Betrayal and kidnapping is usually a good start to an epic story. That’s exactly how the story of Yew Geologia begins in Bravely Second: End Layer. Leader of the Crystalguard, the personal guard to the Pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, Yew is introduced as a peace treaty between the Orthodoxy and the Duchy of Eternia are about to sign a peace treaty between the once-warring nations.
But these things rarely go according to plan in the world of gaming, and Yew is knocked unconscious as Pope Agnes is kidnapped and the Dutchy’s Grand Marshal is defeated. Yew sets off to rescue Agnes from the Glanz Empire’s floating fortress. Quickly betrayed by his friends, he begins to find new allies, some of whom are familiar faces to previous players, in his quest to restore peace and live up to the Crystalguard’s name.
Bravely Second is the follow up to Silicon Studio’s acclaimed Bravely Default. The new edition doesn’t add too much to the original’s formula, with it’s unique battle system taking the starring role. Battles, most of which are random encounters as you explore the world, are turn-based, with the player selecting whether each character will take an action, or default, and save their energy for more powerful attacks or extra moves.
Each character can be assigned a job, which grants them specific abilities and proficiencies. Jobs vary from traditional RPG tropes, such as wizard, red mage, and bishop, but also add some more creative classes such as the catmancer, who can speak to cats and call upon furry companions to learn skills from enemies and use them against them. New classes are gained by defeating those who carry that job’s “asterisk” (essentially a token with the essence of that job instilled within it.) You can swap out jobs on the fly, though it usually pays off to stick with a handful for some time to level them up and unlock most of their abilities.
The battle system is the standout star of both games, though the second rendition doesn’t add anything new. Powerful special attacks can be unlocked by rebuilding a companion’s home on the Moon, which will also occasionally send the characters items to use as well. Players can also use one-off attacks from other players or friends they StreetPass with. One new addition is follow-up battles, triggered by either having a surprise extra round of enemies waiting in the wings, or by being able to defeat all enemies in one turn. Chaining battles gives players extra XP and job points, helping speed the process of powering up characters and unlocking new abilities.
While the battle system is full of flexibility, allowing you to create a party that suits your playstyle or even a specific battle, the story itself struggles. The stakes of the core plot are high, with a floating weapon sweeping across a continent as it looks for artifacts of power. For those who played the first game, Tiz and Edea, two members of Bravely Default’s core party return to rescue their friend Agnes. Many of the game’s side quests, one of the main ways to unlock new jobs, involve run-ins with characters from the first game, usually resulting in the party having to choose a side in a moral dilemma.
But for all the potential depth in the plot, something about the presentation diminishes the impact. The game’s heroes use the battle cry of “For the Gravy!” One of the core enemies, ba’als, results in the party declaring themselves Agnes’ Ba’al-Busting Avengers. The moments of comic relief should be welcome, but many times they just feel overplayed. For the amount of responsibility that the game’s characters apparently hold, it doesn’t feel like they feel the weight of any of it. We are told about their motivations, but I’m not sure I believe them.
The chibi-like character design, while well-done, may contribute to the party’s youthful feeling. The game does have both English and Japanese voiceovers, and I found that I strongly preferred using the Japanese voices, which fit better with the characters, and didn’t grate on me as much.
There’s another side activity to the game that adds to this youthful feel: Chompcraft. This idle time minigame has your characters creating plushies called Chomps to sell. The currency obtained can give you better craft supplies, boosting speed, quality, or rarity. Saving enough Chompcraft currency can be used to give you main game cash, but it takes a lot of time to hit a point where selling would be worth it. Not to mention, slowing down a rescue mission to make some plush toys feels out of place.
If you were a fan of the original, Bravely Second will give you more of the same. Other than a new storyline and several new characters, the sequel doesn’t add anything revolutionary to the formula. Bravely Second shines best in its mechanics, but doesn’t quite hit the right notes in its story.
Invisible Gamer’s review of Bravely Second: End Layer is based on final review code provided to us by Nintendo. The game launched on April 15th, 2016.