March 21, 2016

Bravely Second End Layer - Review

When it comes to video games, everyone has their genres that they love to play, be it the latest sports game, the epic shooter or a role playing game and while most games have distinct types, the RPG group can be spilt into to, the traditional Japanese developed and the western developed and while I don’t mind the occasional western style rpg, the Japanese ones have never drawn me to them, so it was with that history of not liking JRPG’s that I started Bravely Second.

Having not played the first game at all, I was not quite sure what I would be getting myself into with its sequel, but thankfully the game did cover the events of the first game, via the opening cutscene, things look to be compressed, but I got the general idea of things, so if you are like me and have not played Bravely Default, you won’t be starting this game off without any clue as it the history of the world. But for the start of this game, things start off with Agnes, Yew and members of both the Crystal Orthodoxy and the Duchy of Eternia attending a peace summit, with Agnes being the person who is hoping to bring peace to these waring states, but not long after it starts a man appears, calling himself the Kaiser Oblivion and defeats everyone and kidnaps Agnes and that is where the story really begins.

About a week passes and Yew awakens, back in his house and that is who you are playing as, but while he starts to recall all that happened to him, his butler appears and explains a little more. Upon rushing back to the cathedral, Yew discovers that most of his fellow soldiers were defeated, but Janne Angard and Nikolai Nikolanikov survived, which the three of them make up the Three Cavaliers and together they set out to find and rescue Agnes and defeat the Kaiser Oblivion. As events move, Yew loses members of his party and gain others, the story has lots of interesting moments, with betrayal, defeat, winning and celebrations all playing a part, Yew is our window into this world, with times he speaks to the player as well, but the other characters are also windows into it as well, with Magnolia, a lady from the moon who speaks in a French accent, Edea a knight who is from the first game and Tiz, also from the first game, providing that connection back for players returning. The story is pretty by the numbers in the grand scheme, but it’s the little touches, the side quests and jobs that help make it feel more special.

The world in which the game is set, does offer some fun diversions from the normal, but it still falls into that annoying JRPG habit of random battles, so while moving from town to town, might seem but a small distance on the map, there are times when you will encounter more foes in a small space than would seem normal. What makes the journey worth it however is the people Yew travels with, Edea is the first to join the party and seems content to whole heartedly proceed forward thanks to her instructions, while Magnolia is more content to follow, but prone to rushing in when times call for it. The characters have a decent amount of personality, which is great and while in combat they generally don’t shine too much, the game offers a nice way to learn more about then, outside of the main story sequences. There are times when you can watch an interaction take place between members of your party, these might include Yew and they might not, but they always provide a little more insight to each person involved, which helps forge a connection to them.

These connections are what helps you understand the characters and then in turn, use them better in battle, which is important as each battle can play out very differently, depending on the strategy you use. Each battle will start you off in mostly the same way, but from that point on, how they play out is going to be up to you, as you can choose to attack or not. Each character can Default on each turn, up to a maximum of 4, which in turn allows you to build up your attacks, allowing you to chain together multiple hits and in turn deal more damage. What this means for you though, is that your enemies are going to be allowed to deal successive attacks, while you wait your turn in a defensive state, so you need to balance things out. Being in a Default state does limit the amount of damage you take that turn, but it also means you can’t attack or do anything else, for me Yew started out pretty weak in comparison to the other members of the party, which meant that making him Default for a few turns would be about the only way to deal enough damage to equal that of the other members of the party, so in the end, until Yew levelled up, I had him be the support member of the group and allowed the others to attack.

What makes the games battle mechanics interesting in a fashion is that you can attack each turn if you want, but doing so will take your Brave Points down into the negative, which means you will need to wait until the start of the next turn in order to have them restored back to zero. Going into a Default state lets you bank the turns, which then allows you to use them all at once, or save more for another round, this system is quite interesting in that you always need to think about whether you want to spend them now, bank them all or some of them. Your attacks can be switched up by the way of abilities and those abilities are acquired by the job assigned to each character, with over 30 jobs, there is something that is sure to appeal to you. Pirates, Guardians, Ninjas and more, each job has its own set of abilities to learn and over time you will level them up, separately from your character, which allows you to choose a different job if one does not work for you. There is even the option to select a second job set, which allows you access to a secondary set of moves, granting even more options for combat.

Combat also sees the addition of the Bravely Second, a single use ability that when activated stops time in the game and allows one character to dish out significant damage to an enemy. The Bravely Second is charged over time, about 8 real world hours per charge and can be done so by leaving the system in standby mode, or carrying it with you to hasten the recharge time, as having one handy can be very good, if you get into a touch situation. There is also the addition of the town building mini game, which uses spotpass to help you out, or if you are in an area where meeting fellow gamers is harder, you can use the internet and on top of the main quest and that, there are countless side missions to undertake. So in the end the wealth of content on offer is pretty well stacked in your favour.

When you look at the game though, all the worries about jobs, battle strategies and more can be washed away, thanks in part to the wonderful backgrounds that the game uses. They have an almost watercolour inspired look, but then there are interiors that are crafted with so much detail, they can look downright stunning. The game also looks a treat when the 3d is turned on, something a lot of games are not able to achieve, I do however have issues with the characters. Yew, Agnes and the rest of the characters throughout the game all have a wonderful art direction, their outfits, be it their standard ones or their job outfits all look great, the weapon design and enemy design all boost some nice touches here and there. The problem I have is that the art style itself does not blend well with the character models, given their almost chibi style looks and I am sure people will love them and I honestly, can’t fault them on their own. But when you apply both pieces together, it ends up becoming a waste to me, because they just don’t work.

Another aspect that does not work for me is the voice acting, there are lines that are delivered that sound very cheesy, it does not matter if that was the intent, when a game is dealing with social issues, death and war, lines that sound cheesy just miss the mark for me. The other aspect with the voice work is that I found it to be a little loud for the system, which meant I was enduring hours upon hours of hissing from the tiny speakers packed in. The music the game has, is nothing short of wonderful and there are times that it becomes something you can get lost in, sadly though it also suffers at times from the hissing, I could turn the overall audio levels down, but in doing so, I ended up struggling to hear things. It is a balance that I should not be expected to maintain, but as I was it caused me no end of frustration.

Bravely Second End Layer was a good game, while there are things I would change myself, I did enjoy my time within the game. While I am not a big RPG fan, the game did draw me in and provided a story I found a lot of fun in, some issues with presentation don’t hold this back from being worthy of a playthrough.

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for supplying the game for review.

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