Bravely Se­cond: End Layer

EDGE - - CONTENTS - De­vel­oper Sil­i­con Stu­dio, Square Enix Pub­lisher Nin­tendo For­mat 3DS Re­lease Out now

We’ve just fought three gi­ant tigers and now an­other four have shown up. Oh, don’t worry – we’ve got this. Af­ter all, Yew’s just putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a se­lec­tion of poi­sonous gateaux to throw in their faces. Magnolia’s well pre­pared for any in­com­ing at­tacks, as­sum­ing the de­fen­sive po­si­tion of a long-ex­tinct rel­a­tive of the do­mes­tic cow. Our melee at­tacker Tiz has strapped an axe to his head. And Edea? Well, she’s hang­ing back in case she has to res­ur­rect any dead al­lies, though we re­ally wish she’d clean those blood­stains from her trench­coat. At times, Bravely Se­cond seems to take the safest pos­si­ble route for a se­quel, but its idio­syn­cra­sies steadily pile up, build­ing to the stage where you al­most take its weird­ness for granted. And then you re­alise that, yes, you did just send out a cat to put a ro­bot to sleep.

Still, many play­ers will ex­pe­ri­ence an early twinge of dis­ap­point­ment as a bold prologue with a seem­ingly all­new cast turns out to be a sleight of hand, and you find your party of four ex­plor­ing the same world and meet­ing many of the same char­ac­ters as they did in the first game. “By what strange trick of fate do your paths cross anew?” the script asks. Bud­getary con­straints, per­haps? A short­ened de­vel­op­ment cy­cle? What­ever the Of­fen­sive magic is a more valid op­tion than be­fore. The Astrolo­gian’s Pre­sience abil­ity en­sures sup­port spells are cast at the be­gin­ning of a turn, while the Ghost sta­tus still al­lows the af­flicted party mem­ber to use magic rea­sons for re­vis­it­ing Lux­en­darc, it turns out not to be such a bad idea af­ter all. The new ar­eas are ev­ery bit as at­trac­tive as the more fa­mil­iar lo­cales, while ad­di­tional dun­geons boast more strik­ing aes­thet­ics and lay­outs than their pre­de­ces­sors. Not for­get­ting, of course, the pres­ence of a bath­house that dou­bles as an air­ship.

Those won­der­fully flex­i­ble com­bat me­chan­ics haven’t changed much. Each round still sees you choose be­tween boldly spend­ing sev­eral turns at once, leav­ing your­self open to at­tack from any en­e­mies you didn’t fin­ish off, and as­sum­ing a de­fen­sive stance to ei­ther store them up for a later blitz or for the space to patch up the in­jured or en­fee­bled. Twelve new jobs af­ford you more tac­ti­cal op­tions – a wel­come but hardly rev­e­la­tory evo­lu­tion – but the abil­ity to chain bat­tles to mul­ti­ply re­wards in­cen­tivises the dis­cov­ery of ef­fi­ca­cious com­bi­na­tions. Like, you know, quad-wield­ing nin­jas.

With a story that avoids the orig­i­nal’s lapses into lech­ery, vi­gnettes that add char­ac­ter to your heroic four­some, and some le­git­i­mately thought­ful ide­o­log­i­cal dilem­mas, you’ll find your­self less tempted to skip to the ac­tion. And if the orig­i­nal’s dar­ing fi­nal-act gam­bit proved po­lar­is­ing, the late-game shift here man­ages to have a sim­i­lar im­pact with­out feel­ing like a cost-sav­ing ex­er­cise. As a se­quel, Bravely Se­cond’s steps for­ward at first seem small and ten­ta­tive, but cu­mu­la­tively they amount to a cap­ti­vat­ing fol­low-up.

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