The Bravely series, until now, consisted of two delightful games on Nintendo’s 3DS system. They’re the sorts of games perfect for pick-up-and-go handheld play, which is why I was so excited at the first reveal of Bravely Default II late last year. Not only do I love the Bravely games on 3DS, but Octopath Traveler, made by the same team, is one of my favorite games on Nintendo Switch.
The great news is, based on what I’ve played of the demo, everything I loved about Bravely Default and Bravely Second have made their way to Switch, and even some of what I loved about Octopath Traveler is here, too.
Battle Systems Ready
The real draw for me of the Bravely Default series lies in its battle system. You can either attack, or “default,” which puts your character into a defensive stance and accrues a “Brave Point,” or BP. You can stack these BP up to 4 times and unleash 4 consecutive attacks on one turn. You can also go into “debt” with the BP, but doing so renders your character unable to attack for as many points as you spent.
In other words, if you attack your foe four times and go into the hole, you have to wait at least four turns until you can attack again. It adds extra strategy to the battles, and once you get a handle on it, it gives them a a satisfying flow. I haven’t come across any major changes to its systems in the demo, but that’s fine because it’s like an old familiar blanket on a cold winter’s night.
The best way I can describe the art style of Bravely Default II is to say it’s like someone tilt-shifted a watercolor painting. It’s a cuter version of the gorgeous illustrative work Yoshitako Amano has done for the Final Fantasy series over the decades, and in a lot of ways Bravely Default itself is a cuter version of Final Fantasy.
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The backdrops look like living paintings, and the tilt-shift effect gives it a sense of depth lost in the transition from the 3DS to the Switch. It works incredibly well, and I the extra power of the Switch versus the 3DS allows for some new lighting effects, too. Assign the Vanguard job to one of your party members and watch the light dance and shimmer across the edges of their armor, for example.
A Story Like… Well, Many Others
If you’re familiar at all with JRPG tropes, there are no surprises here, at least as far as the demo is concerned. The entire series has played it very safe in the story department, and I’m completely OK with that. For me, the allure of Bravely, or really any RPG on a portable system, is how easily I can pick it up and put it down. What feels grind-y on a console or PC feels like a fun time-waster on a handheld. Grinding to pass the time is a lot like a fun but mindless smartphone app you pull out on the bus or when you’re at the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment.
As pointless as it seems, given this is only a demo, I spent most of my first hour with Bravely Default II just grinding outside the town. It’s borderline therapeutic to me to rinse and repeat, building up levels and improving my gear, and I know I’ll spend most of my time in both the demo and the full game doing just that.
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The Bravely Default II demo is available right now on the Nintendo eShop and it’s surprisingly robust. There are some missing features, sure, and the framerate has a tendency to drop from time to time, but the core of the game is there and it’s pretty meaty for a demo. It’s also a little harder than I expected, something it warns you of at the start, but that just makes it feel all the better, like a good JRPG should. If you can tear yourself away from Animal Crossing to check out a good ol’ fashioned turn-based RPG with some novel systems, I cannot recommend it enough.