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REVIEW / Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS)

 

Bravely Second: End Layer is the sequel to Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, Square Enix’s surprisingly successful RPG hit on the Nintendo 3DS. And unlike it’s predecessor’s much-criticized latter half, the end of Bravely Second doesn’t involve repeating the same ritual more than 10 times and playing dumb in order to progress the plot. If this is hindering your ability to purchase or pre-order Bravely Second: End Layer, please go right ahead and forget about it because I promise nothing like that happens. And if you don’t give a flying fairy about some minor spoilers, please go right ahead and read on.

 

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Two and a half years after the events of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, the player in control of a new character: Yew Geneolgia, one of the knights of the Crystalguard sworn to protect the world’s new religious leader Agnès Oblige. The game opens in a battle against the mysterious Kaiser Oblivion and his companion the cryst-fairy Anne. After the party predictably loses, Agnès is stolen by Kaiser and Yew sets off to rescue her and defeat Mr Oblivion. Along the way he teams up with Edea Lee, Magnolia Arch – a Ba’al Buster (*snerk*) from the moon – and later Tiz Arrior once he’s been woken up from his 2.5 year stasis.

Edea is just as enjoyable and gluttonous as she was in the first game. Magnolia is romantic and speaks French, which is apparently the native language of the moon. While both of these traits in an RPG character should put you on guard, I can assure you that these are not a detriment to the game. Yew doesn’t particularly stand out as he’s a pretty standard idealistic young knight, but nor is he boring or unbearable. In the first game, I found Tiz and Agnès to have all the personality of two bags of wet sand, but both seem to have turned it around in this game, Tiz in particular.

 

Party, party!

Party, party!

 

A big part of Bravely Default’s early game involved rebuilding Tiz’s hometown of Norende, which awarded you items and power-ups in addition to all the good karma. So where’s your rebuilding sidequest in Bravely Second? Magnolia is in Luxendarc because a specific Ba’al destroyed her base on the moon, which you must now rebuild. Rebuilding the moon works the same way as rebuilding Norende in the first game. In addition, you can send Ba’als that are hanging around your specific moon to other players you encounter.

You also have a ship that you can use to wear down the Ba’als on your own moon so you can fight them at a lower level. This can be done extra quickly if you encounter Nintendo friends with the game via streetpass, because their ships will then become available for you to use to whittle down the Ba’al defences). These enemies are worth a lot of job points, experience and money and are very easy to take down at level one. They’re also very fun to look at – they’re super hideous but have really unique designs. This is great for grinding levels and classes in the early game and the Ba’al battle theme is probably one of the best tracks in the entire game.

 

The Urchin - A Technicolour Dream Bug

The Urchin – A Technicolour Dream Bug

 

Speaking of music, the soundtrack in Bravely Second: End Layer is unfortunately lacking when compared to the first game. It’s not bad, per se, but there’s only one track that has made its way into my usual music rotation, and that’s the aforementioned Ba’al battle theme. Even the special move themes aren’t particularly exciting, nor do they appear to differentiate much between the four party members.  The new themes aren’t bad by any means, but they don’t really stand out and the majority of them are fairly samey electric guitar-based compositions. You revisit a lot of areas from the first game in addition to some brand new ones, and thus old environmental tracks are used here to no particular detriment.

Regarding reuse of assets, with the exception of a few early-game areas from Bravely Default such as Caldisla and Norende, you’ll be retracing a lot of old turf on your search for Agnès. One upside to that is that even before you get your first boat or airship, you’ll notice that there’s a little pig in each town. Speak to the pig and lo and behold: fast travel to previously visited locations! That’s right! Despite the reuse of old environments (including dungeons), fast travel is certainly a large improvement and a mechanic I used well after I had received my airship.

I was elected to lead, not to ...mediate

I was elected to lead, not to …mediate

Bravely Second offers a total of 30 classes, which is comprised of 12 brand new classes and a choice of 18 classes present in the first game. The side stories in End Layer involve Edea and the rest of the party settling a dispute between two asterisk holders from the first game. Naturally, after choosing one person’s side, a fight between you and the other asterisk holder ensues. You only get the asterisk of the person you disagree with, so you must choose wisely. While you can simply choose whichever asterisk you like better, the situation surrounding the dispute may make you think twice before simply taking this approach.

Bravely Second has made many of their new classes work as near-parallels to some old classes such as White Mage with specific differences. If you choose one asterisk over the other in a side story, that doesn’t necessarily leave you at a crippling disadvantage later in the game. Lastly, all of the old job classes have been updated in one way or another, so you may find new life in old favourites or find something useful in an old class that you didn’t like in Bravely Default. But wait, didn’t the asterisk holders die when you fought them in Bravely Default? Yes, they did, and the game offers no explanation for why they’re alive and well, which feels a bit cheap.

 

Hope you're feeling...brave

Hope you’re feeling…brave

 

 

In terms of battle gameplay, everything is more or less the same as the first game, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The Brave and Default systems are just as fun as they were before, and a few of the new classes allow you to do interesting things with BP – both to yours and that of the enemies. By leveling-up special move stores on the Moon, you can unlock triggers for your special moves, which is a great improvement from the weapon-based special move requirements from the first game. The available special moves are still determined by which weapon your character is wielding, but you are able to select what sets off the various levels (i.e. the Magic trigger will require using magic 10/15/20/25 times to unlock the various levels of special moves for use while the Attacker trigger requires inflicting damage X number of times). There are a wide variety of Triggers to choose from once you’ve maxed out the relevant stores, which allows for greater customisation depending on your combination of equipped abilities and classes.

For those who like an easier grind, there is now a “Once More” mechanic which allows you to take on another group of enemies immediately after your first battle. Your brave points, HP and MP remain as they were at the end of the previous battle, but you are rewarded with a multiplier (which caps at 3x) on your pg, experience and job points. My only problem with this is that money and experience don’t appear to have a cap, but job points cap at 999, which sort of slows things down if you’re only trying to grind job classes.

 

 

I heard fairies were popular in the first game, so I went and got myself one

I heard fairies were popular in the first game, so I went and got myself one

 

Moving on to storyline, I found the narrative in Bravely Second to be fairly enjoyable. There’s a lot of enjoyable fluff in Party Chat, side stories and the new tent events where characters interact in Yew’s bigger-on-the-inside tent he inherited from his father. I will admit that some of the conversations are still a little janky and the humour can elicit thoughts of “Oh yes, this is a funny part, I acknowledge that” rather than genuine amusement. The characters are endearing, but not to the point that you’ll shed a tear over any of the sad parts in the game.

Having had some time to reflect, I would probably say that Bravely Default’s storyline was more enjoyable, though both games suffer from a similar issue where final plot twists come way too late and yet are treated with the same severity and reverence given to game-long foes and obstacles. Also returning for the sequel, horribly punny NPC names, micro transactions for SP drinks, an incorrectly pronounced names, though this last complaint is likely due to Square Enix not localizing this installment. Though noticeable, this did not hamper my enjoyment of the game as a whole.

 

You'll want to find this place. Trust me.

You’ll want to find this place. Trust me.

 

Bravely Second: End Layer was a whirlwind of fun and I didn’t find that the game slowed or dragged at all during my play-through. It took exactly one month and one day for me to complete the game, and that’s including the week I spent grinding job classes and levels each night and not actually progressing the storyline. I clocked just shy of 100 hours on End Layer and enjoyed the party composition and battle system immensely.

That being said, the game hasn’t really done anything particularly new or innovative compared to the first game. The storyline is a pretty average affair but the characters are what make it shine. The music also let me down quite a lot, though there are still quite a few brilliant compositions in the mix. Side-stories in this game felt more genuine and were much more interesting than in the first game. Despite the blatant asset reuse (albeit with some significant upgrades in some cases), it was fun to revisit some old faces.

 

You'll burn through this game like Magnolia through basically anything

You’ll burn through this game like Magnolia through basically anything

 

Bravely Second is an above-average game whose art, characters, story and gameplay elements give players a solid and enjoyable RPG experience without stretching too far from the first game’s success. Better innovation and originality in the storyline would have seen the game reap a higher score. Considering how much I enjoyed the game, I want to give it a higher score, but certain flaws did drag it down. Bravely Second: End Layer will be released on April 16th in North America. For the rest of the world, the game is currently available, so I  demand you go and purchase it – friends of the first game and newcomers alike will enjoy this entry into the Bravely series, though an understanding of the first game will make for a more rewarding experience.

 

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