I’ve been playing Final Fantasy since I was a kid. It started out with emulators of 1-3 on my desktop computer, followed by playing entries on the Nintendo handheld systems and finally culminated in actually experiencing some Playstation FF games. I’ve played titles in the series throughout my life, so I have a pretty good idea of what makes a Final Fantasy game – heck, even just a Square Enix game – tick.
Now why do I mention that? After all, isn’t Bravely Default and its new sequel separate from the Final Fantasy series? Oh yeah, sure, totally. It’s separate like the Toby Maguire Spiderman is separate from the Andrew Garfield Spiderman. There’s some new faces, different visuals, maybe one could be considered better than the other, but at the end of the day they’re both Spiderman. Bravely Default and Bravely Second may not be called Final Fantasy 5 7/8 or Final Fantasy 13-7, but they are Final Fantasy games. If you need evidence, play the original Final Fantasy for the story, then Final Fantasy V for the gameplay, then play Bravely Default and tell me it isn’t a Final Fantasy game.
Here’s my point. The Bravely games aren’t necessarily doing anything new for the world. But they are taking what works in the RPG genre and applying it in the most effective ways possible, and that makes them worth a look.
The Bravely Second demo is a fun way to get a sneak peak at the upcoming title. It serves as a sort of prequel, the events of the demo taking place before the main story. You play as Yew Geneolgia and his companions in the Three Cavaliers, sent on a mission by Pope Agnes (a playable character from the first game) to take care of some troubles in the bustling educational community of Al-Khampis. Get it? Like campus? For a college? Hahahahahaahahahaha okay that’s over.
The demo does a pretty solid job of introducing you to some mechanics from the main game. Some of those mechanics are returning from Bravely Default, such as the Brave and Default commands, jobs and job points, and the encounter slider that allows you to alter how often you encounter enemies. These function just like they did in the first game and they feel as good as ever. Of course, the demo also shows off some new features, and I primarily want to talk about those.
First of all, gaining boosted XP, PG, and JP doesn’t work like it used to. In Bravely Default, each one relied on a different mechanic: one was multiplied by not taking damage, one by using only one turn, and the last one by sweeping all the enemies in one move. This is no longer the case. Instead, all three of these combat rewards are multiplied using the same mechanic. When you win a battle in one turn, you can opt to immediately enter another battle – everyone’s brave points will stay the same. That means if Yew attacked four times and got to -4 BP, then he’s not gonna be able to attack for awhile in the next fight either. When you win consecutive battles like this, you gain bigger and bigger multipliers. I was able to get as far as x2.2 at one point, more than doubling the XP, PG, and JP of five battles to astronomical numbers. This mechanic is an improvement over the original because it helps your level, job level, and income to stay balanced, and it rewards you for putting yourself into a situation that challenges you.
Next, there’s the diary. In Bravely Default, the party had a journal belonging to someone called D that they used to keep track of information about items, monsters, and important events. In Bravely Second, the journal mechanic comes back in the hands of Yew, with an interesting new feature. When you battle a monster for the first time, you get a sparse diary entry describing the bare basics of what it is. But as you defeat more and more of the same monster, other characters add their two cents or Yew notices new details. Some of these extra entries just add color to the world, but others reveal weaknesses or give tips on how to easily defeat the monster. Either way, it’s really satisfying to watch the diary entries expand and to learn new things not only about the world, but about the characters through whom you are interacting with it.
Now what kind of a demo would this be if it didn’t introduce some of the new jobs? The Bravely Second demo features a couple of returning jobs – Valkyrie, Swordsmaster (or Samurai, or whatever it’s called), Red Mage, and Performer – while also showcasing four new jobs: Wizard, Astrologian, Hawkeye, and Exorcist.
The Wizard appears at first glance to be a return to the Black Mage – he or she commands some minor elemental magic to wield against enemies. However, the wizard’s real specialty is a skill called spellcraft. With it, the wizard can cast any spells he or she knows (even from other jobs) with added bonuses based on how you craft the spell. The Dart modifier makes your spell preempt other attacks; the Hammer modifier drastically increases damage and makes the attack hit physically rather than magically; the Blast modifier makes the spell smash powerfully into every enemy on the field; and the Mist modifier causes the spell to linger and be cast again and again over the course of a few turns. Being able to alter your magic to suit the situation is awesome, and I can see the Wizard class being a ton of fun to play.
The Astrologian is a support class that focuses on buffing allies. This includes bonuses like increased attack power, improved defenses, heightened speed, and even resistance to specific elements. Now I usually don’t capitalize on support characters like this – as a player, I find buffs to very situational. So I don’t see myself caring for this job from that perspective. HOWEVER, the Astrologian has a powerful support ability that allows them to immediately cast support magic as soon as the turn starts, preempting other actions. I can see this ability being really useful placed on a class whose support abilities I use more often, like the spiritmaster or the templar.
The Hawkeye is an offensive class that specializes in a new weapon type: rifles. Rifles have high accuracy and attack power, so Hawkeyes can deal massive damage even with basic attacks. Of course, they can’t carry shields or wear heavy armor, so they’ll likely function as glass cannons in the party. Ability-wise, Hawkeyes can enchant their weapons with elements to increase damage, similar to the Spellsword. They have an ability called sidewinder that can be used to choose a number of targets – the fewer targets chosen, the more damage the attack does. What I’ve seen of the Hawkeye class so far works really well – I’m curious to see its other abilities to see how useful the class will be in the long run.
Finally, the Exorcist is a unique new class with an ability that will likely be tough to master, but very potent when used. The ability is called Undo, and when the Exorcist uses it, he or she returns a specific stat to whatever it was last turn. So far the job has demonstrated the ability to do this with HP, MP, and BP. These effects have some pretty interesting applications. For example, using Undo MP on an ally that has just cast four expensive spells will return their MP stat to what it was before casting them. Using Undo BP on someone who spent a ton of BP will allow them to get all of it back while still using a barrage of moves. Of course, it doesn’t just work on allies. Suppose an enemy has taken a lot of damage and then casts a curative spell. Undo HP can return the enemy’s HP to what it was BEFORE casting that healing spell. Undo can be powerful, but mastering the timing so it has the intended effect will definitely be an acquired skill. I’m curious to see what other abilities the Exorcist will master – the one support ability showcased allows the Exorcist to return stats to whatever they were three turns before instead of one turn before. When it comes to being unique and bringing a whole new strategy to the table, the Exorcist is definitely the most promising new job thus far.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the characters. The game features four characters in your party, but only two of them will actually be playable in the real game: Yew Geneolgia and Magnolia something-or-other. The other two characters, Janne Enguard and Tall Guy (I only remember names with puns or wordplay) will not be playable in Bravely Second’s main game. Like the cast of Bravely Default, these characters are simple and quirky. Yew is an intellectual with a bit of a reckless side, while Magnolia is a more go-with-the-flow sort of character. The two have an instant connection that suggests romance (think Tiz and Agnes from the first game). Speaking of characters from Bravely Default, Agnes does appear in this game, filling the role of Airy from the first game. If you ask Agnes for help, she’ll advise you on what to do next. And since Yew answers to her, she appears in many cutscenes. I actually like her character better in this game; her role as the serious yet quirky Pope is really fitting, and her lines were some of the most entertaining to me. To my understanding, the other two playable characters will be Tiz and Edea, two returning characters from the first game. I’m interested to see how they interact with the newer characters, and with their friend Agnes in such a position of power.
Overall, the Bravely Second demo was a lot of fun, and I’m excited to play the real game. I hope that the story this time around has been improved, and that half the game isn’t the first half of the game repeated three or four times (mrgrgr!). If you’re interested in Bravely Second, pick up the free demo from the Nintendo e-shop and try it out. I think you’ll be glad you did!