going through the story rarely saw me meeting a challenge I couldn?t handle straight away. The pacing was almost perfect if you leave the encounter rate at its base value, although I do recommend stocking up on a variety of curatives for status ailments, seeing as most of them continue through the end of combat.
If you haven?t played the original and just want to jump in with this title you can do so. There is a brief recap of what has gone before at the beginning of the game. It is easy to get into the swing of things and the characters are all instantly likeable. Playing the original game will give you insight into the returning characters from the side stories, but once again the game handles momentarily returning characters well and shouldn?t alienate newcomers to the franchise. Some of them may actually help push newcomers to go back and play the original.
Bravely Second: End Layer
is more of the same and that is exactly how I wanted it to be. The mechanics have been smoothed over and polished to a bright shine, as have the art, acting and writing. If you want an outstanding turn-based RPG then this is for you. If you are a returning fan or new to the series you are all in for a treat.
Two more things ? first, you can play the whole game with just your left hand using the d-pad and shoulder buttons for everything you?d need your other hand for... Make of that what you will. Secondly, you have to do another renovation job on a destroyed location, this takes real time and can only be sped up with streetpasses. Silicon Studio changed it from the previous game and now you can?t break the game by developing overpowered weapons, but it can still be annoying.
Oh, there is also an utterly forgettable idle game that involves sewing stuffed toys. I did it once and then completely forgot about it until just now... It might lead to something interesting, but mostly I think it?s just a cute thing to do whilst you wait for renovations to be complete or grab something to eat between play sessions.
+ Outstanding and refined turn-based combat
+ Gorgeous hand-painted graphics
+ The characters are genuinely delightful
+ Almost perfect pacing
- Renovating a destroyed location for bonuses, again
- A daft and pointless micro-transaction returns from the previous game, just ignore it
SPOnG Score: 9/10