Bravely Second: End Layer
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.