The Nintendo 3DS version of Bravely Second: End Layer was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.
Bravely Second: End Layer is an excellent role-playing game with a seemingly simple yet engagingly intricate battle system. The cast are entertaining and third-dimensional while the music and sense of world building are akin to traditional Final Fantasy games of old. Bravely Second: End Layer is a perfect game for fans of the traditional turn-based role playing genre. Its class-based job mechanics and the brave and default system create an entertaining battle system encouraging one of the genre’s common criticisms of grinding, by rewarding players with bonus spoils from battle. Characters’ voices are distinct and as creative as their character design and back-stories.The story of Bravely Second: End Layer is both grand and welcomingly familiar. Set two years after the events of the previous game, players follow Edea and Tiz as well as new characters, the always-optimistic Yew and the mysterious Magnolia, through their quest to rescue the now Pope Agnes from the clutches of the Kaiser and his foreboding diamond-like castle floating in the sky. Without spoiling the game’s narrative, the game’s world and characters are charmingly comedic, even in its most dramatic moments.
Each of the cast are also wonderfully characterised. The game offers both a main quest, whereby players travel around the world in search of a way to save Agnes, as well as a variety of side quests following characters from Bravely Default and their lives since the end of the game, making it incredibly rewarding to those who have played the original game. These side quests are fun in their own right and offer great character development to both former bosses and Edea with some quests even parodying pop culture. One side quest followed the adventures of Edea’s former commanding officer and knight Sir Heinkel and Kikyo the shy ninja, now a police constable and private investigator respectively, as they and the party try to solve a murder case with clearly satirical characters Sholmes and Whitson; while another quest involved the party deciding on a town’s education system – choosing whether to side with a co-educational system supported by the brash monk Barras and his pupil, or Edea’s childhood friend, the Valkyrie Einheria, her apprentice and their view towards a segregated education system. There are also non-voiced scenes – often lighthearted comments from the perspectives of each of the party on the plot, characters and certain gameplay mechanics – providing insight on each character’s pasts and their relationships with others, further ironically characterising them as multi-layered despite their miniature appearance. Bravely Second’s art style is distinctly mesmerising. Each character is modelled as a ‘chibi’ – a miniature cartoon character – with a slight lisp to their voice as a result of the recording equipment used in the recording studios, adding to the adorably cheesy tone of most scenes. Players can change characters’ costumes by equipping outfits such as Yew’s cavalier uniform or by changing a character’s job – with some, such as the ranger even changing a character’s facial appearance – as each job outfit is colourfully created to help contextualise said outfit’s job, such as the Knight’s heavy-clad armour mirroring the job’s high defence or the Bishop’s priest gown emphasising the job’s healing magic.While the over-world map isn’t particularly beautiful, each area is strikingly different from one another. Within my 40 hours with the game, I’ve experienced poisonous swampy terrains, a floating village in the sky and a hot spring resort, among other iconic areas. The explorable parts of these areas are illustrated by beautifully painted canvases on the top screen while the map of the area is outlined on the lower screen. Enemy and character designs are also quite appealing, as players battle a variety of creatures such as a tree spirit in the shape of a floating pile of sliced apples and a cat spirit in a gentleman’s suit. The soundtrack is also immersive and diverse, with a mixture of peaceful flute ensemble titles played during the save or party menus, jazzy piano solos dictating a town and the merchant menu, and coarse Japanese rock opera for the more iconic boss battles.The most engaging part of Bravely Second: End Layer however is its gameplay and the brave-default mechanic. In combat, the player assigns an action for each character for a given turn, such as attacking, using an ability or items or fleeing the battle – or the player can decide to defend and save a battle point in what is known as defaulting, or use up a battle point to use an additional action by braving. Players can gain up to three battle points and lose up to three battle points, leaving a character on minus three if they brave three times when at the standard zero battle points, resulting in the given character missing three turns; adding a great sense of strategy to battles, especially since this mechanic applies to enemies too. Enemies also have their own strengths and weaknesses as players can equip gear mid-battle and use examine to identify said enemy’s weakness.