Review – Bravely Default 2
Anyone whose has made themselves familiar with the JRPG style has most definitely heard of the company Square Enix, who is responsible for the franchise that has become my unhealthy addiction, Final Fantasy. Jokes aside, the fantasy is anything but final, with the franchise soon to release its sixteenth major installment. If you are new to the franchise, you can rest easy knowing you don’t have to worry about playing them in order, because even though the games play similar to each other (aside slight game mechanic differences) the stories and characters are entirely separate from each other.
When it was birthed up until a certain installment, the franchise embraced its true JRPG fashion, meaning the players engage in battle using an ATB (active time battle) against the enemy. Simply put, it meant “turned based”: you attack in a ordered sequence when your ATB bar is fulfilled. Regrettably, gamers today adapted an unappreciative lack of patience to fully grasp that style of play. But not all is lost…
Enter Bravely Default, a franchise that not only goes back to the true JRPG feel, but changes up the battle formula so that it truly cements itself as an entity completely different from Final Fantasy, despite being made from the same company. The first installment, one I’ve yet to play, was released on the Nintendo 3DS, and was an instant success. Like Final Fantasy, Bravely Default can be tackled in any order you deem necessary. Right now there are only two major installments available, so no need to get ahead of ourselves, but I’m sure the trend will continue. Speaking of which, let’s finally talk about Bravely Default II, released on the Nintendo Switch.
Bravely Default II is a throwback to classic Final Fantasy, specifically Final Fantasy V. Here, you’re only responsible for leveling up four main characters throughout the entire game. This can be a breath of fresh air if you have a knack for maxing out every character possible, so less to worry about just speeds up the process. The battle system is fresh and simple. You can attack, use magic or items like normal JRPGs. You can opt to go on an all-offensive attack and “Brave” a max of four turns per character in hopes of killing the enemy quickly, at the cost of having to take an onslaught of damage while you recharge if unsuccessful. Or you can choose to “Default” in to a defensive stance and earn Battle Points which you can use to perform those previously mentioned all-out offensive attacks without a penalty.
The other aspect reminiscent of its main source of inspiration is the job system, which allows the player to assume/switch between desired roles and have a certain set of abilities required to overcome a boss fight. There are a lot of jobs in Bravely Default II. In fact, too many jobs. Acquiring them is simple, as all you have to do is progress the story and defeat the boss who assumes the jobs characteristics. It’s the fact that you have to level them all up separately to learn more effective abilities in order to overcome tough boss battles near the end of the game that’s annoying. Yes, it’s refreshing to have a game that wants to player to be more critically analytical every time they battle, but when there are that many roles to assume and requirements to be set, you’d better hope this game can hold your attention long enough.
Speaking of which, that seemed to be my biggest obstacle in Bravely Default II. The plot is excruciatingly familiar and derivative: find the four elemental stones before the bad guys do, and use them to save the world. Gee, haven’t heard that one before. The main cast is likeable, though the two main stars Seth and Gloria are substantially outclassed by the two sidekicks, Elvis and Adelle (I wonder what they were listening to when coming up with those names). Unfortunately, besides them, the overabundance of side characters and the little time spent to get them developed leave a lot to be desired.
I simply could not find myself to care much for the supporting roles and whatever plot tied to them was attempted. The beginning of the game takes a very long time to get going, and at one point almost lost me for good. The saving graces were the fun battle systems and abilities to change jobs. So I stuck around until the end, which left me very deflated. After being Rickrolled with two very upsetting false endings, the true ending was nothing short of a fizzle. It just sort of happens, being over before I knew it. Nothing felt like a pay off, it felt rushed and anticlimactic. I preferred the false endings to be honest. As upsetting as they were, it had emotional buildup and meaning and it left me compromised and seeking resolve.
While the gameplay is solid and the story is not, what really stands out, is an amazing soundtrack from start to finish. Square just gets music down perfectly, and Bravely Default II is no exception. From the battle theme, to simply walking into a new region exploring the overworld, there wasn’t one track that fell short with me. Even the riff each specific character has when performing their special attack is charming and catchy.
I still, to this day, listen to this amazing soundtrack while I’m cooking up a meal or writing a heavily delayed article piece (what?). Can you tell me when there was time Square Enix was not good at composing video game music? The voice acting is also solid all around. Elvis is one of my favorite characters, simply by his overblown Scottish accent alone. And even though sometimes I feel like the accents of other characters are comedically satirical, I think it was still done very well.
Graphically, for a game on the Nintendo Switch, Bravely Default II looks polarizing. On one hand you have an overworld and a handful of locations that look very beautiful, and a wide assortment of detailed monsters and enemies. On the other hand, the way the humans look in this game stick out like a very sore thumb. At first glance, they look like puppets, very childishly created and out of place. You get used to it eventually, and accept it as it is the more you play, but it’s certainly something everyone is going to notice at first glance.
Overall, Bravely Default II is a mixed bag of highs and lows. It was very refreshing to go back to that classic JRPG style of gaming while being introduced into a new battle mechanic to keep my interests afloat. Aside from that, and a typical masterclass of musical arrangements, sadly, Bravely Default II doesn’t have much else going to go spreading the word. It’s just a game I played because it plays very well and not because I truly cared to.
I spent over ninety hours maxing out all characters and learned every ability for every job, and even with a exp/money farming technique to speed up the process, I simply felt like I was required to do too much while not being fully rewarded with a story and reason that meant very little.
Great backgrounds and scenery. Goofy looking human character models, though.
True JRPG feeling with battles that take time and require thought.
Every track in this game is memorable and so is the epic voice acting.
Paper-thin plot of derivation and an overabundance of characters not fleshed out to care enough about.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Bravely Default 2 is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.