For RPG gamers, especially those with old school tastes, the 3DS is the most important system to own. Publishers such as Square Enix, Atlus and Nintendo keep the system thriving by pumping out regular releases that call back to the days of old, when traditional turn-based, strategy-focused RPGs were king. Square Enix’s Bravely Default, which came out in 2014, was one of the best in the flood of handheld RPGs, thanks to its unique battle strategy design. Now comes the sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer, which establishes the franchise as one of the most exciting int he genre.
Game: Bravely Second: End Layer
Consoles: 3DS (reviewed)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Silicon Studio
Release Date: April 15
Like the last game, the sequel thrives on the metagame that evolves within every battle. Every conflict presents you with the risk-reward judgment of either going all out with your usual barrage of spells and attacks, or lock down and do no damage, skipping turns in hopes of launching a sea-changing assault once you’re fully powered up. Anyone who thinks turn-based fighting has become passe hasn’t played a Bravely game. Every turn forces you to make a series of spot decisions that could lead to unlikely triumph or throw away would could have been a comfortable win. Even the most mundane of enemy encounters becomes a psychological, analytical puzzle to break down and solve.
As with nearly all RPGs, the story in Bravely Second is a jumble of mistaken identities, false endings and paradigm-changing twists. The gist is that potentially realm-saving heroine Agnes Oblige has been captured, and you take control of a knight named Yew to band together with a group of unlikely heroes to rescue her and take down the mysterious network of villains who captured her. After sitting through some extraneous background, you steadily take control of the slow-burning story through an extended tutorial that teaches you the complexities of battle, as well as the job system and how it relates to special abilities. Even if you’re familiar with the first game, the opening segments work as important refreshers to get you back in the flow. This is the type of game that requires you to think in a specific way, and if you lose its rhythms and lose track of what you’er doing, you’re toast.
Before you check out the main game, you should download the demo, titled Bravely Second: The Ballad of the Three Cavaliers, which serves a prologue that coalesces with the main story and gets you up to speed on the battle and inventory systems. Once you buy the full game, you’re rewarded with in-game rewards that give you an edge when you start off your request. The clever marketing ploy gets you addicted to the story and gameplay before you even start, and gives you a full enough taste of the main game so you can either buy it with confidence or know for sure that this one isn’t for you.
Once you start Bravely Second: End Layer, you embark on a quest that lasts dozens of hours and will lead to all sorts of frustrations and triumphs. It’s a game you might start on your lunch break, only to realize that you’ve let an extra half hour go by without realizing it. A compelling story, fascinating battle system and just enough Japanese oddity to give the game an othereal edge, it’s a game that will make you thankful the 3DS exists, especially now that the Vita — which also had a string of strong RPGs — has been left to die. This is a game to savor, swap war stories about on Facebook groups, then analyze and restart again with more knowledge and skill. Somehow, Square Enix’s new series has managed to dethrone Final Fantasy for the hearts of the RPG-obsessed.
Bravely Second: End Layer Reviews Around The Web:
“The pace of combat is faster and the enemies move faster, too. Instead of throwing lots of aggressors at you, Dark Souls III prefers to confront you with individually challenging opponents.” –Kotaku
“I can honestly say that the mixing bowl of Bloodborne and Souls elements in the Undead Settlement made for fantastic exploration.” –Game Informer
“From Software increased its diversity of enemies, environments, and dangerous situations to an even higher degree with the first few hours of its next outing.” –GameSpot
Bravely Second: End Layer Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.