Retrospective – Bravely Second (3DS)

With Bravely Default II due on the horizon for a February 2021 release date, it seems prudent to look back at the first sequel to Bravely Default: the confusingly-titled Bravely Second.

Released in Japan in 2015 and closely followed by a US release in 2016, Bravely Second was released on the Nintendo 3DS to great fanfare. How would it follow-up one of the most intriguing JRPGs on this portable system? What story could possibly follow from the bizarre ending of the original game? The ending to Bravely Default closed with a confusing cutscene teasing the next entry in the series, but what did all this weird imagery actually mean? That is what Bravely Second sought to do.

The game takes place 2 ½ years later and follows much of the same cast. Agnes Oblige – now the reigning pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy – has been captured and imprisoned by the mysterious masked Kaiser, who has a fairy friend of his own helping him with his villainy. It is up to you… or rather, “Yew” (the name of the main character), the captain of Agnes’ Crystalguard, to rescue her with your ragtag band of misfits and battle-hardened young adults to rescue her. While Tiz and Edea return from the original game to join your party, you also have a new character named Magnolia Arch, a French-speaking girl from the moon who fights dark creatures called Ba’als, which seemingly have destroyed her moon colony. If that sounds strange, don’t worry: the game provides a great (if not slightly forced) reason for this near-insanity.

In terms of system differences from the first game, there really aren’t a whole lot to speak of. The battle system is roughly the same, other than chain-battling. This new feature is an absolute blessing because it allows you to chain battles together and multiply experience points, job points, and money at the risk of starting battles in a disadvantaged state. This makes grinding far more bearable than most JRPGs. The maps and character animations are super similar to the original game, with some slight differences here and there. The voice acting is still great but not amazing, especially compared to other games that came out at around this time. Even still, being on the Nintendo 3DS, this is still an impressive package.

Where this game really differs from its predecessor is in its presentation of conflicts. Borrowing from some of the black-and-white moral themes in the first game, this game has you resolving conflicts and picking sides throughout the story as a way of obtaining your asterisks (which are the different jobs you can collect for your characters). You will encounter two asterisk holders at odds with each other, hear both sides of their story, and decide who you will align yourself with. Many of these conflicts boil down to fundamental worldview differences, so you will be caught in the position of possibly aligning yourself with a side that you – the player – would not normally pick, but for the sake of getting one job over the other, you have to pick the less desirable worldview.

This game really feels like a miasma of different ideals and opinions that you have to wade through and try to understand. In many ways, it shows the complexity of human relationships and institutions. I would have to liken this game to being the Final Fantasy X-2 to the original’s Final Fantasy X – and in many ways, this is a very apt description when comparing the two duologies. The original games deal with a young girl given a huge, world-changing responsibility from the religion she is part of. The sequels are direct follow-ups that trade in some of the more serious aspects of the originals with goofy light-heartedness – and that’s not a bad thing! I really appreciate how humorous and fun this game could be, areas that the original game didn’t always properly balance with its more serious tone.

It took me awhile to really start getting into Bravely Second. As a staunch devotee to the original Bravely Default, I just could not fathom as to how they could possibly top one of my favorite gaming experiences of all time. While the opening to the game is a bit slow to pick up on the leftover plot threads from the first game, it soon ramps up considerably when you are met with utter betrayal and deception. There were so many interesting twists and turns throughout the story that immediately grabbed my attention, which ended up leading me to putting more hours into this sequel than I did even in the original game.

While some may deride Bravely Second as a cheap cash-in on the original game’s winning formula, I don’t share that opinion. Even if many of the resources were recycled from the original game, that does not mean that there isn’t a lot to love about this sequel. Many have praised it for not getting bogged down in the middle like its predecessor, which was a huge reason why it was hard to give a full recommendation for Bravely Default outside of hardcore JRPG players. Bravely Second fixes nearly all of those problems and carves out its own mark on the series, providing a heartwarming gaming experience that is hard to capture these days. Even if the title is confusing (especially now that we have Bravely Default II coming out in a few short months), you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on this unique 3DS game. And with another entry releasing soon, now is the time to get caught up!