The various demos of Bravely Default had convinced me to skip it. Terribad on a technical point of view, it had also an underwhelming battle system and atrocious difficulty balance. One upgraded version later, we come back to the starting point with Bravely Second’s (BS) demo.
This demo called «the 3 Musketeers» is actually a series of sidequests and humoristic events. No great plot twist or even any introduction on the full story, you just have to loot materials and beat random bosses. Surprisingly enough, BS had a slice of life approach in that demo : the tone is light, dialogs are pretty fun and some characters lovely. Agnes is a wonderful Tsundere, Magnolia is hilarious with her nerves. In fact, this demo has been moe/burlesque all along like many Playstation games I know, the idol bunny girl with her girly samuraï sidekick (like Logos from FFX-2) being definite proof of that. That’s not a bad thing, but BS in this clearly moves away of its ambition of “successor of Final Fantasy”.
BS nevertheless inherits FF’s DNA in urban design & architecture and excellent sound & music. On the other hand, dungeons looked a bit generic. The snag is that it betrays FF lineage in one thing which is graphics : Final Fantasy has always been at the forefront of its generation, whereas BS looks like a 15-year-old game. Whatever its other qualities may be, it is not acceptable to receive a PSone game in 2015. 3D are way too simplistic, no one can be satisfied by this after seeing Phantasy Star Nova or Hyperdimension Neptune U. By the way, Ace Attorney and Stardust Amazones have shown that 3DS can do far better than that. BS has a likeable design but is clearly under the par technically speaking.
In terms of gameplay, BS is less divisive. It inherits the Brave/Default system from BD. In short, you “discard” to save turns and “brave” to use multiple turns at once. Though I can see the strategic uses it can have, I find it unnecessarily complex. In practice, I often run out of turn at the worst moment because I tend to play too fast, which ruins my strategy at times. I’m more satisfied by the job system. It’s more or less the same as FF Tactics Advance, but is nonetheless extremely addictive and very quick to understand. Even better here, magic can be bought and becomes available immediately for all characters who have the adequate job level. Many jobs are progressively unlocked an bring a deal of variety in gameplay in only 4 hours.
The improvements made for For the Sequel are back in BS. You still have the opportunity to change the level of difficulty anytime like in Tales of Xillia for example. That’s fortunate, because I had to switch to easy mode within 30 minutes so as to progress without grinding during the entire week. Another very good idea, BS allows you to tune the frequency of random battles. It is very convenient in a way that you can advance in the game at your own pace.
Bravely Second is a lot more attractive than Bravely Default two years ago. But aside from the postcard-of-FFIX aspect, to me it lacks decisive qualities to make up for its dismal graphics. It seems a honest JRPG but likely behind more ambitious 2015 games on PS4, PSVita or even WiiU.