It has been two years since the events of Bravely Default transpired and once again the kingdom of Luxendarc finds itself in peril. A masked tyrant known as the Kaiser plots to rewrite history by overloading the world’s elemental crystals. We’ve all heard of violent movies inspiring lunatics to commit atrocities, but who knew that the Back to the Future anniversary would motivate someone to partake in time travel misdemeanours? Standing between the Kaiser and his aspirations is a band of heroes known as the Ba’al Busters (Nintendo may loathe cleavage exposing attire, but they are evidently fond of puns.) The player-controlled group is comprised of Crystal Guard captain Yew Geneologia, a French speaking lunar warrior named Magnolia, the returning Hero of Light Tiz Arrior and the grand marshal’s gluttonous daughter Edea Lee.
Bravely Second: End Layer is the sequel to one of the finest handheld JRPGs from recent times. The original title was an awesome game boasting cute graphics and a combat system that harkened back to the days when Final Fantasy was actually fun. Having recently completed End Layer, I am pleased to report that the follow up is more of the same. It does however trump its predecessor, in terms of storytelling, by not padding out its fifty hour running time with a repetitive third act. Great news for anyone who abandoned Bravely Default due to its endless cycle of boss rematches, although do note that the adventure’s setting does demand that you return to dungeons featured in the first game. Similarities also manifest in the sound department. Complimenting the beautiful score is a cast of actors reprising their roles from the last title and some new faces including Cam Clarke (who in Metal Gear tradition plays a villain sporting a replacement arm.)
RPG veterans are sure to enjoy Bravely Second’s turn based battle system, which permits you to strategically employ brave/default commands during encounters. Default allows you to sacrifice a turn in favour of performing multiple actions later on in a fight, whilst Brave does the opposite. Another tactical aspect to consider is the makeup of your four-man party (and no I am not commenting on what cosmetics to apply to their faces.) Each character will have different skills at their disposal dependant on what job, sub-class and support abilities you bestow upon them. There are thirty different jobs to choose from, which can be procured by vanquishing the bosses you face over the course of the story. Many of the jobs from Bravely Default make a comeback, along with a multitude of new ones. My favourite classes include the Exorcist who transforms into a spook upon death and the Catomancer that summons kitties onto the battlefield.
My rating for Bravely Second: End Layer is five stars. If you enjoyed the first game I can highly recommend giving this second instalment a bash. The main campaign is fun and the same applies to the mini-games on offer. The diversions in question include a Cookie Clicker styled timewaster, where your party fabricate adorable Plushies in exchange for un-lockable tunes. There’s also a construction side quest, which tasks players with rebuilding the moon colony Magnolia hails from. Much like in a Farmville clone, enlisting the aid of friends can vastly speed up your lunar renovation works. There aren’t many flaws I can point to in Bravely Second, aside from the developer’s decision to recycle levels from the last game. A little lazy perhaps, but it didn’t bug me too much. Just like a tourist returning to a vacation spot they previously enjoyed, I rather welcomed the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Luxendarc’s various sites.
To wrap things up, I’d like to thank Nintendo for releasing Bravely Second early in Europe. It’s rare for our continent to get a title ahead of the US. Take the upcoming Fire Emblem trilogy for example. Our chums across the pond can already purchase said game whilst the EU territories are forced to wait until late May. I can’t praise Nintendo too much though, as westerners are effectively getting a watered down version of the Japanese original. Bittersweet quest outcomes have been annexed to spare sensitive players from grief and graphics have been tweaked to make costumes less revealing. The daftest alteration of all involves the Tomahawk job. In Japan the class is modelled after Indians, whilst we have to make do with a cowboy. Replacing Native Americans with the gunslingers who slaughter their race in movies seems a tad insensitive. Mrgrgr, needless censorship makes me want to go on the warpath.