More like Safely Default II.
What They Say:
Explore a new world as you fight for survival with your customized team of heroes in the Bravely Default II game, a strikingly beautiful RPG adventure. Balance risk and reward in turn-based battles with the Brave and Default commands.
Bravely Default II is the very textbook definition in gaming of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” That saying is both honed in on and proven in the case of this sequel to the original 3DS title that I adored. Bravely Default II takes what the original did and, well, does it again with a new cast of characters in a new world with some new jobs.
But other than that, it is pretty much the same game with a fresh coat of paint. Saying it like that sounds like it is a bad thing but it really isn’t. For those who didn’t enjoy the original, you probably find anything to change your mind here. But for those like me who loved Bravely Default, you’ll likely love the sequel as well, if not even more as in the case of me.
The story begins with the main character Seth — who you can rename — washing ashore with no memories of who or what happened prior to that. It is a pretty standard beginning, filled with the usual tropes of helping a princess who has a tragic backstory find the four crystals that will keep the world in balance.
From there, it doesn’t initially do much else to break the standard tropes that you would expect in this very Final Fantasy-lite game. While not technically part of that Square Enix series, it might as well be as it truly captures the joy, simplicity, and gameplay of the first three games in the series (and V).
But going into the game not expecting much from the story, I found that I was able to freely enjoy the game without any issues. Though the writing and characters didn’t impress me at all, they also weren’t so bad or ham-fisted that it detracted from the overall experience.
That gameplay experience is where Bravely Default II truly shines as it is pure turn-based greatness in video game form. Everything about it instantly felt like home to me from the typical battle system to the beautifully artistic world, and the deep job system that provides an insane amount of customization and freedom.
When it comes to the turn-based battles, fans of the original won’t find much that is different here. The main change is that turns are based on a time system, similar to that of Final Fantasy 7 and the like, where the time it takes between your turns are based on various stats like speed and even the weight of your character.
Having too much heavy equipment will make the character go slower in battle compared to everyone else. Oddly enough, I felt like this time-based system was unnoticeable at times and when it was apparent, it was more annoying than anything. Having weight limits on the characters was a bit bothersome at times, especially in a game about giving you such freedom, and the order of turns still felt pretty random at times.
That aside, though, the gameplay is still as glorious and refreshing as it was on the 3DS. You have the basic options, like attacking, using special job skills, and magic, but then there are the titular Brave and Default options. Brave will allow the player to execute more than one action at once, using up Brave points while Default is basically guarding but you gain a Brave point for doing so.
Essentially, it boils down to will you do a normal turn and attack or cast a spell, Brave to do some extra moves, or Default to save up points for a big turn later on? It gets pretty complicated and there isn’t a single solution to every battle you do, even when it comes to boss battles.
In normal battles, I might instantly use four moves in a row from the start with one character to finish the enemies off quickly. But if it doesn’t work, suddenly that character goes without several turns until they recover BP. But when it came to the fairly difficult boss battles, I might employ a more safe strategy of using Default until I’m ready to unleash some massive attacks.
It is a risk and reward-based system that is engaging and fun, in large part due to the jobs system that elevates it. Bravely Default II has a plethora of jobs that you can unlock across your journey, allowing you to switch between them at all with one as your main job and another as your secondary one.
Many of these are the standard ones, like the Vanguard (think Knight) or Red Mage, while there are more flashy and unique ones like the Beastmaster who basically adds a level of Pokemon-like gameplay into the mix. Each job is radically different and worth picking for a number of reasons.
With the ability to have two jobs at once — though, only the main job levels up — it pays to max out a job you love, set it to secondary, and then create some unique combinations with another one as your main. There are so many different combinations that you can choose from and few, if any, are not worth doing.
This allows you to create the team that you would like to use in the game and then make it work. If you want a tank who has healing magic, you can do that. If you’d like to stay as the default freelancer job for the duration of the game, you can do that as well and actually do pretty well.
For my playthrough, for example, one odd decision I made early on was to make everyone master the Freelancer job. Classes unlock a skill at every level of it and two of the Freelancer abilities increase the job experience that you get. Maxing that out first for all four main characters meant that I spent the rest of the game benefiting from the most experience I could.
It took roughly the first 10 hours of the game to make that happen and it was extremely difficult at times because of it since I had no dedicated or powerful magic users at all, but the game let me do it and I was able to make it work. This is just one example of the weird and crazy stuff that Bravely Default II will let you do.
That is by far the most freeing aspect of a game that is otherwise stuck in a bygone era of JRPGs that has long since been abandoned, even in the Final Fantasy series that it takes its inspiration from. If you are here for a deep, open game that harkens back to the golden days of Final Fantasy III and V, this might be the game for you.
Bravely Default II is the textbook definition of a pure sequel that simply repeats what the original did. The turn-based combat is almost exactly the same, minus the annoying new time-based system, and the jobs system is just as open as ever before. While the story and characters suffer from being a little bit too old school at times in their bland nature, the rest of the game thrives in a modern take on classic JRPGs.
Players are free to customize their party to their liking, mixing and matching classes together to make some strange and amazing combinations. Basically, anything is possible in Bravely Default II and it encourages you to be bold, brave, and experiment in a game that, ironically, plays it super safe. While it isn’t the most unique or standout JRPG on Switch, it is notable for crafting an experience that is just as fun and enjoyable as it is nostalgic.
Publisher: Nintendo (North America)
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: February 26, 2021
Platform: Switch (reviewed)
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.