Square Enix’s Bravely series finally makes its grand debut on the Nintendo Switch with Bravely Default II. Since 2014, the series has been defined by its revamped turn-based gameplay and classic Final Fantasy signatures adapted to the modern era. Bravely Default II stays true to its JRPG roots layered with a brand new story, characters, and world to explore. Let’s see how the sequel stacks up to the high praise of its previous games.
Classic JRPGs truly do offer a distinctive video game experience that may or may not be your jam. A deep story, complex battle systems, grinding levels, long stretches of dialogue, etc. All of these ideas and more make a complete JRPG. While games like Persona 5 and Final Fantasy VII Remake have revolutionized the genre, Square Enix has committed the Bravely series to be a modern staple of pastimes. In Bravely Default II, there is a lengthy story. There is a complex and satisfying battle system. Grinding levels is required. It definitely carries the DNA of its ancestors to a fault, but the scales tip more in its favor. At the end of the day, it is great comfort food for enthusiasts and a decent starting-off point for newcomers.
Bravely Default II Tells A Familiar Tale
In regards to the story, it is classic Final Fantasy all the way. The fate of the world is leaning towards destruction, and it is up to the four Heroes of Light to save it. Enter in Gloria, the noble princess of a destroyed kingdom; Seth, a humble shipwrecked sailor; Elvis, the confident mage deciphering an unreadable tome; and Adelle, the mercenary searching for her sister. While each have their own separate personal goals, their interests align when the natural elements of the world, as well as a tyrannical empire, threaten the livelihoods of innocents.
In my 66-hour runtime, Bravely Default II‘s story kept me invested, but there was not enough intrigue compared to Bravely Default and Bravely Second. With previous titles, the mic drop moments were impactful and memorable, breaking my initial expectations. In Bravely Default II, what you see is what you get. However, what the game does really well is take an old premise and tell it in a way that is interesting enough to see its end.
A big part of that is due to the main cast and their own interpersonal journeys. Gloria, Seth, Elvis, and Adelle – they all have great chemistry throughout and are wonderful characters to hang around with. Whether it is learning more about Gloria’s love for painting or Adelle’s “foodie” personality, the game offers plenty of fun dialogue and character interactions.
Composer Revo makes a return for Bravely Default II after disappointingly being left out of the last entry, Bravely Second: End Layer. In this new title, Revo does not disappoint. From the game’s wholesome main menu music to the hard-edged boss fight themes, Bravely Default II‘s soundtrack is a character in itself. Listening to the tracks in-game was not enough for my ears, and the OST has been on loop for me for days. The soundtrack is absolutely on the same level of epic grandness and awe as Bravely Default.
What About the Villains?
With that said, it is such a shame that the game’s main two villains are generally boring and uninteresting. While their motivations are clear, it all feels superficial and too familiar. Bravely Default II just does a mediocre job of giving them the much-needed spotlight to make their presence in the story more meaningful. For instance, there is a substantial revelation regarding two characters – one being the villain. But, the story does not give sufficient context to that surprise reveal. It just does not carry the necessary weight, despite it being a big deal. It felt like a last-minute idea the writers decided to throw in.
In between the events of the main campaign, there are secret monsters to fight, challenge NPCs to a round of the B n’ D card game, and complete side quests. While side quests are not completely engaging, there are more than few worth completing for reward purposes alone. The game has a hefty amount of weapons, armor, and accessories to purchase, but some can be earned through the generally easy side quests. Other random quests include nuggets of character development as well, like Elvis’ connection to his hometown friends. All of this may sound very similar to genre enthusiasts, but to its benefit, Bravely Default II knows what it is, and for fans of JRPGs, that means it is the delicious comfort food using the same great recipe.
Get A Job… or 24
A backbone to Bravely Default II’s gameplay is its Job system, in which your party can take on assigned roles in battles. Rather than having one character be defined as a Knight for the entirety of the game, the player is able to mix and match these roles for any party member. There are 24 Jobs to discover and level up, making it a little less than Bravely Second‘s featured 30 Jobs.
The player can assign a main Job and a sub-Job to each character. Equipping a sub-Job unlocks its active abilities, making for some awesome combinations. What if a Monk could use black magic? What if a Gambler class could also use time magic? Bravely Default II gives you these answers, making the possibilities and creativity feel endless. It is immensely satisfying to see the results of odd combinations that started with me asking, “What if…?” and ended with me chuckling followed by a mischievous grin.
Get A… New Job
New Jobs that are introduced, like the Arcanist, give more variety to this system. The Arcanist Job has exceedingly powerful magic that can target all enemies. While that sounds amazing, there is a caveat: those same spells can also damage allies. Another fun Job is the Phantom, a role that has the upper hand in speed giving your opponent less time to strike. The Job system is one of my favorite mechanics about Bravely Default II and the Bravely series overall.
See More: Bravely Second: End Layer Review
To Brave or to Default
Bravely Default II inherits the turn-stacking battle gameplay from previous games called the Brave-Default system. The idea behind it is high risk, high reward. When in battle, the party, as well as enemies, have a Brave Point (BP) counter. Selecting to “Default” lets the character take a guarding stance and adds one point to their BP (up to a total sum of three). Selecting “Brave,” allows that party member to take multiple consecutive turns (up to four). However, Brave too much and the party is left open to attacks due to using all of their turns. Default too often and battles can go on for much longer than they should.
This evolution in turn-based gameplay continues to be as exciting and strategic as ever. Especially in regards to the game’s tough-as-nails boss fights. The developers did a magnificent job of making every boss fight play exceptionally distinct. You will not be able to find a one-size-fits-all strategy for them.
For instance, one boss, who inherited the Thief Job, had an ability to steal my characters’ BP. So, why I would waste turns stacking turns for everyone? I needed to figure out a way to stack turns for Adelle, my most powerful damage-dealer, but make sure her BP would not get stolen. Turns out, Seth has an ability that can delay an opponent’s turn. At the same time, Gloria has buff spells I could cast on Adelle, making it definitive that I am getting the most out of Adelle’s hits.
With this strategy in place, it was only a matter of time before I claimed victory. It is on-the-fly strategies like this that makes Bravely Default II so much fun to play. With plenty of bosses to encounter, there was always something to look forward to when traveling to a new kingdom or dungeon.
The Switch is Not Doing Bravely Default II any favors
As for the visuals, the mesmerizing 2D art backgrounds make a return. While they are not as standout as Octopath Traveler’s 2.5D attempt, the tone and colors of every kingdom fits the Bravely vibe fans would expect. Since the character models are more high-res thanks to the Switch, their 3D chibi look loses a bit of the charm found in the 3DS titles. It is almost as if the characters feel out of place when in a 2D setting, like they pop out too much.
While the game’s art style is fantastic, the resolution output and performance suffer here. In handheld, textures can be noticeably fuzzy for a game wanting to look more cleaner than it really is. This is not Xenoblade Chronicles 2 bad. But it is enough to make me wish the Switch Pro was here already. Additionally, there were more than few noticeable chugs in dungeons, on the overworld map, and even during some cutscenes. Rather than saying there is a lack of polish, it is more that the game has some hitches you will have to get used to due to the hardware.
Is it Worth Playing?
In a good and bad way, Bravely Default II feels like a JRPG that was made 20 years ago. Everything that is new a job well done that makes the game worth playing. There is more of an emphasis to grind Job levels than previous titles, but that never stopped my enjoyment. New jobs meant more strategies to discover, and I am always on board for that. Especially for a title with such an addicting battle system. With a plethora of side activities and New Game+ to tackle, there is plenty of game to play. Bravely Default II will not rock the gaming world, but it is another stellar JRPG added to the Switch’s library.