Square Enix delivers another sequel to its Bravely series with the recent Switch-exclusive title, Bravely Default 2. Whereas Bravely Second: End Layer offered a direct follow-up to the events of Bravely Default, this ambitious new sequel takes place in an alternate world of sorts, and invites players on an entirely new adventure. However, once there, the adventure doesn’t quite feel as “new” as it likely could.
Bravely Default was initially created as a sequel to a 2009 Final Fantasy game, so it makes sense that Bravely Default 2 and its Bravely counterparts all lean heavily into Final Fantasy design elements. Many of the game’s featured characters are portrayed as elaborate watercolor portraits in static images, while the in-game characters appear as condensed “chibi”-like caricatures. The game’s design and unique battle system (that relies on “Brave” and “Default” commands) are two of the Bravely series’ most quintessential features, and this sequel continues to build on them.
Bravely Default 2 may be highly reminiscent of Final Fantasy, but it takes inspiration from a number of JRPGs. As was the case with previous titles, players will explore the world of Bravely Default 2, known as Excillant, as a sailor named Seth as he embarks on a journey with a runaway princess named Gloria, a loudmouthed intellectual named Elvis, and his hired grunt named Adelle.
In short, these four adventurers are quickly revealed to be “The Heroes of Light,” who are destined to protect the world’s four elemental crystals. Throughout Bravely Default 2, they will effectively be racing against an ancient evil that is in pursuit of The Crystals. Though it may sound familiar, this is not a direct sequel to Bravely Default, but rather, a sort of sequel-in-spirit.
On the overworld, the player appears as a tiny figure amidst wonderfully detailed backgrounds and scenery. The music evokes games like those of the Dragon Quest series, though the overall style and tone call back to games like Golden Sun as well. Towns and cities are presented like dioramas, combining 2D “layers” with vivid 3D elements – this is easily one of the game’s strong suits; the Switch’s larger screen and generally stronger graphics are highly conducive to the detailed landscapes.
While traveling the overworld, or within dungeons, players will also stumble upon various creatures they can face in battle. These battles are initiated upon contact with the monsters, but approaching players can use the Y button to preemptively strike monsters for an advantage in battle. The battles themselves are turn-based, and though they are evocative of many JRPGs, they are also quite unique. The two primary features of the combat are Bravely Default 2‘s job system, rooted in “Asterisks,” and its eponymic Brave and Default mechanics.
Characters can equip weapons and armor, but with regard to abilities, characters in Bravely Default 2 are given two Jobs. Each character can select a primary job, which levels up as they battle, along with a secondary job, from which they can pull existing abilities. So if a player has leveled up the White Mage job for Gloria, they can choose to use the White Mage abilities they’ve unlocked while leveling up the Black Mage job.
This can be done in any number of combinations with the game’s 20+ jobs and four playable characters. The majority of the game’s jobs are unlocked after receiving Asterisks as a reward from memorable boss fights. As for the Brave and Default system, this is unsurprisingly one of the game’s noteworthy features.
Players will see a number to the right of each character’s health gauge that refers to the character’s current number of Brave Points, which must be expended to take action in battle. On their turn, characters can continue to take actions until their Brave Points dip under 0. That being said, the Brave and Default commands allow players to manipulate their Brave Points to strategically succeed against rare enemies like the Coral Emperor. Players are allowed to be “Brave” and essentially borrow extra Brave Points on a given turn, or alternatively, “Default” and accumulate extra Brave Points for a future turn.
If a character opts for “Brave,” they may end up with a negative number of Brave Points, and as such, they will have to wait before taking action again. So, if a character in Bravely Default 2 Defaults for two turns, they’ll find themselves with an additional 2 Brave Points on that third turn, allowing for three total actions zero total time consequences. Or conversely, if they “Brave,” the character will have to wait until their points increase back above 0.
For these reasons, Bravely Default 2‘s rather tedious boss fights and repeated battles feel more engaging and rewarding than not. While frequent overworld battle encounters, or long-form boss fights, can quickly grow tiresome, the Brave and Default features coupled with the highly adaptable job system make for a dynamic time throughout.
Outside of battle, players will find themselves engaging in the usual gamut of RPG sidequests and the like; though Bravely Default 2 does also offer the rather basic “Exploration” system. This is akin to features like Genshin Impact‘s “Expeditions,” which allow the player to send characters out on explorative journeys that could return valuable loot. While the feature is nothing spectacular, it is something players can do without having to engage in social features, which was a common complaint with the original Bravely Default. It may not have been an exploration feature, but players hoping to (re)populate a town in Bravely Default were forced to use the 3DS’ StreetPass.
Yet, for all the new JRPG-inspired fun that Bravely Default 2 brings to the table, it doesn’t expand on its predecessors as much as it should. Despite being an “alternate universe” sequel to Bravely Default, the plot points and general premise and framework are all incredibly similar to those of the original game (and many other Final Fantasy-inspired RPGs). The notion of chosen warriors collecting and protecting magical elemental crystals is one that has been tirelessly explored by RPGs. But despite its treading familiar territory, Bravely Default 2 is still a wonderful JRPG whose environment and monster design are outstanding. Likewise, its original score will remind players why it’s sometimes nice to play with headphones on.
For fans of role-playing games, especially JRPGS, this game will come as a breath of classic RPG air. Turn-based battles with a twist, an intricate and intersectional job system, and a ragtag group of heroes are all key components that make the experience memorable.
Bravely Default 2 is now available on the Nintendo Switch. Geisha411 was provided a code for this review.