Octopath Traveler II tells us that we don't need to be a superstar in order to bring hope to people. If you can make even just one person smile, you've accomplished something incredible and they will be a ray of happiness to you in return.
It conveys the idea that anyone can lose their way if they let their own pain taint their actions, and that it can be difficult to get out of that state of mind without a helping hand. Being patient with such a person in a time of need may blossom into a lifelong bond. Saving someone from their inner turmoils and giving them a chance to get back on their feet is a worthwhile endeavor.
It urges us to seek our own path, for we can never be truly free when adhering to someone else's expectations unwillingly. Sometimes, if your words fall on deaf ears, the only option left is to remove that person from your life.
It encourages us to be good to people, with no ulterior motive, and not to be insecure when challenged by misguided individuals who perform irrefutably malevolent deeds. If you let yourself be swayed by someone who acts with hatred, resentment or jealousy in their heart, you can quickly become just as lost as they are. It also reminds of the importance of patient critical thinking over immediate emotional response.
It even manages to tackle the topic of technological advancement and the need for wealth redistribution as new things get invented that improve the efficiency of production. After all, if knowledge exists to be shared with all, dough shouldn't just be hoarded either.
It is a tale about enjoying the simple pleasures of life, and spreading warmth and happiness around us.
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This game is more than everything I had hoped for in a sequel to the first game. Much of the praise I had for that game also applies here, so I won't repeat all of the things Octopath Traveler II took from the first game that didn't need to be fixed, but let's dive into the ways in which it improves upon the original.
Improvements to the skills make it so there are much more ways to break enemies, and classes have been rebalanced in a way that feels like they all complement each other even better than before. The new Latent Power and EX Skills also make each character have a stronger identity in combat, and there is now a way to equip the same sub-class onto more than one character if you want to.
This series continues to have best-in-class music. As catchy as it is epic, as comforting as it is melancholic. Most of it is new, but a couple of melodies from the first game made a return in remixed fashion, striking a chord of nostalgia within me while strengthening the continuity of the series. It gave me the sentiment that these eight new travelers were experiencing emotions that the characters from the first game had also felt on their journey, despite having completely different stories. This is just one example of Team Asano's masterful understanding of emotion. Emotions are not unique; if it's a real emotion, then anyone can relate to it, because we are all human. Hearing those melodies again made me feel those intended emotions twice as strongly, as I thought of my past adventures in the continent of Orsterra as well as my current ones in Solistia.
Something I love about this series is how much the story feels like it ties into the gameplay and vice versa, and they went above and beyond this time to give us some jaw-dropping moments with the path actions at the end of each story. They somehow even managed to weave in the new day/night cycle mechanic into the plot.
The world is even more fun to explore due to the addition of boats and the way the map is less predictable to navigate. I think there are also more bosses to defeat, or at least they are spread out better. I still recommend equipping the Evasive Maneuvers scholar skill to reduce the encounter rate, making it just right as you explore. The chapters are also less formulaic this time around, making it so you don't know for sure what to expect from a given chapter. The post-game is much expanded as well, with some fully voiced side-quests that let you see what happened to some important characters in the story.
The Japanese voice acting performances are absolutely fantastic and full of life. One day, I will play through the whole game again with the English voices, but I can't comment on those yet.
The new cross paths really help tie everything together. And when I say everything ties together in the end, I mean it. Also, in the first game, a lot of the camaraderie between your party members came from your own imagination and roleplay. I'm glad that aspect is still present throughout the game, but there's a lot more jerky around the bone this time around, if you will. The final segment of the game made everyone feel even closer than I imagined my party in the first game to be, boosting the affection I have for these characters even more.
As the end approached, I didn't want to say goodbye. I'm grateful for this warm feeling... thank you for traveling with me.