A couple of years ago, I was wowed by Bravely Default, at least at the start. By the end I was pretty darn sick of it. The problems I pointed to in my review were pacing and balance, but I had others. The characters varied from grating to nonexistent and the plot ran about 2 chapters too far. Bravely Second, a game built on the bones of its predecessor, manages to fix all of those problems. I started out being somewhat underwhelmed with it, mostly due to how sick I still was of the end of Bravely Default, but by the time I finished it up I would rank it as one of the best RPGs on the 3DS. Bravely Second is a complete delight.
There are so many small ways this game improves on its predecessor, starting with the characters. The party in BD consisted of Agnes, a completely generic female JRPG lead. She wasn’t bad, but she was exactly in the mold that has been used for that character since Rosa in FFIV. It had Tiz, a blank slate protagonist, and Edea, a hot headed defector the party’s team. Finally, there was Ringabel, a loveable rapscallion with a mysterious past. By the end of the game, Ringabel’s increasingly unfunny antics started to dominate the moments of levity. In Bravely Second, only Tiz and Edea return to the main party. Edea hasn’t changed, and didn’t need to. Tiz’s lack of personality has transformed with his demotion from protagonist to something of a laconic cool. He is now as close as this game gets to a silent badass. Joining the party are Yew, a wide eyed optimist suffused with bland enthusiasm, and Magnolia, who starts the same as Agnes as a sort of generic JRPG leading lady, but her quest is for revenge not activating mystical doohickeys. Agnes still has a prominent role as support, and it is a role that suits her well. Ringabel is held to a thankfully brief – and optional – cameo. The group in Bravely Second is more interesting and has a better rapport. The comic relief is split more evenly around the four party members and everyone comes off as fun instead of grating.
The other characters, generally some sort of twisted embodiment of their class (inherited through an asterisk that bestows that class and its abilities on the player), were often interesting if underutilized. Except for Yulyana, who was neither interesting nor underutilized. In Bravely Second, the returning original asterisk holders have been given a slightly softened outlook. They are still kind of awful, but usually in a more comical than diabolical way. The new ones are split between plot centric ones with full characters and new toss off characters. Still, they managed to keep most of the good ones from the previous game and took a crack replacing the ones that didn’t work with new attempts, with some success. Like most of the game, BS’s characters are an improved revision of the first’s.
The pacing and balance are much improved as well. No longer can you pick a strategy in the first 10 hours and use it for the rest of the game with total success. While I did attempt to experiment in the first game, it didn’t often feel rewarding. It was just as effective to stick with one or two strategies. Bravely Second’s classes dole out their effective skills a little slower, making it harder to find the perfect strategy and stick with it. Plus, the bosses do a better job of changing tactic to force the player to do the same. The game also moves at a snappier pace, with fewer bosses in each area. It is a revisit of all of Bravely Defaults haunts, but with new sights and new missions. Then there is the central conceit of the game, with the New Game+ being necessary to get the true ending. BD forced the player to run through the game several times to get to the real ending. BS has a one time trick that opens up two fully new chapters. The last half of BD was a slog, because the game was fully explored and you just had to keep doing it. BS wisely held some stuff back for the second run through.
Bravely Second takes a good game and fixes almost all of its faults, turning a flawed yet fun experience into what should be regarded as a classic.