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Bravely Default II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Feb. 26, 2021


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Switch Review - 'Bravely Default II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 4, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Bravely Default II is a successor to the original Bravely Default game and will have players embark on a new story in a new world, featuring all-new Heroes of Light.

Buy Bravely Default II

Bravely Default is basically Final Fantasy in everything but name. It has the same crystal-focused adventures, the same jobs, the same magic spells, and the same tone. Where it differs is that it adheres more to the SNES era of Final Fantasy than the more modern ones. As a result, it's a nostalgic experience mixed with some modern touches. The combination worked great for the original Bravely Default and its sequel Bravely Second. Now the somewhat-confusingly named Bravely Default II aims to continue the trend. It mostly succeeds — at the cost of being unambitious.

Bravely Default II is set in a magical world governed by four elemental crystals: Earth, Fire, Water and Wind. Wouldn't you know it, an evil empire has destroyed the kingdom that housed the crystals and is now seeking to take them for itself. Players take on the role of Seth, a sailor who washed ashore after a wave destroyed his ship. He's found by the princess of the ruined kingdom, Gloria, who needs his help to recover the lost crystals. Before long, they're joined by the drunk scholar Elvis and the perky Adelle, two adventurers looking for knowledge-granting asterisks. The four set out to stop the evil empire, discover the true evil behind the throne, and collect every darn asterisk they can.

I enjoyed BD2, but in many ways, it feels like a safe and soft remake of the original title. It seems that the developers didn't deviate much from what worked with the first game. You have a cast of four heroes, including a bland male protagonist, a noble princess with a mission involving crystals, a roguish guy with a magic book, and a tomboy-ish girl. They aren't exactly the same, but they feel similar.

BD2 returns to the gameplay of the first title with some notable differences. For those who never played the two original 3DS games, Bravely Default plays almost identically to the old-school Final Fantasy titles, in particular Final Fantasy V. You have HP, MP, and a variety of skills. What makes Bravely Default different is the titular Brave and Default commands. Brave allows you to act up to four times in a single turn but at a cost. Each Brave you perform causes you to lose an upcoming turn. On the other hand, Defaulting allows you to defend for a turn and in doing so, you gain a BP (Brave Point), so you can use one Brave action without penalty. A major part of battle is striking a balance between defending to build up BP and knowing when to launch all-out attacks.

The combat system is also very similar to the original game but with a few notable changes. The battles in BD2 use a modified version of the Active Time Battle system from the older Final Fantasy games, so rather than taking turns, each character and enemy acts once their action bar fills up. Faster classes fill up faster, while slower ones take time. This isn't inherently a negative, as there are many buffs and bonuses that last until the character's next turn. If you have a tanky character or one built for counter-attacking, you can get more bang for your buck from being slow. The game also lacks the Bravely Second feature found in the first two games, though this is a small loss.

What makes BD2 stand out is its job system. As in its obvious inspiration, Final Fantasy V, you're allowed to customize each character with a main job and sub-job and swap jobs at will. Jobs range from Final Fantasy classics like Berserker, Red Mage or Thief to newer concepts, like the debuff-focused Pictomancer class or the brutal Hellblade. Fighting with an equipped class gradually unlocks new active skills for that class and special passive bonuses that can be equipped with any class. You're limited to a maximum of five skills, with some skills taking up more than one slot.

The job system is a pure delight. There are over 20 jobs, and each one is distinctive and interesting and rewards you for figuring out cool combinations of skills. For example, a Phantom/Ranger cross-class can generate almost infinite BP by hitting enemy weak points for critical damage. A Shieldmaster/Vanguard with the sub-job BP Reduction can generate BP with every turn and give BP to other characters. There are countless combinations of skills, and figuring them out is a huge part of the game's fun. At times, I spent more time trying different skill combinations than actually fighting in battles.

This might sound grindy, and to be honest, it can be. You need a lot of JP (job points) to level up jobs, but BD2 makes it quick. You are given special food items that cause battles to be chained together, and a chained battle grants rewards for the entire chain of fights, and it can double or even triple the earned JP. You're also more likely to encounter Wiki-Wikis, which are cute birds that are tough to kill but drop insane amounts of JP. Beyond that, you'll get orbs from quests that can give upward of 3,000 JP. With these tools, you can max out a job in under 10 minutes. Generally, it's better to grind only when you're having trouble, as the further you get into the game, the more you can do. BD2 even has a feature where you go on adventures while the game is in sleep mode, which rewards you with JP and experience orbs, so the game grinds while you're not playing it.

This gives BD2 an odd difficulty curve. There is such a wide variety in experiences that you could struggle to win basic fights or effortlessly clown on tough bosses. The game presents plenty of optional bosses who demand that you actually know what you're doing. If you're not careful, a lot of the late-game bosses can wipe your party in a single turn.

Missing from BD2 is the customization of encounter rates and resource gain. Instead, the game has enemies appear directly on-screen, with the player's interactions determining how much BP they start with. It also has an Earthbound-style power adjustment where strong enemies glow bright red, but weak enemies run away from you. You can mimic the effects of the customization with plentiful items and rarer pieces of equipment, but I'd rather they just kept what worked.

At about 40 hours, BD2 is a rather lengthy game. It can extend even longer if you decide to kill every optional boss and explore every optional dungeon. Unlike Bravely Default, you won't have to repeat any game segment except for a few brief trips through existing dungeons. The game pads itself with harder versions of existing bosses and enemies, but it's a much more satisfying experience than Bravely Default's repeating chapters or Bravely Second's similar concept. It also has a lot of optional content, including an absurdly addictive card game in the vein of Gwent and Triple Triad.

When it comes to visuals, BD2 is a mixed bag. The environments are nicely designed, if not super graphically impressive. The characters are cute and well animated but look more like clay dolls than the chibi art style they were striving for. It's not terrible, but it has more in common with the 3DS game than anything more modern. The voice acting is good but not exceptional, and there are a few duds. However, the soundtrack is absolutely top-notch. It isn't quite as good as Bravely Default's soundtrack, but it's full of bangers that really make the game work.

All in all, Bravely Default II is a game that chose to play it safe. It offers few surprises or twists, but it does offer one of the most excellent and enjoyable JRPG experiences on the Nintendo Switch. Whatever the story lacks, the gameplay more than makes up for, and I was delighted to advance and find what new jobs I was going to get. It's well worth the money for any Final Fantasy fan or anyone looking for an old-school JRPG. We have to hope that for the next game, the developers decide to go for Brave instead of Default when it comes to the story and setting.

Score: 8.0/10

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