Bravely Default II, just like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, attempts to retain its charm of being a classic JRPG while trying to innovate it for the modern era. It bears the same tropes that we have come to love from the genre. Although, due to the oversaturation of the genre due to so many games released across the past few generations, these tropes tend to feel overplayed now. Bravely Default II attempts to avoid this fate by diversifying its combat with a job system and striving to offer a simple but engaging story.
Bravely Default II is a good reminder of how a classic JRPG will play in a modern environment. The game offers a mix of gorgeous backgrounds that can be traversed by a 3D character model and gives the illusion of them being hand-drawn. Sadly, the use of this artistic style is where Bravely Default II fails to impress, mostly due to how the developers have opted to draw the humans. They are chibi character models that strangely stick out on the gorgeous backgrounds featured in Bravely Default II, however, it doesn’t take long to get used to this odd style. Thankfully, the monsters look great and are often gorgeously animated giving them a look that is reminiscent of the classic Final Fantasy games.
Despite being a sequel, there is actually no need to play through the earlier games aside from seeing how the same gameplay mechanics are introduced in them. This is because the Bravely Default series works similarly to Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. In that sense that the sequels are just loosely connected in general and more often, thematically, while the main characters and locations are completely different. This makes it easier for newcomers to become acquainted with the series because right now the only way to play through the earlier games is to find a Nintendo 3DS and hope that you can grab a copy of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy or its successor.
There is a robust world to explore in Bravely Default II with towns full of NPCs that can often lead to chatter. The core party has an interesting cast and can lead to random conversations that are easy to miss when exploring the world. There are also plenty of side-quests that can be attempted in this open world. The main story objective is your typical good versus evil story while the hero attempts to save the world by defeating evil, so it is not that appealing overall, but the journey that you take is fueled by a combat system that is charming and addictive to a degree. This helps overlook some of the old cliches that the narrative continues to throw your way.
The overworld is mostly a plain map where you can bump into enemies, cut grass to pick up items, or find treasure chests. There are several ways to engage in combat and none of them involve random encounters. You will be able to spot the enemy on-screen and either attempt to sneak on them or use your attack to gain brave points before heading into battle. The battle system is turn-based with its shining star being the Brave and Default system (thus the name Bravely Default). There is a pretty decent tutorial in the opening chapter that details the battle system so whether you need a refresher, or are a newcomer, it will be easy to understand it.
The backbone of the combat loop is turn-based and this applies to both the player and the enemies. During a battle in every turn, the player can use commands like attack, skills, or magic. The brave system gives the ability to execute multiple turns in a row but with a caveat that if too many turns are executed then the player will unable to complete an action the next turn unless they can use the Default command to accumulate more Brave points. Thus despite the turn-based nature of the combat, there are a lot of things to consider in battle including a comprehensive job system.
The lack of random encounters is a good quality-of-life change that helps avoid the usual grind that is associated with JRPGs. Enemies can run away from the player if they are too powerful for them, and similarly, the enemies who are challenging at the current player level appear with a red glow thus making it easier to avoid fighting against them. Overall, the difficulty of the game feels just about right with a mix of challenges in combination with the job and combat system. Another quality-of-life change is the ability to fast-forward through battles and honestly, there is no need to play them at normal speed unless you want to see the same actions getting repeated.
There is a wealth of customization for every character where they can equip different weapons, armor, or accessories. You can find these in treasure chests or buy them from shops in towns. Every character can equip a main job or a sub-job, which are gradually unlocked as you progress through the story. In this way, the player is always left experimenting with different skills to determine the best outcome for their party. Jobs range from the typical white and black mages to vanguard. They are accompanied by their special abilities or magic in addition to perks like doing better damage at night.
I wasn’t blown away by the story in Bravely Default II, but the combat loop is satisfying enough that I never felt bored or the need to stop the game. If we take a look at the Nintendo Switch library, there is no other competitor in my eyes that comes close to the unique experience that we get in Bravely Default II so I will highly recommend getting the game if you are a fan of the classic JRPGs, especially the ones that Square Enix developed during the early Final Fantasy games. Bravely Default II evokes the same feelings in me and this is a good thing after all.
Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher