If Square Enix knows how to do one thing right, it’s making exceptionally good old-school JRPGs. Four heroes, four crystals, a world in danger, and monsters lining up on the left while you line up on the right to beat the fool out of them. Back in 1987, this simplicity was a concession to the technological limitations of the NES. In spite of these limitations, Square captured lightning in a bottle with that title, kicking off one of the most beloved gaming franchises of all time.
Of course, as the years went on, Square moved away from the strictly turn-based battles of the original titles, and, as it did, the company expanded the story to more complicated and engrossing places. Take Final Fantasy IV, for instance, the first title in the series to use the “active time battle system,” that also uses the mechanics of a classic RPG to tell a gripping story of darkness, forgiveness and redemption.
The Bravely Default series is a reverent love letter to the first three Final Fantasy games, especially Final Fantasy III. This series takes the simplicity of the earliest FF titles and applies a modern sensibility to the presentation. Under the hood, however, the classic systems are still in play.
Four Heroes, Four Crystals
The player assumes the role of seafaring adventurer Seth, who is shipwrecked and joins forces with three unlikely heroes. Princess Gloria, scholar Elvis and mercenary Adelle form the backbone of the party, with guest characters joining for some sections of the story.
The story isn’t exactly shocking or full of twists: the bad guys are bad. The good guys are straight-up heroes. There is no moral ambiguity. You’re saving the day because you’re just good like that! For some players, this might be too simple and clean, but, for others, the refreshingly straightforward tale might be just what they’re looking for.
Combat will be familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG in the past 30 years. The heroes and monsters take turns using attacks, spells and special moves to slap the taste out of each other’s mouths. The interesting wrinkle this series adds comes in the form of the Brave and Default systems. They work like this: when you use the Brave command, you take multiple turns in a row. When you use the Default command, you defend yourself and bank a turn for future use.
This is simple on its face, but it adds a great deal of tactical depth to the turn-based encounters. When should you turn up the heat and obliterate your foe? When should you hold back and bank up some turns for later salvoes?
Couple this with the series’ unique job-based class system and the tactical possibilities are endless. None of the four main characters have a class they’re locked into. Instead, you earn “Asterisks” from your opponents, which can be used to change their class anytime you’re out of combat. This lets you tailor the party to your specifications, and adds that much more tactical depth to the combat.
The Bottom Line
Bravely Default II is an exceptionally good, straightforward RPG. If you’re a fan of the classic Square Enix formula, you’ll love this title. We award this game a 4 out of 5.
Bravely Default II is available now for the Nintendo Switch.