Bravely Default II on Switch
With the original game being one of the very best JRPGs you could play on the Nintendo 3DS (with a sequel quickly releasing after that), it’s no surprise that Square Enix would eventually bring the Bravely Default franchise back, bigger and better than ever before. Bravely Default II marks the official return of the series and its debut on the Switch, and it’s (almost) everything you could’ve hoped for.
The setup is as ‘classic RPG’ as it gets. Seth, a sailor who gets shipwrecked on an unknown continent, is quickly chosen to become a Hero of Light when he meets Princess Gloria of the fallen kingdom of Musa, as well as two other companions: Elvis and Adelle. Gloria is on a quest to recover the four magical crystals so that she can restore her kingdom’s glory, while Elvis is searching for Asterisks (read: job stones), and Adelle’s trying to find her missing sister.
As basic as it all sounds, all four characters end up having surprising depth to them as the story unfolds, and their motivations intertwine together in a way that’s satisfying by the end of the journey. It certainly helps that their personalities play off each other well, with Elvis being the cheerful hype man of the party and constantly butting heads with the irritable Adelle, while Gloria just watches with amusement.
The little party chat vignettes are also back, where you can tap the + button whenever the prompt shows up to see what your party members have to say about how the main story is progressing, or what they think about whichever side quest you’re currently tackling. You get a lot of character development just through the main story cutscenes, but it’s the vignettes that really bring them to life.
It could be something as simple as Adelle forcing Gloria into a drawing competition with Seth roped in as their model, or Adelle sheepishly admitting that that the reason why she’s so attached to a pair of shoes is because Elvis fixed them up for her when they first met. These characters are all endearing in their own way, and the side quests and little vignettes really help their personalities to shine through.
It’s the character interactions and dynamics that make Bravely Default II worth playing through, even in its most grueling moments. And trust me, this game gets grueling.
We’ll start with the combat system, which is almost completely identical to the one that got introduced in the original 3DS game. Bravely Default II makes use of a classic turn-based combat system, but with an innovative twist.
You can choose to Brave, which lets you borrow a turn in advance and take an extra action, or Default, which lets you adopt a defensive stance and store up an additional turn. There are huge risks to Braving; doing so can put you at a turn deficit, which leaves you vulnerable until your Brave Points (BP) get back up to zero.
Alternatively, being patient and Defaulting can let you store up to three additional turns, and you can then unleash all of them in one fell swoop for big damage. Of course, this requires you to be patient and can prolong the battle needlessly.
To make things even more interesting, enemies and bosses can make use of this system as well, forcing you to really weigh the pros and cons of Braving or Defaulting in each turn.
After completing the prologue, Bravely Default II seriously starts to step up the difficulty, with dungeons getting gradually longer and bosses getting even more punishing. By the time you hit the final stretch of the game, the dungeons start to seriously drag as you’re trudging through, beating up regular mobs and just hoping that you’ll stumble upon a checkpoint or save point soon.
And when you do finally reach the end of a dungeon, you’re greeted with a boss fight that goes hard. You’ll have a fairly easy time in the prologue and the first half of chapter 1, but past that, be prepared to face most bosses at least twice.
Not only are the bosses powerful, pretty much all of them have the ability to counter most of your actions. Choosing to Default? The boss counters by automatically gaining one BP. Use a White Mage ability? The boss counters by casting a party-wide spell on you that debilitates you in some sadistic way.
The good news is that the game always tries to give you a way to fight back against a boss’s counters. Each town has a store that offers new accessories that are often useful against the bosses in that area, and it would certainly be wise to check them out if you find yourself repeatedly dying to the same boss.
And if the main bosses aren’t enough of a challenge for you, there are quite a few optional mini-bosses in dungeons and the overworld that will give you a run for your money. In short, Bravely Default II definitely isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s tough and grueling, and every fight requires a good amount of thought and preparation.
The game never fails to reward you for your efforts, though, as every boss fight comes with an Asterisk for your characters. Asterisks are essentially job stones, and these are the heart of Bravely Default II. They’re what makes the combat system tick and the reason why the game feels so satisfying to play.
Right from the start, the game wastes no time at literally throwing tons of new jobs at you every couple hours or so. You’ll start with the basics like Black Mage and White Mage, then start getting the more interesting ones like Bard and Beastmaster after that. And then you start getting even more interesting and obscure ones like Pictomancer (a nice throwback to Final Fantasy VI), Salve-maker and Spiritmaster.
With the number of jobs you have at your disposal, there are so many party combinations you can experiment with to make your playthrough feel truly unique. There are some jobs that will perform better than others against certain bosses; for instance, the White/Black Mage combo on Gloria is a mainstay in my party and it’s useful in almost every given scenario. But every job is viable in some way or another, offering players a lot of replay value.
The jobs all come with passive abilities as well, which can be assigned to your characters even if you don’t have the associated job equipped. This allows you to mix and match a variety of passives from different jobs to create a truly unstoppable party, and that’s likely how you’ll spend the bulk of your playtime: grinding out Job Points so you can max out jobs for all your characters and learn the important passives.
I will say, however, that trying to level up your jobs is a massive pain. Each job maxes out at level 12, but once you’ve gotten past the 7 or 8 threshold, you need to accummulate a significantly larger amount of JP to reach the next level. There are consumables and other battle mechanics that can help expedite the process a little, but it’s still extremely time-consuming.
It got to the point where by the time I hit the 35 hour mark, I was burned out from trying to see what every job in the game had to offer, and I was eventually deterred from shaking up my party combination and opted to just stick with the same handful of jobs that were working for me.
You’re probably meant to experiment in subsequent playthroughs, but for those who only want to play this game once (and it’s not exactly a short game either), it can be discouraging to see how much time you need to put in to unlock the full potential of a single class.
That being said, if you do intend on playing this game multiple times, experimenting with different combinations will give you a fresh experience that can be very enjoyable.
Bravely Default II doesn’t exactly break new ground in the saturated JRPG genre, but instead refines and iterates upon the foundation of the genre itself and the combat system that was introduced in the first game. It’s a marked improvement over its predecessors in many ways, and most importantly, it’s JRPG comfort food for genre fans.
Bravely Default II can get frustrating at times, but it more than makes up for that by being endlessly charming and endearing, and remains a joy to play through from start to finish.
- The risk/reward factor keeps the combat system feeling fresh and fun.
- Tons of different jobs to experiment with.
- The characters are endearing and lovable.
- The main story setup is a bit cliched, but fun to play through from start to finish.
- The dungeons and bosses get seriously tough and grueling towards the end.
- Trying to max out all your jobs is very time-consuming and can discourage players from experimenting.
Feb. 26, 2021