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Bravely Second: End Layer Improves on Bravely Default in Almost Every Single Way (Review)

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Square Enix is a company famous for their brilliance in creating JRPG series—
Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts to name their most popular. But every now and then they experiment with new IP, often drawing heavily from their previous games; such was the case with the Nintendo 3DS title Bravely Default. Initially planned as a sequel to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light, Bravely Default saw the player exploring the vast world of Luxendarc, restoring the four sacred crystals, and unlocking a variety of jobs akin to the job systems of Final Fantasy III and V. Four years after its initial release, Bravely Second: End Layer takes that exact same game and improves on it in almost every single way.

Unlike most Square Enix JRPG sequels,
Bravely Second is a true sequel to the original game. It’s set in that same world of Luxendarc two and a half years after the events of Bravely Default and retains many elements of its predecessor. Familiar friends and foes—including much of the original cast—are found scattered about the overworld, and it often comes as quite a pleasant surprise to encounter characters from the previous game. Yet despite reusing characters, enemies, and locations like this, Bravely Second does not feel lazy or unimaginative. Instead, these reappearances make the game feel more like a direct sequel, as the entire world has been impacted by the past few years.

Those who have played the demo of Bravely Second will be familiar with some of the story’s main characters: Yew Geniolgia, Nikolai Nikolanikov, and Janne Angard, three members of the Musketeers of the Crystal Orthodoxy. These three serve as the main characters in the demo (which, by the way, contains essential story elements for those playing the main game, so go play it if you haven’t already), with Yew leading the trio in their adventure. Come the main game of Bravely Second, Yew serves as the title’s protagonist. He’s a foolhardy, cowardly, and stubborn character with massive dedication to his family, country, and the beliefs of the Crystal Orthodoxy…as well as a massive fan of “gravy” puns, oddly enough. Nikolai and Janne also return for the main game, serving as two of the many “asterisk holders” that can be found throughout the world.

From the beginning of the game, it’s made clear that the enemy is none other than Kaiser Oblivion, leader of vast military forces and commander of a crystalline airship known as The Skyhold. Having captured the vestal Anges Oblige, Pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, the Kaiser plans to use her to reactivate Luxendarc’s four crystals (and if you’ve played the first game, you know exactly what happens when they’re activated). Charged with the mission of protecting Anges, protagonist Yew takes it upon himself to follow the Skyhold across Luxendarc in an attempt to defeat the Kaiser and his army.

Certainly adding to the quirkiness of Bravely Second is the character Magnolia Arch, a self-entitled “Ba’al Buster” (yes, that joke is made a LOT)—a seasoned warrior once responsible for the defense of Fort Lune, a fortress on the Moon which has been destroyed by a Ba’al (a mythical, interdimensional beast). Magnolia vows revenge on the creature who ravaged her home, which, conveniently, is found aboard the primary antagonist’s fortress, the Skyhold.

Not only does this lead to Magnolia joining Yew in his quest, but the ruins of Fort Lune can be rebuilt over time by recruiting others via online or StreetPass. Rebuilding Fort Lune unlocks parts for special moves, similar to the minigame of rebuilding Norende in the original game. Though optional, progressing through this minigame is essential for players wanting to make use of some of the most powerful moves in
Bravely Second.

In addition to these tasks, players have the option to complete various other sidequests as the story progresses—these are important, as completion often unlocks new jobs to be used by the party. Anyone who has played the original game will be familiar with the
Bravely Second‘s job system. Asterisk holders may be defeated as either a boss or an optional sidequest, unlocking the holder’s job and allowing it to be used by the player’s team. This job system is heavily customizable, as the player can combine abilities and skills from other jobs, creating an entirely unique roster for their group.

An amazing array of jobs, thirty in total, allows for each player to develop their own method of battle. Among the standard JRPG jobs such as white/black/red mage, thief, and monk, there are also scattered a variety of obscure and downright ridiculous jobs to unlock. A few examples of this include the Catmancer, which uses feline powers and cat food to obtain enemy skills, akin to the Beastmaster of many other games; the Patissier, which quite literally tosses deadly desserts at the enemy, inflicting a variety of status effects to enfeeble enemies; and arguably the most unique of all jobs, the Exorcist, which, upon KO, does not die but instead enters a ghost state that allows the player to continue using certain actions while still at 0hp. With such a sheer diversity of jobs, no two players will have the same combination of characters.

Yet another returning element from the original game is arguably its most notable: the combat system. Players can choose to “brave” to receive an additional action that same turn, or they can “default” and accumulate Brave Points to allow several actions the following turn. Fans of this innovative combat system and traditional turn-based combat will be pleased to see it return all but unchanged in
Bravely Second. That said, there are several inclusions to this game which make combat a much easier, more fluid experience.

For instance, grinding for experience has become a staple in almost all role-playing games, and Bravely Second is no different. Taking a different approach, though, Bravely Second allows the player to string together battles, multiplying earned currency (Pg), experience, and job points. This feature comes as a massive convenience to those not fond of grinding, as defeating enemies in a single turn triggers the option for another battle, which not only adds on rewards but multiplies them depending on how many battles are fought in succession. This is made even easier by the auto-battle system, which now allows the entire party to assign actions that can quickly be chosen during combat. This feature comes as somewhat of a double-edged sword, however: grinding becomes a much less arduous process, but it can easily be abused to gain levels much faster than the game progresses. If repeatedly using this system to grind, the game’s difficulty rapidly drops as the player becomes over-leveled, possibly even making it so most bosses can be defeated in a single turn. Use of the battle-chaining is completely optional, though, so it is up to the player whether it is used or abused.

In terms of design,
Bravely Second is just as brilliant as the original game. Character models, while not incredibly detailed, have significant emotion and charm, playing quite an important role as much of the game is spent listening to conversations between party members. Towns have a beautiful storybook appearance, dungeon design is incredibly varied, and some battle screens are especially gorgeous (most notably those while fighting Ba’als). The soundtrack, now composed by Ryo of J-pop group “Supercell,” makes for some epic battle themes and emotional music, though it isn’t quite as polished or catchy as its predecessor. And for those wanting a break from the game’s story, an additional minigame named “Chompcraft” sees the game’s four protagonists taking time out to…make plushies. It’s an absolutely ridiculous optional extra, but you’ll likely invest a few hours into Chompcraft and make a few thousand Pg as a result, which is helpful early on in the game. Though quite outlandish, there’s a certain charm in seeing your party slave away making adorable monster plushies ad nauseam.

The Verdict: A Fantastic Sequel

Overall, Bravely Second: End Layer is an incredibly satisfying return to the whimsical high fantasy world of Luxendarc. With fanservice aplenty, those who have played the original will make the most of this brilliant role-playing game. While taking approximately 50 hours to reach 100% completion, there is rarely a dull moment among its lengthy and intricate story. A highly customizable and unique battle system, an incredible cast of characters, and a sprawling fantasy world to explore make Bravely Second an essential 3DS game for any role-playing game fan.


Thanks to Ben S. for writing this guest review!

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Our Verdict
Bravely Second: End Layer
Lengthy, in-depth story with incredibly unique characters; Many assets reused from the original game without making the game feel bland; Improvements to combat, making grinding much less tedious; One incredibly addicting minigame
Linear story progression, with many invisible walls prevent the player from exploring new areas; Plot can be hard to follow at times; Must play the original to make the most of Bravely Second
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Tyler Meehan
Tyler is verbose. He apologizes for that. Tyler "Alpha" Meehan's first experiences with gaming came from his cousins' NES and the Mario games that went with it. They were fun, but merely brief distractions while on the road (yes, they had an NES in their car. It was awesome, and he was jealous). Still, nothing compared to his Star Wars books. OR SO HE THOUGHT. His love of gaming truly began when he and a friend came together to beat the Nintendo 64's Mission: Impossible, a challenge so intense that Tyler bought his own console to facilitate its defeat. Upon being introduced to Ocarina of Time (an introduction that included, among other spoilers, the freakin' final boss fight. GEEZ, PHILIP), his lot in life as a Nintendo fanboy was sealed in stone. His ability to recall absolutely useless video game information served him well during the Pokémon craze, and helped him aid numerous friends in their own endeavors to defeat games like Majora's Mask and Kingdom Hearts. Those were good days. Good days... The Zelda series soon became his primary obsession fascination, but additionally he was soon introduced to text-based RPGs by one of his schoolmates. Discovering that he had a knack for the English language and a strong love of telling stories, he started putting effort into writing his own storylines. That all got put onto the backburner, though, when he discovered the Zelda online community, particularly The Desert Colossus's Hyrule Adventures 2, an online text RPG based in the Zelda world. He joined under the pseudonym of "Alpha" and soon became one of their lead writers, going so far as to join the moderator staff and, in a year's time, become the head administrator of the RPG. During this time, Twilight Princess was released, and he joined several other TDCers in posting their thoughts on the game - his "Twilight Impression Posts" lasted for several months and were well received by the community. Staying on even after the webmaster was forced to retire, he continued to provide occasional news posts and articles for the site, until it became clear that the site was dying. He turned his focus back to Hyrule Adventures 2 and his college studies, until the latter forced him to stop work on the former. Tyler graduated a few years ago from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelors in Computer Science, and now serves as a software engineer for a rather large company that he doesn't feel like telling you all about (he's a jerk like that sometimes). His love of gaming and writing still strong, he joined the Zelda Informer staff in early 2013 to write a walkthrough for The Wind Waker, but later began using his English skills to become ZI and Gamnesia's first dedicated Copy Editor. When not trying to get Brian to shut up in Gamnesia's group chat, he spends his time writing Zelda fanfiction, planning some original fantasy stories that he may or may not try to publish some day, and playing games on his Wii, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo 3DS. He intends to get a WiiU sooner or later, probably around when Pikmin 3 comes out, but has little interest in the other consoles currently. Also, he can't stand writing bios in first-person. Talking about yourself like that is just...weird.

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