March 28, 2016

Bravely Second: End Layer is the sequel to Silicon Studio’s Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies. I took notice of the first game because of the stunning visuals in the artwork, trailers and initial screenshots. Once I actually got a hold of it, I fell in love with its gameplay above every other aspect, with its innovative take on classic turn-based combat. It was soured only by the repetitive end game, which made for a frustrating finish to what would otherwise have been an incredible game I would have recommended to just about anyone. Despite this, I came into Bravely Second with high hopes.

Bravely Second picks up the story two years after the previous game, with the world of Luxendarc in a state of peace following the last game’s journey to put an end to the warmongering Eternian Empire. The current Pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, Agnès Oblige, was kidnapped by a man calling himself the Kaiser. One of the brightest of the Pope’s personal Crystalguard, Yew Geneolgia, set out to rescue her, accompanied by Tiz and Edea from the last game and a woman named Magnolia who hailed from the Moon. Along the way, they also have to fend off fearsome beasts known as Ba’al, which have recently begun appearing in Luxendarc.

I enjoyed Bravely Second’s story. At first I didn’t think it was anything special, but after a certain point, the plot became far more interesting, and I was especially impressed with the way Silicon Studio implemented the gameplay to enhance the storytelling. It’s not something I see very often, and without going into any detail so you can experience it properly for yourself, the way it added player interactivity to the game delighted me. Another thing that made me love the journey so much was the characters and their dialogue. It’s a very well-written, pun-filled game, and it’s easy to see the writers had a lot of fun with the localisation process.

The voice actors did an outstanding job with with their roles, making the writing far more engaging than it would have been without them and wonderfully bringing the whole thing to life. There seemed to be some kind of issue with parts of the recording; some of the female voices sounded hollow and like they had a lisp. I eventually got used to it, but it was jarring to listen to, and I honestly have no idea what caused it or how it could have happened.

Bravely Second’s aesthetics are excellent. The series retains its gorgeous art style and marvellous soundtrack I especially love some of the boss music, as well as the various character themes, some of which were lifted from the first game.

A lot of people, particularly friends overseas, have asked whether Bravely Second does the same thing Bravely Default does in the endgame: Does it (for reasons I won’t go into so as not to spoil the plot) make you fight the same boss battles some four or five times to reach the true ending? The answer, I am pleased to report, is no. If you were concerned about having to go through that crap again, don’t be.

Battle in Bravely Second is of a classical turn-based variety but with its own twist, which players of the original game will be familiar with. In addition to regular and MP-consuming attacks, you can choose to ‘Brave’ or to ‘Default’. Choosing to Brave allows you to take turns in advance so you can execute multiple attacks all at once. Defaulting has the character defend and saves up one BP, or ‘Brave Point’. If the number of BP a character has drops into negative territory, they will be unable to act for a couple of turns until their BP comes back up to zero at a rate of one per turn. It’s an interesting high-risk high-reward mechanic that can work in your favour or see you get killed over a miscalculation.

You can assign characters to different jobs or classes, which will affect their stats and the abilities they are able to use. Each character will level up their jobs as they fight, unlocking new skills as they go. In addition to being at the appropriate job level, magic-wielding classes will also need to get the scrolls related to each magic type in order to use their spells. There are 30 jobs available in the game, some of which are found in the main story, and the rest of which are gained via sidequests.

Sidequests unlock as you advance the plot, and will show up on your map with a blue marker. Each one presents two jobs, but makes you select one, throwing in an ethical dilemma for you to ponder throughout the quest. Forcing this choice annoyed me; I just wanted to choose my jobs based on which one I would prefer. Your decision doesn’t matter anyway, as you get you get to repeat these quests later in the game anyway, cheapening the impact of your initial choice. The alternative would have been to prevent the player from completing the second half and gaining all the jobs, which would have irritated me even more as I’d have been locked out of skills and abilities. Neither of these outcomes are good, and it makes me wonder why they even implemented this system in the first place; why couldn’t the game have had us unlock some jobs through new sidequests or different means?

The sidequest system has you performing the exact same thing twice, and this is one example of an issue I had with this game: Its recycling of material — both from itself and from the original game. This includes art from various places in the world that were present in the previous game, as well as pieces of the soundtrack.It’s not something that was a huge deal for me, but it did come across as somewhat lazy.

A totally new and optional mini-game is chompcraft, which sees the party creating adorable plush toys. The toys you make can be sold for chomp points, which in turn can be exchanged for pg, the game’s currency; they doesn’t do anything else. Your chompcrafting abilities can be improved by upgrading your party’s tools. It’s an addictive game that makes for a fun way to earn some pg.

StreetPass, SpotPass and your 3DS friends list all have roles in Bravely Second. You can attach one friend to one of your party members, allowing that party member to use skills that friend has unlocked, even if your character has yet to sufficiently level themselves up. In battle, friends and people you meet via StreetPass can be summoned to execute a special move. You get to choose which move you send to other people by selecting an option from the menu in a battle, and you can change it at any time during any battle.

Collecting friends via StreetPass will also assist in the game’s town rebuilding sidequest, which sees you rebuild Magnolia’s home on the Moon. You can also get five people a day via SpotPass if you have an Internet connection. These people can then be put to work reconstructing the town, rewarding you with free items from time to time and improving the inventory of the wandering red salesperson who shows up before each boss fight. The village contains a number of powerful Ba’al for you to defeat, which get refreshed every time you choose to update your data via the Internet and whenever you StreetPass with someone. You can weaken them using battleships piloted by your friends or by bots before you fight them, dropping their level over time. Defeating them nets you a lot of experience, which isn’t affected by how much you drop their level with the ships; I’ve killed a few in one hit after dropping its level from 50 or 60 to 1, so it can be a nice way gain experience.

Other elements of the gameplay have been improved as well. A favourite of mine is the ability to chain battles together for extra rewards and multipliers; it makes grinding much, much faster. There are also more options for the auto-battle feature, so your allies can grind even without your input, as well as a range of other new additions.

Bravely Second allows you to play again in New Game +, so you can restart with all your jobs and experience. I’d clocked up a little over 50 hours when I finished Bravely Second, having done most sidequests and acquired about two thirds of all the jobs.

Bravely Second: End Layer took the first game’s already refined formula and polished it further, with the new gameplay changes only improving the experience. The plot and characters were more memorable than the last game’s, and the dialogue was top-notch. It looks good, it sounds good, and is simply fun to play, retaining the best parts of classic RPGs while adding modern touches and convenience. Bravely Second is a must for just about any RPG fan; it won’t disappoint.

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