Bravely Default 2 is a turn-based RPG for the Nintendo Switch developed by Claytechworks and published by Nintendo outside of Japan. The game feels like an attempt to reboot the franchise, with an end result that will be far more appealing to die-hard JRPG fans who love a challenge and min-maxing characters rather than new players.
The story of Bravely Default 2 follows a sailor named Seth who survives a shipwreck with the aid of a mysterious crystal. He soon joins up with Princess Gloria, one of the last survivors of her kingdom. They team up with a spellcaster named Elvis and a warrior named Adelle, who are searching for mysterious items named Asterisks, as they possess a magic book that reveals visions whenever more Asterisks are acquired. The party soon learns of a plot to corrupt the power of four elemental crystals, which will unleash an entity known as the Night Nexus onto the world, bringing an end to all life. They go on a quest to visit each of the kingdoms on the continent, in order to acquire more Asterisks and learn the fate of each crystal.
The gameplay of Bravely Default 2 is almost unchanged from its predecessors. The battles involve actions called Brave and Default. A character can perform actions by spending BP (Brave Points) and they can increase this value by using Default, which grants an extra BP and puts them into a defensive stance. The player can spend multiple BP at once in order to perform several actions in a row, and it’s even possible to put the character into negative BP at the start of a battle, using multiple attacks to kill the enemy before they can act. There is a risk to this strategy, as the character only gains one free BP a turn, so if the attack fails, then the monster will have several free rounds to chow down on the defenseless hero. The enemies can also make use of the BP system, and plenty of bosses will spoil the player’s day with multiple attacks performed in a single round.
Outside of the Brave/Default system, Bravely Default 2 functions like one of the character class-based Final Fantasy games of old. The party acquires new jobs over the course of the game, including classic archetypes like Black Mage and Thief. Each character can also equip the commands of an additional class, as well as five passive abilities which can come from any class. This system is just as enjoyable now as it was back in the original Bravely Default and coming up with interesting party layouts and powerful mixtures of abilities is half of the fun of the game.
There is one major addition to the combat system in Bravely Default 2 and it ramps up the difficulty to an extremely high level. Every enemy in the game now has built-in counters that activate when certain triggers are met. These include everything from hitting them with a physical attack, casting a healing spell, or defaulting. These counters are free actions for the enemy, and they can use these to attack the characters or heal/buff themselves. It’s not unusual for the party to be wiped out when attempting a multi-BP strategy on a boss only to get hit by a counter for each move.
The biggest fault with Bravely Default 2 lies in its high difficulty. This is a brutally difficult game due to enemies being able to harshly punish the player whenever they try certain strategies. Each boss becomes a puzzle of trying to work out how to bypass their counters. This might sound like a fun idea on paper, but in practice, it means using specific strategies to take on bosses in lieu of the many exciting combinations that simply won’t work, defeating the entire purpose of the experimental character class system. The game has a Casual mode but it’s a misleading name, as it simply slows down the number of actions the enemy can take on their turn. In most games, Casual mode allows the player to enjoy the story at their own pace without running into roadblocks. In Bravely Default 2, it just gives the player a fighting chance without the need to grind as hard for levels.
Bravely Default 2 struggles through the first hours of the game, as the player is only given access to a few basic jobs, and they’re forced into incredibly difficult boss fights early. The Asterisk holders (the characters who need to be fought to unlock new jobs) will decimate the player over and over again with their regular attacks and counters. If the player is able to struggle through these hellish early stages of the game, then the experience starts to become more enjoyable. The later jobs are more interesting to use and have more scope for nuanced combos, while the extra money earned in battles and dungeons means that the party won’t have to scrounge up every penny for a few potions. Bravely Default 2 is the kind of game meant for people who worked out easy strategies to defeat Emerald and Ruby Weapon in Final Fantasy 7 – the player is almost expected to discover every overpowered combination of abilities unless they want to spend hours grinding to ridiculous degrees.
The visuals of Bravely Default 2 are a mixed bag. The cities are static backgrounds that resemble watercolor paintings and they’re stunning to behold, but the 3D models don’t hold up quite as well. The chibi aesthetic of the old games was a necessity of the 3DS hardware and it’s understandable why the developers would want to keep it, but the character models look ugly now on Switch. They also have a distinct lack of animations, with many cutscenes playing out in a way that feels disjointed. The game’s visuals can also become blurry when playing in handheld mode, though not to a significant or unplayable degree. The soundtrack is incredible and the boss music themes stand out from the crowd, with songs that get the player pumped for the battle that is unfolding before them.
Bravely Default 2 doesn’t use the same setting as its predecessors, though it tells a similar tale. The story of a mysterious enemy hunting for elemental crystals is pure Final Fantasy nostalgia. However, like the combat system, the story in Bravely Default 2 takes a little too long to become engaging. Many of the early storylines are uninspired and have ridiculous plot moments. Once the player starts to understand more about who is pulling the strings behind the scenes, then things start to get interesting. The main characters are a mixed bag, with the protagonist and Gloria feeling like boring RPG archetypes while Adelle and Elvis keep things light-hearted. Their story is far more appealing in the end, as they add levity to an otherwise by-the-book JRPG plot.
Bravely Default 2 feels like a franchise reboot, yet it’s designed more for original fans than for a new audience. The combat system is viciously hard and off-putting to people who prefer more casual experiences. There is a lot to like in Bravely Default 2, as its character class system and story gradually unfold into something engaging and interesting – it just takes a long journey through some rough territory to get there.
Bravely Default 2 will be released for Nintendo Switch on February 26, 2021. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the purposes of this review.