It took me a total of 85 hours, but I finally completed Bravely Second. I beat the game, I made it through the postgame content, and I saw the face of the Adventurer. It was so worth it.
There are minor spoilers in this post, but I don’t give away anything that isn’t obvious.
In Bravely Second, two young men and two young women venture forth to save the world; or rather, multiple worlds, as was the case in Bravely Default. Chapter Five (which I reached about 50 hours into the game) marks the major multiverse-related plot twist, AND WHAT A PLOT TWIST IT IS.
I was shocked, which is something that almost never happens to me during a video game. Anyone who’s played Bravely Default can probably guess what the plot twist entails, but the form it takes is brilliant. Thankfully, unlike in Bravely Default there’s no story or dialog repetition after this event, which boy howdy do I ever appreciate.
As much as I eventually ended up loving Bravely Default, Bravely Second is so much more fun to play. Grinding is significantly easier, for one, and it’s nice to be able to fast-forward though battles. The in-game bestiary works like the bestiary in Final Fantasy XII, meaning that more information is added as more creatures are defeated. I prefer grinding for story to grinding for stat increases, and grinding in this game is so satisfying and rewarding!
What I especially love about Bravely Second is that the characters are obsessed with food and talk about it all the time. They cook for themselves, they share meals with NPCs, and at least a quarter of the monster notes in the bestiary concern cooking, eating, and regional food cultures. It’s cool to see the characters interacting with each other on a friendlier and more intimate basis than “oh no there is a crisis we must do something,” which is something I’d really like to see more of in JRPGs.
Unfortunately, the end of the game takes a detour away from friendship and strikes out toward romance, a theme that it doesn’t handle with a comparable degree of success. In the closing scenes, four love stories are resolved, but I didn’t feel satisfied with any of them. There was no tension, no slow burn, no dramatic revelation, and no physical chemistry. When multiple characters suddenly decide to get married, I was like, “…okay?”
I think Bravely Second really missed a chance with Denys (the villain for most of the game) and Agnès (the vestal virgin he kidnaps). The revelation that Denys is Not Actually Evil – and this is not a spoiler; he’s much too attractive to be evil – makes sense as far as anime tropes are concerned, but it also comes out of nowhere. In my mind, Denys clearly crossed over the Moral Event Horizon in several major ways, so Agnès asking everyone to forgive him when the Bigger Bad appears is bizarre. If Denys and Agnès had talked to each other even once, it would have added richness and complexity to the story, not only fleshing out both of their characters but also endowing the love story between Agnès and Tiz (one of the floopy-haired moppets in your party) with a much-needed element of conflict.
The true star of Bravely Second is Edea, the bratty princess from Bravely Default who goes from being a general at the beginning of the game to becoming an empress by its end. Edea makes all of the branching-path decisions (such as they are), which are slowly set up as a way to train her to think about moral conflicts. Although she initially approaches these decisions with a nonchalant attitude, she gradually manages to achieve a video-game version of wisdom and maturity. Because of this, tacking a random eleventh-hour love story onto her growth as a character felt especially insulting.
In the end, I guess, the point of this game isn’t its story. Rather, your goal as a player is to figure out how to exploit the battle system for fun and profit. Although it was possible to set up your party in Bravely Default so that they could infinitely spam powerful attacks while taking no damage, it’s much easier to do this in Bravely Second. The game mechanics of Bravely Second remind me a bit of the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII, which the player can tweak into creating a party of finely tuned murder machines.
Underdeveloped love stories aside, Bravely Second is a whole bunch of satisfyingly crunchy JRPG goodness, and I think we all need to take a moment to appreciate Akihiko Yoshida’s gorgeous and ridiculous character designs.
( Above image from the Final Fantasy wiki )
( Header image from fabledtactician on Tumblr )