Published on March 22nd, 2021 | by Ignis
REVIEW: Bravely Default 2
Bravely Default is a series that has been around for quite a while, with the first iteration of the series having been released back in 2013. It is very much a series that harkens back to the old days of the traditional Final Fantasy JRPG while the newer games have become something different and have evolved with the times.
Personally, I believe that Bravely Default was designed to be similar to old school Final Fantasy games so that Square Enix could appeal to the traditional JRPG market and also appeal to the market of JRPG fans that wanted something new and wanted to see their favourite franchises evolve.
Bravely Default 2 is actually the third game in the series (Bravely Default was the first, Bravely Second was the second game) and continues to appeal to that traditionalist market the franchise has evolved at a glacial pace over the past 8 years keeping true to it’s roots and providing that same OG style that people seeking nostalgia are looking for and BD2 is no different.
Story/Concept: The story in Bravely Default 2 is very similar to all other games in the series. There are four elemental crystals that more or less keep the world together (Wind, Earth, Fire, Water) that have been taken by the big bad guys and your job is to collect them.
The overarching plot is pretty stock standard and offers a number of cliches that anyone who has played an RPG possibly ever has experienced before – the big bad empire being ruled by the evil overlord who wants to take over the world, character who’s kingdom was destroyed and is trying to save the world, travelling around the world to all different environments to reclaim these elemental Crystals.
Where this changes a bit however, is in the form of the character who travel with you, and some of the characters that you encounter. BD2 hosts 4 main characters that the game attempts to flesh out and the characters that live in the world are really what keep it together and keep you invested rather than the plot of the story itself.
While there is no character as interesting as Ringabel or Edea from the first game (With the second game’s cast being largely forgettable in my opinion), Elvis and Adelle are a number of decent replacements and some of the villains that appear over the course of the game will have you shaking your head with how predictable or empty they are to being very invested in them and BD2 for the most part does a great job making these villains interesting.
Overall the plot itself was fine, if forgettable. Square really haven’t deviated too far from the overarching plot that seems to be happening in the Bravely series and needing to go out and collect elemental crystals and save the world from the big bad guys is good enough to keep the story moving, but isn’t enough to really keep me interested.
What I was interested in however and something that the Bravely series is well known for, is the endings and how to achieve them. Across all games thus far, the “final boss” has never been the actual final boss and usually requires problem solving from your part as to how you can ‘beat’ it which usually involves time looping in some way. I will not spoil anything, I will say that Bravely Default 2 continues this trend and requires some… Outside the box thinking in order to achieve its best endings. It’s a cool little feature of all the Bravely games and was nice that they kept it going.
Graphics: This is a bit of a weird one, the Bravely series was known for it’s chibi character style with them almost looking like toys in the overworld and very cartoonish in cutscenes and some cool if standard animations. From how I understand it, this was in the past due to the limitations of the 3DS hardware and thanks to the power of the Switch, they’ve been able to change how the characters look… Kind of.
The chibi style of the overworld has changed and now replaced by the actual character models when they move around which is cool, and there is certainly more detail in the character models in cutscenes or during dialogue, but it doesn’t really seem like much of a step up.
I’m not sure if this was because they wanted to keep the series looking recognisable or whatever the case might be, but when I first played Bravely Default 2 I actually didn’t think anything had changed and needed to go and look at the original games just to make sure there had been improvements – and there have been, I just don’t know if the changes that have been made are enough that I would call them largely noticeable, this game does still very much look like it could happily run on the 3DS.
Animations in battle are largely the same as in the old games as well, there are basic animations that start ramping up in grandeur as you progress through the game, but none of them ever become as crazy as you’d think they would be. When you think end-game Square Enix, you normally think dropping a giant meteor from space to crush you, or firing beams that could tear a planet in two and you never quite get to that level of insanity – which is okay – but I only wish that some of the animations had a little more flare to them.
Gameplay: If you’ve never played a Bravely game before, this is going to be a breath of fresh air for you from a traditional JRPG perspective, if you HAVE played the previous games, do not expect much to change. Everything you know regarding the previous games carries over and there isn’t a lot new here.
Bravely Default has 1 mechanic that really separates it from other turn based JRPG’s on the market and that’s the Brave system. How it works is actually quite simple, everyone gets their turn like your standard RPG but you have the ability to use “Brave” which will give you up to 3 extra attacks this turn and cause you to skip your next turns instead – effectively meaning that you can buy future turns and use them now with the penalty of needing to wait up to 3 turns of doing nothing. This is offset by the “Default” feature, which is your guard in standard RPG’s, you perform no action and instead protect yourself from damage until your next turn comes around with the primary benefit here being that it also gives you an extra turn somewhere down the line.
With the ability to stock up to 3 extra turns, or use up 3 turns this small tweak to gameplay adds a huge level of depth; do you just use 1 action this turn? Do you use 2 or 3 and waste 3 turns potentially being killed in the process? Do you save 3 turns up and then use them all at once, but your opponent gets 3 free turns to act or even potentially chain their own moves together
This is the crux of the entire game and what Bravely Default leans on and while there is nothing new here for veterans of the series, it’s a system that still works very well and those who are new to the franchise will interact with this system and wonder why JRPG’s haven’t been doing this from the beginning, it feels so natural in this style of game that it’s hard not to question why every series doesn’t do this.
Outside of the Brave and Default systems you have your Job classes of which there are 24 all who have their own weapon, weight and skill specialties and you have the ability to freely switch between them at any time being able to have both a Main job which will give you access to 2 class-specific specialties and all of their skills and your Sub-job which will give you access purely to the skills of that class.
The flexibility of being able to switch anyone into any class you like at any time is great and part of the fun of Bravely Default is figuring out what class combinations will completely rip the game open because there are always interactions between all the different classes that will give some very broken outcomes whether that be guaranteeing status effects activate or giving you bonuses when you perform critical hits because every class has 12 different skills with each having 2 or 3 equippable skills that work no matter what class you have (out of a maximum 4 active at any given time, though some are worth 2) because there will come a point where you start to figure out that 2 classes synergize very well together and when you do, you can feel like you’re completely unstoppable.
BD2 tries to stop you from steamrolling through the game by giving bosses and enemies ‘counter’ abilities, where they will perform an extra action if you do something (Example, counter attacking every time you perform a physical attack on them or attempting to silence you if you try and cast healing magic) and this to be honest comes as a mixed bag.
The idea is good in theory, in practice it’s more of an annoyance than anything else as the further you go into the game bosses start countering pretty much anything you do whether it be magic, physical, defaulting, using items they will get benefits for doing so and the game more becomes how can I kill this boss as fast as possible to give them the least amount of opportunities to counter rather than each boss being a puzzle and figuring out how to build your party to beat them.
I will say that this game is actually quite difficult, even on easy bosses will still stomp you into the ground without thought into your team composition and even basic enemies especially early on will cause you a great deal of grief with you not being able to deal enough damage to kill them as quickly as you need to and the sheer number of encounters you can have on the way to a boss can be overwhelming unless you try to outgrind each area, in which case enemies will start running away from you if you over level.
It’s refreshing for me, because the previous games have never been known for being all that difficult. There might be a boss or two that gives people a challenge or the endgame bosses that really test your game knowledge but it’s rare that you get a JRPG that is difficult from the beginning and largely the whole way through. Be aware that if you’re buying this expecting an easy journey, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Outside of the boss and enemy counter abilities and new job classes, there really isn’t much new in BD2 which if you’re a JRPG traditionalist will be great, it’s more of the same. I’m starting to want a little more from the franchise because the Bravely franchise especially from a gameplay perspective is very good.
Sound: The Bravely series has never blown me away from a music perspective and while there are some nice pieces in here the overworld theme is largely the same no matter where you go in the world with the difference being they change the instruments that are being played and the main battle theme stays the same for a large majority of the game as well, even Bosses largely share the same 2 or 3 themes.
What’s here is fine, the music pieces are catchy and I’ll stay in town a little longer than I need to just to listen to how they’ve changed the town theme’s music every time I come to a new one but the repetition of the themes is not something I’m a huge fan of personally. I liked a lot of the music at the start of the game and by the end of the game I was praying that I would finally hear something new and more often than not my prayers were unanswered.
Dialogue is mostly voiced in the game, and I can only speak for the English cast here and the results are… Interesting to say the least. The thing that you will notice almost immediately is that people will use different accents over the course of the game, largely to show where they come from and it’s a little jarring at first to hear someone speaking in an American accent, then meeting someone with a Scottish accent then talking to someone else and they have a British accent but it actually very much grew on me as the game went on.
The thing I liked the most about it I think is that characters in certain towns will all speak a certain way, they keep it largely consistent throughout the course of the game. The voices themselves do quite a good job over the course of the game, with some of the villains in particular doing an excellent job of being villainous.
The voice work is good throughout and I couldn’t really find any huge issues with it (though maybe the Scottish accents are a little campy for my liking).
Awesomeness: The best part about Bravely Default 2 in my mind is where it comes from and the legacy that it tries to continue. The first Bravely Default was supposed to be a Final Fantasy spin off game called Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and eventually ended up becoming it’s own game and it clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the Final Fantasy series particularly from 3 and 5 in regards to the Job system and being able to change at a moments notice.
Anyone who has ever played a Final Fantasy game before will look at each job and find it immediately recognisable to what they’ve experienced before and typically my favourite JRPG’s have had a job system that allows you to change into cool new classes with entirely new abilities.
It harkens back to a day and age where things were just more simple from a gameplay perspective, no need to remember button combinations and no need to map every button on a controller to do something different you have a basic turn based system with a twist and a job system that fits in flawlessly. It’s something I adore about the franchise and hope that they continue to build on this as they go on.
Final Word: Bravely Default 2 is a game that hasn’t really changed much over any of it’s previous iterations and is a game that says “I don’t need to change much”. They are appealing to an audience that want that 90’s JRPG experience and I don’t know how much more they can add to that experience in order to keep it true to it’s roots but moving the series forward.
The game is still great, but I don’t know if I will say the same thing to Bravely Default 3 without some form of change to shake the series up a little as it stands this is a really solid game that any JRPG fan owes it to themselves to play and is a must own for anyone who has not experienced part of the Bravely franchise before, especially if you’re a fan of the old school style Final Fantasy games like 3 or 5.
Out of 5 Bugs!