There’s a sense of wonder in losing yourself to an epic JRPG. An experience that can take up many hours of your life, almost making you feel slightly lost when you’ve finished it.
It’s that sense of wonder that captivated me for many years growing up, whether it was through Suikoden, Final Fantasy VII, or something less well known, like the Wild ARMs series. Like so many others though, I don’t have the spare time that I once had. All too often, that means playing a huge RPG feels more of an effort and a commitment, than a joy like it once was.
That’s a sentiment that Square Enix apparently factored into making Bravely Second, a game you can enjoy without feeling beholden to.
It offers a fairly gripping, if slightly cliched, storyline of a triumph of good over evil. Set in the same world as its predecessor, there’s a kind of medieval feeling to what goes on here. The game includes a cliched quest to rescue a vulnerable young woman, but fortunately that’s just scratching the surface on what happens here.
Where Bravely Second might initially seem quite traditional, it includes a series of small but vital features that ensure the game not only feels fresh and new, but also accessible to all. You can imagine the design meetings beforehand, with various designers pinpointing exactly what many find frustrating about conventional RPGs, and immediately setting to work to tackle such issues.
Ideally, you want to have played Bravely Default before coming to Bravely Second. The story is loosely connected, plus it’s the perfect introduction to the Bravely system of combat. This combat has a risk/reward element tied to it. Essentially, you can choose to hold back on an attack or two in order to build things up for a later blow. It’s a surprisingly deep system, that requires you to put some thought into it. Fortunately, while it sounds intimidating, it’s actually very well constructed and quite intuitive.
Bravely Second only improves upon this. You can set up a series of moves that are automatically performed, saving you the effort of diving through various menus. You know how all JRPGs require a certain amount of grinding, and how that’s time you’d rather be spending doing something else? That one option can save you a ton of time, so you can get on with enjoying the story.
Such automatic configurations extend into setting up specific jobs, equipment, and abilities too, proving ideal for those in a rush who want to automate everything. It doesn’t remove the strategy involved in knowing what to do and when. It just makes it go faster.
Grinding is also made easier by “Consecutive Chance.” If you take out a group of enemies in one turn, you’re given the opportunity to move directly to another battle. A multiplier applies to your experience, meaning the rewards are much higher. The downside is that your Brave Points aren’t restored in between each battle, but you can string together plenty of successful fights if you plan things carefully. It doesn’t take long to level up using this method.
Tied into that, pretty much everything can be conducted with one hand. It’s a relatively small concept, but one that’s quite liberating if you’re the kind of handheld gamer that frequently does so while watching a TV show, or while on your daily commute.
The other improvements are similarly small at first glance, but no less important. How many times have you looked at your pile of games and dismissed a RPG because you can’t make the commitment to a solid hour or two between save points? Unusually, Bravely Second bucks that trend. You can save very nearly anywhere in the game. Purists might complain that makes the game too easy (although hard mode will disprove that theory), but for those of us with limited time, it’s a huge advantage.
A warp/fast-travel system also means you won’t have to spend too much time traipsing between locations. When you do need to travel from A to B, you can always adjust the encounter rate, which saves you from being waylaid too often.
And ticking off the final bugbear for so many avid but busy RPG fans, an in-game journal means you always know where you’re meant to be going next. It’s backed up by clearly labelled directions, meaning even if you’ve put aside the game for a week or more, you won’t have to delve into a walkthrough to try to figure out what you were meant to be doing.
And did I mention that you can become a pastry chef and poison your enemies in battle? Or that you can unleash a pack of cats on them instead? It’s an impossibly outlandish but cute concept, that demonstrates the imagination used here.
It’s been a while coming, but Bravely Second finally offers an JRPG that you can enjoy if you’re busy. Here’s hoping for more accessible JRPGs like this in the future–it’s just the kind of shake up the genre needs.