Every once in a while, a game comes along that you just click with from the very beginning, and you can tell it’s going to be something extremely special. Bravely Second: End Layer, is one of these games, and is arguably one of the finest games on the 3DS.
Bravely Second follows on from 2012’s Bravely Default, and does so incredibly well. In this direct sequel, Yew, Tiz, Edea and newcomer Magnolia embark on a quest to stop a mysterious enemy by the name of Kaiser Oblivion after he kidnaps Agnes, seeking to destroy the world in which they are living. Despite being a direct sequel, the game is incredibly inviting to newcomers such as myself, by offering a detailed cutscene at the beginning of the game which explains the events of the first game, so that the events of this game which rely on knowledge of the first aren’t lost on newcomers. Obviously though, if you plan to play this but haven’t finished the first game, then it’s best to finish that before playing, as the cutscene at the beginning spoils the ending of Bravely Default.
Bravely Second’s cast of protagonists (luckily) are an extremely likeable lot, with each party member having their own little quirks that develop throughout the course of the game. Yew and his obsession with gravy makes for some hilarious dialogue throughout the course of Bravely Second, with “Coup De Gravy” being a personal favourite of mine, having me laughing multiple times throughout the course of the game.
You will see the relationships between the party members develop throughout the course of the game in cutscenes that take place inside Yew’s tent, activated by speaking to a helpful fox, usually towards the end of a dungeon. In the cutscenes, the party will usually be doing something extremely normal, such as making food or cleaning, however it is in the dialogue that the character development comes out. Yew is revealed to be a fantastic cook, Magnolia is revealed to have feelings for Yew after the latter gives her a flower at their first meeting, Edea is a bossy mother like figure and Tiz… well, Tiz just seems happy to be there.
Bravely Second features some of the most helpful abilities when it comes to its random battles to allow you to level up, all of which I would like to see become common place in other RPGs. By pressing the R shoulder button, the ability to increase encounter rate on the world map makes its welcome return, in a much easier to reach place, as well as autobattle settings to choose commands for any battles. The ability to speed up the battle to 4x its normal speed also returns, so by coupling 4x speed, 100% increased encounter rate and an autobattle setting of each member using the Brave mechanic to attack for 4 turns each, grinding for experience becomes an easy task instead of an unnecessary chore.
The battle system within Bravely Second is extremely easy to master as well, being simple enough for anybody to understand, but deep enough to allow more experienced players to manipulate to their advantage. Each attack uses up 1BP (Battle Point), which regenerates after each turn. Using the returning Brave and Default mechanic, attacks can be either stacked at the cost of an extra BP per attack stacked up to a maximum or 4, or halted using the Default mechanic, which stacks your BP to allow you to release a powerful attack and not have to wait for your BP to regenerate. It also makes you take less damage, so is more useful against bosses than regular enemies.
If you manage to complete a battle on the first turn, you will have the option to face more enemies immediately after the battle, which gives you a boost to your rewards. However, this comes at a price since any BP you spent during the previous battle won’t be regenerated, which makes for a high risk/reward factor early on in the game. Stat increases go at 1x, 1.5x, 1.8x, 2x, 2.2x and 2.5x from what I’ve been able to achieve for myself, and affect money earned as well as experience and job points gained, and as such a good chain can bring in some extremely useful rewards.
Over the course of the game, Yew and the gang will encounter literally hundreds of different enemies, with information on each being stored in Yew’s almost Pokedex-style diary, which is updated with more information after each time you beat each enemy. Despite how many enemies there are in the game, even if there are a lot of clone-styled ones, all of them are simply stunning in their design, from the simple apple enemies that you’ll encounter on the over-world all the way up to some of the final bosses – no enemy has been overlooked in the game in terms of design. The rest of the game also looks incredible too, with each town having an almost comic book feel to its design, thanks to the simple 2D art used to create all of the towns.
As has come to be expected from Square-Enix’s RPG offerings, the job mechanic withinBravely Second is extremely deep, and since each job has different attributes it completely affects how you play the game. There are 30 jobs within the game, with each job class having 10 sub levels. As you earn Job Points (JP) from battles, your job level will increase, which allows you to unlock new abilities to use under that job, or equip to your character so that they are usable no matter what job role your character currently is. New job roles are obtained by defeating Asterisk holders, which are boss fights against stronger opponents than usual. Upon defeating them, you will obtain the asterisk to allow you to become that job type, and will be treated to a detailed breakdown of how that job affects a battle, as well as how it affects the weapons that you’re holding. Mixing job classes comes in handy for the later boss fights (I’m currently rocking a team of ninjas, either with healing powers or magic powers) as some enemies become immune to physical attacks, or will counter attack with an extremely powerful attack of their own when hit with one, so experimentation with what job classes work for your set-up are vital.
One of my favourite mechanics within the game is a simple one that is introduced early within the game – the ability to quick warp between different towns using telekinetic pigs. This saves a ton of time travelling on the over-world when your destination is across the other side of the map, and as such can just simply warp to the nearest town to save yourself that journey.
I can’t review this game without mentioning just how good the music is within the game. Composer Ryo and J-Pop band Supercell have produced some fantastic tracks for the game, which complete the immersion within the world. A personal favourite of mine is the main title theme, which is just one of a handful of games that I’ve actually let the music play through fully before starting the game itself, it’s just that good.
Despite how good the game is, I personally found the difficulty settings to be a little off-balance, as it was easy to breeze through most of the game on normal difficulty, however when upping the difficulty to hard, it became far too hard, and I was dying multiple times in battles that I was winning easily on the lower difficulty, normally without even taking any damage.
Overall, Bravely Second: End Layer is a deserving sequel to the first game, taking the basis set out and improving upon it for this new entry. It’s the Final Fantasy-esque the 3DS so rightfully deserves, and a game which I can’t recommend enough for 3DS owners, whether you’re a fan of the RPG genre or are just looking for something with depth for you to play.
Square Enix has provided the 3DS with undoubtedly one of its best games in Bravely Second, with enough substance to keep you returning to it long after you’ve finished the main story.
Review copy provided by Nintendo.