About nine years after the arrival of the very first chapter of the saga, it has finally arrived on the market Bravely Default II, the spiritual sequel to one of the most popular JRPGs of recent times. And, probably, every good fan of the genre was expecting nothing else from this videogame 2021. Much desired, loved and loudly requested, the title produced by Claytechworks, strictly exclusive to Nintendo Switch, has arrived on the market full of expectations, which however, on balance, cannot be said to be completely satisfied.
But let's get things straight: Is Bravely Default II a bad game? Absolutely not, on the contrary. The real "problem" of production is linked to the sometimes excessive desire to play it safe. This prompted the developers to avoid overturning a winning formula, yes, but which needed a necessary updating. The peculiarities of the saga return with strength and conviction also in this new chapter, and this is precisely one of the most serious problems. Bravely Default II fails to offer anything really new. Both in terms of game dynamics and from a narrative point of view, it proves unable to surprise, unlike the first chapter.
For the rest, Bravely Default II largely confirms the good impressions had with previous contacts (including demos and so on). The title proves to be an “old-fashioned” RPG that is solid, long-lived and characterized by an important level of challenge. All fans of the genre can sleep peacefully. In fact, Square-Enix's offer is more than substantial, although it is exposed to some more or less important critical issues.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch
If you are curious to find out why, you just have to continue reading our complete review.
Bravely Default II: Plot and narration
Following the tradition undertaken by the saga, the story of Bravely Default II also revolves around the Elemental Crystals, the supporting pillars of balance on the world.
They have defended, since ancient times, the human race from the threat of the "Oblivion of Death", an ancestral calamity that has always threatened balance and peace. These Crystals, guarded since ancient times by the royal family of the Kingdom of Musa, have however disappeared, leaving the world on the brink of an imminent collapse. Except for the Wind Crystal, still (briefly) in the hands of Princess Gloria Musa, the remaining Earth, Water and Fire Crystals have disappeared. This happened following the disastrous fall of the glorious kingdom.
The disappearance of the crystals has given way to a series of natural cataclysms of increasing size. These tragic events are destined to expand inexorably if the crystals do not return to their place. Precisely this necessity becomes the common thread of the story. That of Bravely Default II is a story that combines, as per the tradition of the genre, irony, love, betrayals and a pinch of hilarity in a skilful and overall successful way, throughout its duration. We are facing a long and tortuous journey, a path of personal and interpersonal growth. Within it, each event contributes to composing an interesting and never banal puzzle.
If the plot in its macro-stories remains however in some ways not very original in its progression but fairly interesting, the four main characters are perhaps too anonymous, although their creation and general conception is still interesting.
The leader of the group is the young protagonist (who we have renamed Jotun Thrym), mysteriously found himself catapulted into the kingdom following an ominous shipwreck. Welcomed by Princess Gloria Musa and by the faithful guardian Sir Sloan, the young man ends up quickly embracing his solemn cause. The bond between the two, inexplicably "strong" and rooted right from the start, however, has much deeper origins than one might imagine. The young hero is in fact a real predestined and we do not want to anticipate in any way why. However, it is enough to know that from the very first bars you will have a much clearer picture of things, although not particularly innovative.
Brave, fearless and pervaded by a great sense of justice is Princess Gloria Musa, who miraculously escaped the destruction of her kingdom. Together with Sir Sloan, the young warrior sets out on a tortuous journey in search of the Crystals. The latter have escaped from his control due to the numerous external attacks of the most disparate enemies. Gloria will be the first to come into contact with the protagonist, and from there their bond will grow stronger and stronger.
After a few hours of play, two other important figures join the party, very different but at the same time incredibly similar to each other. Let's talk about Elvis Lazlow and Adelle Ein, a sort of scholar and a mercenary respectively. Elvis set out in search of knowledge regarding the Asterisks, the magical stones from which magic is drawn. This, on a playful level, allows players to change classes whenever they want. Light-hearted and ramshackle, Elvis has decided to hire the beautiful and deadly Adelle as his bodyguard. In fact, he is aware of the difficulties he could have faced during his journey.
The latter, on the other hand, is a much more calm and "practical" character and makes fairness and respect for her ideals her best weapon, beyond her "job". Adelle strongly joins the cause, as does Elvis, of Gloria and Seth. The protagonists thus give life to a quartet of adventurers in reality rather obvious from the point of view of conception and gestation.
Il gameplay and challenge level by Bravely Default II
As per the tradition of the saga (and of the genre in general) Bravely Default II is a title permeated by a decidedly upward level of challenge. Despite his colorful and “youthful” appearance, the second son of the Square Enix family puts a continuous, long-lived and in some cases almost ruthless challenge into the hands of the players.
From the very first bars, in fact, Bravely Default there sets the record straight, quickly showing ruthlessness towards players, especially the most daring ones. Presenting itself as a classic Japanese turn-based RPG, characterized by the now inevitable Active Time Battle, the Claytechworks title requires tactical and prudent preparation for clashes.
Before facing any battle, whether it is against a group of normal monsters (at least until we are of a much higher level, at which point the enemies will escape!) Or greater view against one of the many Bosses, get to the clash with the right planning is practically a duty. Each fight is in fact well linked to the numerous classes with which to mix your party. Consequently, it becomes necessary to carefully choose, based on the opponent, the best strategy for each battle.
Do not think that with mere unbridled farming you will be able to get around this step, Even with many levels above in fact, some bosses have literally paved us, precisely because we were using the wrong class or more simply we were missing some piece of specific equipment.
It goes without saying, therefore, that, as in the first chapter, the Class system is one of the most important (and interesting) aspects to manage. Even without major revolutions compared to the first chapter, Bravely Default II pays a lot of attention in this respect. This quickly becomes a fundamental watershed for the whole adventure.
Classes and Subclasses
Therefore, the management of the game Classes remains fundamental (which we have already talked about during our guide), linked to the Asterisks, the real fuel of the game world.
Each character can unlock all the various Chests (there are so many) and equip them, both as a Main and Secondary class. These classes clearly modify the modus operandi of the various party members, thus giving rise to ever-changing approaches, depending on the needs.
Choosing the right mix of actors in the field is therefore the best weapon to better face the clashes, We must also keep in mind the concept, dear to lovers of the genre, of the resistances and weaknesses of the various enemies. What emerges is therefore an extremely tactical JRPG. Within it, the clashes must always be faced with an important knowledge of what you want to do.
To this is added the mechanics already seen in the other chapters of the saga, namely the one linked to the Brave and Default system. Through the Brave command (usable 4 times) it is possible to attack the opponent continuously or heal your allies, skipping turns in some way, at the cost of many battle points (PB). This also exposes you to enemy attacks which, once your turns run out, especially if put in Default mode, can cause you massive damage.
Default is in fact the classic "Defense" in battle and, by remaining in this position, it is possible to accumulate PB and limit the damage suffered. In this way it will then be possible to launch violent attacks on enemies. This strategy is certainly risky but it can give a lot of satisfaction. Consequently, it is advisable to always work out the right strategy before joining the fray, even considering the high level of difficulty of the game.
Even though it was freely selectable (we chose “Normal”), the level of challenge seemed at times excessively unfair and badly balanced. This always forces the player to an obsessive and continuous farming.
Technique and graphics
From a technical and artistic point of view, Bravely Default II once again shows its contradictory and fluctuating nature.
If from the artistic side we cannot complain about the splendid horizons displayed by the production, we cannot fully say the same about the decidedly more modest technical aspect. The splendid scenarios created ad hoc for this long adventure, although in some passages in truth not very original and rather anonymous in some passages, are accompanied by an objectively subdued technical realization. The general experience, although pleasant to live on the whole, cannot be said to be free from blunders of a functional nature, including a sometimes unstable frame rate, sometimes delayed loading of textures and some certainly avoidable deficiencies.
Even the character design is all in all fluctuating. Although cared for in the aesthetic transposition of the characters, both main and secondary, everything appeared once again excessively “recycled” from the first chapter. Let me be clear, the great care with which the protagonists are brought to the screen can be felt without too much difficulty, even trivially looking at the various "costumes" relating to each class. However, compared to what we saw in the chapter released on Nintendo 3DS, the feeling of "novelty" was clearly subdued.
Finally, the sound sector is very good. The dubbing, especially the one in Japanese, has fully convinced us from the very first bars. It turned out to be a fundamental piece for the empathy factor and for identification in general. The OST is also excellent. Even without miracles and with a limited overall number of songs, the soundtrack that accompanies the journey of Gloria, Elvis, Adelle and the protagonist is pleasant and full of feeling enough.
To see (and to hear), in short, Bravely Default II is a splendid more of the same, unable to revolutionize the brand or the genre but at the same time able to be an excellent new exponent of them.
Bravely Default II is a good JRPG, long-lived and full of things to do, and characterized by an overall interesting story. Inextricably linked to a romantic and archaic conception of the concept of the Japanese role-playing game, the title of Square Enix stands as an excellent exponent of the genre. However, it fails to stand as a worthy successor of the first chapter. While we cannot complain about what we have seen on the artistic front, it is the gameplay and the structure in general of the character design that leave us a bit embittered. In fact, the team seems to have decided to hold down the handbrake too firmly on too many aspects. Of course, it certainly remains a mandatory purchase for fans of the genre, but we would certainly have expected a little more from such a product.