The fighting has been tweaked since the last entry to make things
simpler. You can now save presets to make switching Jobs far easier, and
if you kill all of your opponents in one turn you can challenge a
second wave straight away for a greater reward, which comes in handy
when you’re trying to boost your level.
While these things
definitely help streamline proceedings, however, it still feels
old-fashioned in some ways. While there’s less of a grind this time
around for normal levelling, you will still find yourself repeating
your footsteps to make the most of the new Jobs. Having such a large
range of different fighting styles to experiment with is a joy, but
unlocking new abilities for them is tough going, as you have to
tediously level each one from scratch for every individual party member.
You can power through without the need to switch Jobs too often if you
prefer, but if you want to fully test what your party is capable of,
you’ll have to put in a lot of work.
But while the world is beautiful and the battle system is fun, Bravely Second falls down when it comes to its dialogue and characters. You’ve got your typical melodrama in spades, but every now and then it tries to shoehorn in comedy and odd pop-culture references. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being goofy or cracking a joke – it can help break tension and reveal softer sides to otherwise hardened warriors – but Bravely Second just never does it well. It picks the oddest moments to have a skit about cake, and at one point it even breaks the fourth wall by having Yew accuse you as a player for judging him as a coward. These things are intended to poke fun at well-trodden tropes and clichés in anime and other games, but it relies far too much on you being in on the joke. Its humour isn’t universal, so instead of it coming off as a cheeky bit of fun, you simply feel yourself breaking away like battenberg in bathwater.
The cast is also… let’s say, odd. Returning party members Edea and Tiz are certainly likeable, but new hero Yew is overly dramatic and whiny – you can’t help but be irritated by him as he over-embellishes stories for his diary in the same way as that one annoying friend you have who brags about how they were a victim in the most mundane of situations. “Oh no, you went for a walk in the rain and now you’re sad because you’re wet? That’s… nice.”
Magnolia is equally peculiar. While being a warrior from the moon does probably come with an inherent degree of weirdness, for some reason everything she says is given a flourish of French babbling at the end of it. It’s meant to give the impression that she’s exotic, but merely adding an accent isn’t enough to define an entire personality trait. It also doesn’t help that if you’ve ever picked up a smattering of basic French, you’ll quickly realise that she’s pretty much just repeating herself like a mad woman.
It’s the accumulation of these little things that lets Bravely Second down. It’s got the right parts for a fine role-playing adventure, but all those petty annoyances just keep taking you out of the moment. It feels very much like you’re playing it through a sheet of glass – sure, you can see and appreciate how exquisite it is, but you can’t ever truly connect with it.
This is still a great little RPG with one of the best twists on turn-based combat in recent memory, so if you’re a fan of the genre or enjoyed the original Bravely Default there’s still a lot to love here. Just don’t expect a smooth adventure or a story to remember.
This review also appears in GamesMaster Magazine.