"Old favorites like the Monk, Knight, and Ninja return along with oddball newcomers like the Cat Master and Patissier. In fact, the mixing of old and new seems to be a constant theme in the game. "
Although Bravely Default was not without its problems, it was heartening to see the quintessence of the Final Fantasy style JRPG distilled into a new IP. Square Enix is seeking to build on that success with Bravely Second: End Layer, which unlike the Final Fantasy franchise from which it drew inspiration, is a direct sequel to its predecessor.
The story is set two and a half years after the ending of Bravely Default. Agnes has been elevated to the position of Pope in the Crystal Orthodoxy and is about to lead the world of Luxendarc to peace by signing an historic treaty with the Duchy of Eternia. However, the ceremony to sign the peace treaty is interrupted by the mysterious, masked man calling himself the Oblivion Emperor
. Accompanied by a black winged fairy named Anne, he kidnaps Agnes and unleashes his military force called the Glanz Empire from his floating fortress. It falls to Yu Zeneoslia, the leader of Agnes' bodyguards (the Three Musketeers
), to find and liberate her. The story is said to revolve thematically around "saving the princess" and will explore more of Luxendarc than its predecessor.
The game's cast has expanded thanks to the inclusion of both old and new characters. The Three Musketeers is comprised of 16 year old Yu (nicknamed the Falcon of the Gale), his peer Jean Angard (the Wolf of the Inferno), and the 34 year old priest Nikolai Nikolanikov (the Rugged Python). Although gameplay preview footage clearly shows all three participating in combat, only Yu is considered a main character and permanent party member. The other newcomer is Magnolia Arch, a refugee from the moon and the last of her kind after her home is wiped out by a Demon King. She appears to be the same person hinted at in the secret movie at the end of Bravely Default (which you can apparently also unlock with the Konami code).
As for Bravely Default's characters, Agnes obviously sees a return, and although she is not a playable character, players can still communicate with her for hints on how to proceed through the story. Edea and Tiz, however, will join the party as permanent members. Since the events of Bravely Default, Edea has assumed leadership of the Duchy's newly formed Imperial Knight Guard. Tiz, on the other hand, has been kept in a white magic stasis chamber after releasing the celestial being trapped inside him, and the circumstances of his condition are still a mystery. Ringabel has been conspicuously absent from all the game's media so far, but that does not mean he will not show up.
Bravely Second retains the core gameplay that worked so well for Bravely Default, with a few notable tweaks and additions. In combat, characters can still choose to Default in order to defend and store up Brave Points (BP), biding their time to unleash multiple turns at once. The Bravely Second ability to freeze time mid-battle at the expense of Sleep Points (SP) returns, as do weapon-specific special moves. Players can now use "modifiers" to add special effects to magic spells and can apply items to the entire party at reduced effectiveness with "halfies." Bigger changes like the "Consecutive Chance" feature will allow players to fight multiple battles in a row with increasing difficulty and rewards, but without replenishing BP in between. Finally, the "My Set" function will save pre-set loadouts of jobs, abilities, and equipment to streamline the gameplay.
The game will include several new and returning mini-games as well. Village building makes a comeback, only this time it will be operating on the moon
, where Magnolia called home. D's journal is replaced by U's journal, a record of Yu's travels and the creatures, items, and locations he encounters. The "Chomper Maker" is a cute little mini-game that sets the character to building special in-game plushies that can be used to purchase and change background music. Perhaps the most important mini-game is the "Barter Sub Scenario System."
In it, asterisk holders from Bravely Default appear before Edea asking her to settle a dispute for them. Whichever character the player chooses will expound on their personal story and background. The other asterisk holder will fight the party, yielding their asterisk and associated job class upon defeat. It is unclear whether the player can obtain the asterisk of the character they sided with at a later time.
Speaking of asterisk holders, another mainstay of Bravely Default was the great variety of job classes to choose from, and the sequel has taken that idea to heart by including 30 different classes. Old favorites like the Monk, Knight, and Ninja return along with oddball newcomers like the Cat Master and Patissier. In fact, the mixing of old and new seems to be a constant theme in the game. The developers have said that they aimed for creativity and variety when designing these new classes
, and it shows. For instance, the Exorcist is a healing class that operates by "undoing" damage and actions from previous turns. If nothing else, the effort that must have gone into designing the character models and abilities (of which there are over 300) is staggering. The new classes we know about are:
- Chariot: an offensive master that can equip any weapon and use three at a time with the "Triple Wield" ability.
- Fencer: a fighter that can boost attack power and speed with different "Stance" abilities.
- Bishop: healers with more potent "Holy Magic."
- Astrologer: a support role that will buff the party and can also use magic attacks.
- Cat Master: a physical fighter that can summon cats to fight on its behalf.
- Tomahawk: an attacker that uses guns and has abilities that target multiple enemies.
- Wizard: a magical attacker that can create customized spells by mixing elements with different attack types.
- Patissier: an indirect attacker that creates sweets with the "Patisserie" ability to weaken enemies.
- Guardian: a tanky class that can cover allies but also boasts strong attack.
- Exorcist: a healing class that uses the "Undo" skill to reverse damage taken.
Bravely Second has a new composer this time around, as Revo from the Japanese group Sound Horizon was not available. Instead, Ryo of the band Supercell
has signed on to compose fast, hard-driving guitar riffs to get the player's blood pumping as they explore Luxendarc.
It has been reported that although Bravely Second sold well in Japan, it could not beat the record set by Bravely Default. However, the developers have already said that their plans for Bravely Third are in formation
, should this game do well enough to warrant a sequel. If Bravely Second can avoid the end-game pitfalls of its predecessor, it looks to be a solid game that was clearly made with a great deal of care and attention. Much like the central motif of Bravely Default, the ability to iterate while making incremental improvements will hopefully result in a fantastic game... eventually.