The Bravely Default series is derisive. It looks like a kids game, but isn’t. It claims to be a JRPG, but proceeds to slaughter most of the genre’s sacred cows. It harkens back to classic Final Fantasy stories and tropes, but not without a tongue sitting firmly in its cheek most of the time.
I am not interested in debates or trying to understand why Bravely Default does or does not work. I am a huge fan of the series and that includes its latest entry. To me, Bravely Default feels a bit like a computer algorithm took all of the Final Fantasy games I loved as a kid and built both a parody and spiritual successor at the exact same time to all of them.
Let’s instead talk about why that carries over to Bravely Default II.
The Mad Science of Jobs & Subjobs
When it comes to RPGs, but especially JRPGs, I love experimenting. I first experienced this in the most complete sense in Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT). While the Final Fantasy series had long had jobs (if you are unfamiliar, think of classes in most RPGs – things like Fighter, Cleric, or Paladin) which determined the abilities a character had, FFT stepped it up a notch by adding Support Jobs or “subjobs” as well as unlockable traits.
Now, instead of just being a Dragoon (or “Lancer” in FFT) who, to quote Samurai Jack, can “jump good”, you can level up the Samurai job, unlock their Doublehand trait, and be a Dragoon who wields their lance with two-hands as the gaming gods intended. You could also choose a different job as your subjob to augment the abilities naturally available to the Dragoon.
Like its two predecessors, Bravely Default II takes the job/subjob/trait approach but isn’t afraid to let you build weird, powerful, or weak combinations. The whole goal is to experiment. Do you want a dual-wielding tank? It can be built! You do want the abilities of the Swordmaster but don’t want to use any weapons or gear at all like the Monk? Easy to do.
Sure, there are some broken choices (Swordmaster + Freelancer), but there are enough different battles to warrant playing around with all the potential choices to make.
Classic Stories with Meta Twists
Every Bravely Default game uses the classic Final Fantasy tropes of crystals and Heroes of Light. The world is also almost always segregated into key areas of kingdoms more strongly associated with one element over another (Fire, Water, Earth, or Air). Finally, bonus points for any evil empire which is generally associated with advanced technology. To me, these tropes are classic and comforting, but the Bravely series does try and change them up from entry to entry.
Bravely Default II carries on this tradition. Your characters are the Heroes of Light and you are tasked with recovering the four crystals. In times past, these crystals were used to maintain the balance of the elements and keep a greater evil locked away.
Bravely Default II is not the strongest entry in the series in this regard. The themes are less well-defined, though they seem to focus on the corrupting influence of knowledge (and desiring more of it). While these themes are not explored to their fullest, I still enjoyed the justifications we got for the plot, and I liked how the final battle broke the rules of the game to show the extent of what was necessary to overcome the final boss for the game’s true ending.
While Bravely Default games imitate their Final Fantasy forebears in their narrative simplicity, they always manage to find ways to humanize most villains. Here, almost every boss has room for redemption through additional quests and scenes. Though their motives rarely rise above mustache-twirling villainy, the justifications for their actions usually result in touching, albeit brief, stories of woe and despair.
A Few Final Thoughts
- Revo returns to do the music. Revo did Bravely Default’s soundtrack, which was fantastic. Bravely Default II’s music is almost as good (if not better in some spots).
- The New Game+ offers a ton of customization. I hope to see BDII catch-on amongst speedrunners.
- Like Edea before her, Adelle follows the same mold and is fantastic and easily my favorite character.
- The short-term buffing and debuffing is great and I wish more cooperative or online RPGs embraced buffing and debuffing over crowd control or damage.