After Final Fantasy Explorers Nintendo 3DS is getting another Japanese RPG soon. Bravely Second: End Layer will be released 26 February, but since 11 February there is a playable demo available that affects the full game. And this demo is not just worthwhile because of its duration.
End Layer picks up the story a few years after the story from the first game, Bravely Default. Don’t think you cannot understand is when this franchise is new to you: everything is explained very well, without getting the feeling that you have missed something. Agnès Oblige is getting abducted by Kaiser Oblivion and it is upto Magnolia Arch, Yew Geneolgia, Janne Angard and Nikolai Nikolanikov to save her (and the world). They do that by putting their forces together in turn-based fights against the oddest of creatures.
In this demo you are confronted with a lot of bats and grasshopper-esque beasts. It’s not like Pokémon, in which you see them walking on screen; you can’t see them and they just surprise you. In many instances they even attack right that second. If you have your sound on, you will probably jumpscare sometimes because when you try to find your way and those monsters come at you, you are definitely not always expecting them.
Of course that is not what the demo starts off with, because in the demo first the story is told: Yew is Agnès’ bodyguard and the four of them have to search for a guide before the adventure starts. That beginning is happening in a city that visually really stands out. It is the same art style as its predecessor Bravely Default, which was a huge hit.
It is so beautiful, it feels like you step into this amazingly illustrated childrens book. Even though it seems to just be another detailed cutscene, you get to take control over your character and walk around in this world. You will have to search for this guide, so you really have to look around in the town, talk to people, go into houses and everything. It is essential to explore, cause that is one of the reasons the demo is out: to get you familiair with the game, and more specifically with the guys that can save your progress. Plus, you get to experience that pigs hold a lot of wisdom. Like I said: pretty essential.
This all sounds a bit strange, but that is how End Layer presents itself anyway. You can often have a little conversation with the guys in your team to see how you’d best continue your journey. Even though that sounds prettty straightforward and serious, it is usually in these conversations that the humor comes in. People will not withold telling funny stories about the best ham in the village.
These dialogues can only be read as they are not spoken, but during the rest of the demo it stands out how much dialogue comes with a matching voice-over. It’s usually a typically Japanese voice-over, because even though the demo is in English, the characters sound like tough little boys and yelling cutesy girls, exactly what we are familiair with when it comes to Japanese productions.
That does not mean the game is one explosion of cuteness and big manga eyes; the developers at Square Enix chose for a somewhat more mature look. The characters are still cartoony, but less fat and childish as they used to be.
What has stayed the same, is that the key characters all have to have a job. That system of jobs is very broad; wizards use bad and good magic in their advantage, Fencers can attack a lot tougher and Catmancers take over the behaviour of the monsters. These are just examples, because there is a huge range of jobs available. You do not have to be very careful about picking these out at first, because the enemies you will fight with first are pretty easy. Later though, it gets more and more important to make sure every character in your team has a different job. In this demo you already get to see a few of these possibilities.
The fact there is so much choice, makes Bravely Second very pleasant. During conversations you can even chose to have the texts go on automatically or even skip them, but you can also change the number of spontanious attacks if you want. That is a blessing for many gamers, as JRPG’s take up a lot of time, and this is definitely a big plus to have more control over that time. Even though random encounters aren’t made to make things easy for you, it is still a big advantage to at least be in control of the frequency of it.
For now it seems that Bravely Second mainly continues where Bravely Default stopped. It’s a good choice, as Bravely Default was a great success. As the game has a classical JRPG-style, it might scare away new gamers to the genre, but if you look a bit closer you will see that you can customize a lot to make the game just the way you want it to be. That starts with chosing from three difficulty levels, but it gets (just like the menu’s and possibilities in the game) extended when the story continues.
The extension does not mean that things get too detailed; you don’t get to read menu’s all the time instead of spending time in the game world. They obviously worked hard on making sure the content fits handheld 3DS well, that it is deep and not too complicated. If that will be the case throughout the whole game, that is not really clear yet (this is just a demo after all). For example, I could not use customes yet. Hopefully the possibities in the full game will be endless, without getting to complicated on that little handheld.
Bats in JRPGs can be a pain, as anyone who has traversed a Pokemon cave will attest to.