Bravely Default II – Review
Follow Genre: RPG, JRPG
Developer: Claytechworks, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix, Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Bravely Default II – Review

Site Score
9.3
Good: Perhaps the best JRPG currently available on the Switch
Bad: Poor audio quality in handheld mode
User Score
8.3
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.3/10 (3 votes cast)

It’s been almost nine years since Square Enix introduced the world to Bravely Default on the 3DS. Originally intended as a Final Fantasy spinoff, the game grew into a standalone series, debuting to critical acclaim and warranting a direct sequel, also on the 3DS. Now, Bravely Default makes the jump to the Switch, with Bravely Default II. We’re taking a look at this latest entry in the series to find out whether this is a JRPG title worth adding to your library.

Story

In Bravely Default II, players join protagonist Seth, who washes up on the shores of the land of Excillant after his ship is wrecked in a massive storm. After being found by princess Gloria, who turns out to be the driving force behind the main plot of the game, Seth finds himself joined by a band of adventures, including Scottish-accented mage Elvis and intrepid mercenary Astelle. Each party member has their own goals that they pursue but their fates are intertwined, giving credible reasons for this band of misfits to team up. The main plot revolves around the fallen kingdom of Musa, and its connection to the four elemental crystals that have gone missing. After Musa fell and the crystals disappeared, chaos wreaked havoc across the land, and now it is up to Gloria to track down the crystals, restore Musa to its former glory and save the world, with the aid of Seth and his friends. Most of the story itself is told through lengthy dialogue scenes, and while these can feel a bit stretched out at times, they are well-written for the most part and really flesh out the characters.

Square Enix has built up a bit of a habit when it comes to slapping confusing names on the sequels of their games, and Bravely Default II isn’t an exception. This is actually the third game in the series, rather than the second one, with 2015’s Bravely Second being the direct sequel to the original Bravely Default. Bravely Default II actually isn’t a sequel to the first game, and instead introduces a brand new storyline and an original cast of characters. While this can be confusing, rest assured newcomers can just jump into the storyline without the need of having to play the predecessors.

Graphics

It’s hard not to be impressed by Bravely Default II’s visuals. The world itself looks gorgeous, with hand-drawn elements rendered into semi-3D environments, and the signature semi-chibified look that was so effective in the 3DS games really coming into its own in the higher-res versions on the Switch. Admittedly, the game’s framerate isn’t as silky smooth as it should be all the time, and if you’re looking close, you’ll see some jagged edges here and there, but overall, this is a beautiful looking game. For the most part, this is because the game knows what its visual strengths are and how to use its aesthetics to the fullest. Character designs are deliberately cartoonish and exaggerated, adding a layer of personality to the individuals that goes beyond dialogue and voice acting. Whether it’s the eclectic cast or the enormous menagerie, which comprises everything from puny goblins to massive dragons, every element present is sure to leave a lasting impression. The game’s visuals are simplistic, yet never feel oversimplified, striking the right balance between the Switch’s graphical processing power and deliberate design choices.

Sound

Apart from the beautiful OST, delivered by famous Japanese composer Revo, the game also features fantastic voice acting for the majority of its story scenes. We had some issues with the overall audio quality in handheld mode, with the sounds coming from our Switch’s speaker sounding not as clear as we’re used to, but headphones mitigated this, and in docked mode the audio was crystal-clear.

Gameplay

Let’s not beat around the bush here: Bravely Default II offers one of the best JRPG experiences available on the Switch. This isn’t Square Enix’ first rodeo of course, and the previous titles have proven that the Bravely Default series’ system simply works, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the end product here is a masterfully crafted example of the genre. One thing to keep in mind here is that if you do decide to sink your teeth into Bravely Default II, you’re in it for the long run. You can easily put dozens of hours into the main quest alone, and if you add in the many side quests, you’re looking at upwards of a hundred hours.

The main story sees you track down the crystals, ultimately achieving Gloria’s goal of rebuilding Musa and Seth discovering his destiny. The rest of the cast is fleshed out in the sidequests, many of which are also fully voice acted and scripted. The majority of these are well worth sniffing out, as you’ll not only be rewarded with items and experience, but you’ll also find yourself growing more attached to the members of your party. Admittedly, some of the side quests can feel a bit like filler, especially in the early stages of the game, including the obligatory fetch quests or the “kill x monster” quests, but you can easily ignore these if you want to and instead go for the ones that seem more interesting. It’s all par for the course, and the game would feel a lot emptier without these filler quests, so we can’t quite fault Square Enix for including them.

The Bravely Default series’ standout feature is its unique combat system, and Bravely Default II is another showcase of how well designed it is. For the uninitiated, Bravely Default’s combat system is built around classic turn-based fights where your party faces off against a group of enemies. The twist here is in the “Brave” and “Default” actions, which shake up the turn order. Using Brave, you can take your turn earlier, attacking multiple times before you would normally be able to. The caveat here is that Brave needs to be refreshed, meaning that if you’ve used your Brave actions and the enemies haven’t been slain yet, you’re going to have to face multiple turns of attacks from them while you refresh your Brave points. Default works the other way round, putting you in a defensive stance and allowing you to perform multiple actions later on. The key to mastering these stances is in having your party members synergize, unleashing devastating move combos by timing your actions correctly.

There is a wealth of weapons, spells and abilities to unleash upon the various enemies, giving seasoned players plenty of options. Add to this that enemies have unique weaknesses and things become really interesting and fun for those seeking to unleash the deadliest combos. One thing to keep in mind here is that having the right party setup is much more important than having leveled characters, and this is where jobs come into play. Jobs are Bravely Default’s version of character classes, and each character can have up to two jobs, with their main job earning job experience, whereas the secondary job allows you to combine class abilities in order to improve a party member’s overall versatility. There is a sheer infinite amount of combinations that allow for even more varied combat strategies. The combat system is incredibly satisfying once it clicks. The only nitpick we have is that the game can get a bit grindy if you’re fighting enemies for XP, but even this is mitigated by the fact that you can increase combat speed at the push of a button.

There are other elements in play here to reduce the speed of grinding as well. Apart from the aforementioned speed increase, you can set party members to repeat the same action automatically, for example. Fighting stronger enemies will reward so-called Underdog bonuses and there are items that will allow you to net even more exp by chaining attacks together. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the exploration feature, where you can have your party go on off-screen expeditions while you are off doing other things in the real world, like studying, working or sleeping. Expeditions can take up to twelve hours and this idle mode will reward you with items. While an expedition will never see your party gain a huge boost, the small benefits that you get from them do add up over time, so it’s nice to see this feature.

It all adds up to a game that is a must-have title for the library of any JRPG fan, and even those that aren’t all that invested in the genre should at least take a look at Bravely Default II’s free demo. Apart from our earlier nitpicks, perhaps the game’s only real flaw is that it plays things a bit too safe: while what we’re getting here is a streamlined and polished JRPG, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table compared to the original Bravely Default, apart from the improved visuals that are a result of the hardware. If you were looking for Bravely Default II to revolutionize the series, then you’ll be disappointed. If you were hoping for the series to continue to deliver a high quality experience, however, then you’ll be very satisfied with this entry.

Conclusion

We could go on and on about Bravely Default II, because it really is that good of a game, and it’s impossible to explain all of the game’s finer mechanics, such as weapon speed, in a review of a reasonable length. While this may make the game seem bloated and overwhelming, rest assured that for a large part, you can simply pick and mix the elements that work for you and still come out victorious without having to min-max your party. Friendly to newcomers and satisfying for series veterans alike, Bravely Default II is perhaps the best JRPG you can pick up on Switch. While it doesn’t thread any new paths, what is present here is so polished and streamlined that we feel almost obliged to tell you to pick up this game right now (or at least give the demo a shot).

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Rating: 8.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Bravely Default II - Review, 8.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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