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Sometimes a game comes along that helps to redefine video gaming as a whole. Super Mario 64, for instance, opened the door to the collectathons that typified the 32- and 64-bit eras, then led indirectly into the open-world paradise we’ve got today. Final Fantasy VII made JRPGs cool for the masses. Bravely Second: End Layer introduced a class called the Catmancer. It’s a magician who specializes in cat-related magic. They gain new powers by eating different kinds of cat food.
Every game needs that kind of thing. Bravely Default II, the Switch sequel to that game…doesn’t have the Catmancer. It does, however, still have plenty of other things that make it worth a look, though!
It’s not easy ruling a nation. It’s even less easy when that nation gets destroyed. That’s what happened to Princess Gloria of Musa, whose kingdom got wiped off the map. Thankfully, the sailor Seth’s decided to help her out with recovering the magical crystals needed to prevent this from happening to the rest of the world. Along with the scholar Elvis, who’s seeking the power of the mystical job-granting Asterisks, and Adelle, a mercenary who seems to mostly seek Elvis’ affection, Seth and Gloria seek to recover the crystals and save the world.
Bravely Default II owes a lot to both the 3DS Bravely Default games and their more recent spiritual successor Octopath Traveler. From the former you’ve got the Asterisks, stones that allow your characters to change between job classes as needed, and from the latter you’ve got a significant focus on attacking enemies’ weak points to defeat them. It makes for some interesting and dynamic combat as you customize your characters to your liking.
That customization has seen a fair number of changes since the earlier Bravely Default games, though. For one, your jobs level up much more quickly with much less grinding…and for two, you obtain them much less quickly, so you’ll find yourself maxing out classes without quite as much issue but discovering you don’t have anything to replace them with. That means that characters end up feeling a lot more well-rounded than in previous games, since you’ll want to switch them off jobs as they master them in order to not waste any job points from battles.
The jobs in question are pretty interesting, though not quite as eclectic as the bizarre selection from Bravely Second. There’s a fair number of returning classes like the White and Black Mages, though they tend to have newer and fancier designs to accommodate their journey to the Switch. Newcomers include the Beastmaster, which essentially emulates H’aanit from Octopath Traveler by allowing you to capture monsters and use their abilities, and the Gambler, a spellcaster that wagers their money and the lives of their party members to perform powerful attacks.
One confusing omission is the Lore abilities from the previous games which allowed characters to equip gear outside of their regular selection; the confusion stems from the fact that enemies now have weaknesses to specific weapons, so the fact that you’re largely unable to mix and match gear on your characters is a little odd.
Generally, though, Bravely Default II’s combat and character customization are interesting enough to keep you going. That goes double when it comes to boss fights, especially against Asterisk-wielding enemies that you’ll need to defeat to obtain their jobs. These were always impressive spectacle fights meant to introduce you to the jobs and what they can do, but in Bravely Default II they’re capstone battles that not only teach you about what jobs can do but wreck you with their sheer power. Even characters that seem less dangerous, like the representative of the Bard class, are still happy to boot you back to the title screen with a Game Over if you underestimate them. These battles are definitely the high point of the game.
Another high point is Bravely Default II’s presentation. There were apparently some complaints about this game’s graphical style when the trailers were first released, but in practice Bravely Default II looks and plays like a dream. Even large-scale fights with tons of baddies and spell effects going off run just fine on the Switch, while each environment is a delight to explore. There’s not much to criticize, even when we’re talking about the English voice acting. Elvis in particular is a winner with his heavy Scottish accent and tendency to use European idioms.
It’s definitely a different breed from previous games in the series, but Bravely Default II is an entirely passable and completely enjoyable JRPG in its own right. Especially if you’re into character customization, hardcore boss fights and goofy anime adventures because you’re going to find all those tastes sated. Curious fans should definitely grab a copy, but don’t be too upset when you can’t be a Catmancer – that class, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut. Le sigh.