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Review

Bravely Second: End Layer Review

  • First Released Apr 15, 2016
    released
  • Reviewed Apr 13, 2016
  • 3DS
Chris Damien on Google+

Across the land.

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Bravely Second: End Layer is a sweeping adventure through Celtic myths, pirate legends, and science-fiction fairy tales. It's an ambitious amalgam, and in other cases, might approach overkill. But while poor writing and forced plot points impede this journey's momentum, its vivid world and sleek combat are strong enough to overcome the weight dragging it down.

As the sequel to 2012's Bravely Default, End Layer returns you to Luxendarc, a land of arid deserts and snowcapped mountains. Throughout your travels you'll upgrade four characters, engage in turn-based combat, earn new specialist classes, and prevent the world from crumbling around you.

The story serves mainly as a means to pull you between Luxendarc's locales, offering new macguffins on a whim as you navigate class struggles and solve a variety of political disputes along the way. At first, End Layer's variety is suspect: It's hard to tell whether it's a wild western, medieval journey, or dystopian sci-fi drama. But after several hours, it's clear the game is using the gamut of genres to introduce aesthetics and characters just for spectacle's sake. At this point, I'm content to let it unfold, curious as to what I'll see next.

During one sequence, you find a noblewoman starving in a seaside hut, make your way through a medieval battlefield, and stumble out the other side upon a festival of lights in a warm, lamplit city. This all happens in under an hour.

End Layer's characters function mainly to push the plot forward.
End Layer's characters function mainly to push the plot forward.

End Layer's characterization and dialogue don't reflect the same ambition, though. In fact, its main character, a young cavalier named Yew Geneolgia, is cloying from the start. His catch phrase--"Go for the Gravy!"-- interrupts emotional silences. His reactions to plot twists are rarely believable. His optimism and candor remain static throughout, never drawing any real meaning from his sense of innocence and naivete. Few of End Layer's characters display much dynamism, but Yew is the embodiment of the poor writing choices that drag the adventure down.

The supporting cast doesn't help much, either. Although they first poke fun at Yew, joining you in your disbelief, they soon add painful dialogue of their own. After a momentous mid-game boss fight, characters expound on Yew's slogan, chanting "This is our coup de gravy!" One NPC, obsessed as she is with cats, tells the party she found them using the "meowformation superhighway."

End Layer also breaks the fourth wall several times throughout, often during pivotal plot moments, and it feels forced every time. These meta moments, which I won't spoil here, are interesting concepts on their own--but the story doesn't earn them. They cheapen what little drama the writing already struggled to impart.

While End Layer's narrative fails, however, its combat succeeds. The turn-based title brings back the Brave and Default system established in its predecessor: by defaulting, each character enters a defensive stance and saves up brave points, which allow them to use multiple actions in one turn. Do this without defaulting, though, and you're useless for the next several turns. End Layer benefits from this risk/reward system much like Bravely Default did: there's an inherent tension when choosing between careful defense and all-out aggression.

There's an inherent tension in choosing between careful defense and all-out attack.

The now-eponymous Bravely Second ability also reprises its combat role. The mechanic allows you to stop time, granting one character an extra action during that turn, further increasing the possible ability combinations against your enemies. It's especially useful against tougher bosses, where each turn carries more weight than it might otherwise.

All of this combat is built on the franchise's recurring Job system. Jobs, and the array of possibilities surrounding them, are Bravely Second's lifeblood. As with the game's varied locales, its class system borrows from a plethora of genres--there's a templar; there's an exorcist; there's even a cat-person.

There are 30 jobs in total and each character can equip two at a time. By joining the passive abilities of one with the active attacks of another, you create your own disparate sub-classes to further your goals. End Layer's class system is as much about experimentation as it is execution.

Luxendarc's cities display a gorgeous, water-color style.
Luxendarc's cities display a gorgeous, water-color style.

Throughout my journey, I defaulted often with my Bishop in order to heal my whole party in one turn. Furthermore, I used that character's secondary Wizard abilities to spray a healing mist over his allies--even without further input, they gained health on their own as I focused more on the offensive. I buffed the best fighters with my Red Mage, Braved four times, and used their Ninja, Fencer, and Swordmaster powers to finish off my enemies. And this was only one isolated battle.

Actually acquiring each of these Jobs, however, leads to problems in End Layer's structure. Although many classes are unlocked through the main storyline, some are tied to optional side quests that pit two NPCs against each other. By choosing sides in the conflict, you opt to fight the opposing character, thereby gaining their job for the remainder of the game.

This is conceptually intriguing. But it often creates situations where the job you want is at odds with the character you agree with. In this case, End Layer's story clashes with its gameplay. More than once, I sided with the distasteful character, despite my best intentions: "She had the Summoner class I wanted," or "Her Ninja abilities would compliment my Wizard well." These are the things I tell myself.

End Layer's pacing is constant throughout--a far cry from the latter half of its predecessor.

Without spoiling too much, Bravely Second does allow you to retrace your steps in order to collect every job title in the game's latter half. But the dissonance of the earlier side missions halts the momentum of the globetrotting plot.

On that note: the sequel's late-game hours are far more enjoyable than those of its predecessor. The pacing is constant throughout, and you witness different areas from those of the first half--it's a far cry from the backtracking and tedium of Default's waning chapters.

Several minor adjustments also compliment Bravely Second's late-game pacing. The Consecutive Chance ability lets you continue a fight with another wave of enemies, so long as you killed the first in one turn. The more waves you chain together, the higher your experience multiplier climbs.

The mechanic seems banal at first, but when the grind starts, and you're teaching each character a new Job, it's a welcome addition that keeps you in the fight and rewards your intelligent combat choices.

Jobs are the lifeblood of End Layer's combat.
Jobs are the lifeblood of End Layer's combat.

There's also the option to preset your Job configurations to save your favorite party arrangements. Rather than reassigning everyone's abilities before every difficult boss fight or new area, you can just select one of the presets to expedite the process. It removes the tedium and saves you a handful of hours you might otherwise spend in the menus.

Despite End Layer's late-game improvements, and the variety of locales on display here, it's worth noting how familiar the sequel can seem as a whole: for large chunks of the game, you're revisiting the same cities and dungeons as those from Bravely Default. And the combat, despite its sleek design, doesn't make any major improvements on the well established formula.

These complaints don't affect the game's overall quality, but considering the time the first installment took to beat, End Layer imparts a sense of deja vu more often than I prefer. One could argue it feels more like an exceptional expansion than a true sequel.

But in the end, Bravely Second transcends the limitations that its poor writing and redundant storyline create. It's a grand adventure in every sense of the phrase, whisking you across exotic environments and satisfying your curiosity every step of the way. It has its restraints, but as the story closes on the plains of Luxendarc, Bravely Second's grasp more than matches its reach.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
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The Good
Varied, gorgeous world
Strategic combat
Creative Job system
Well-paced late-game hours
The Bad
Poor writing and dialogue
Forced plot points
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Mike Mahardy spent 65 hours in Luxendarc, and continued grinding for the Yokai Job in the after hours. GameSpot was provided a review copy of End Layer by Square Enix.
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sakaiXx

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The sequel isnt as good as the original. Just got it and man, the prologue is such boring. The new hero as in yew is such a boring addition. The combat also felt kinda slow compared to bravely default. Just thank god on the latter half of the game is not as repetitive as the first.

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gfrequency

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One NPC, obsessed as she is with cats, tells the party she found them using the "meowformation superhighway."

Seriously? They couldn't have gone with "Informeowtion superhighway?" They need to hire better pun writers.

3 • 
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blkgsr

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I loved the first game it was the reason i bought my 3ds, picking up this and ratchet and clank today. Not going to have enough to play both and dark souls 3. And im still interested in quantum break anyone have any thoughts on it, all i know is its a damn good looking game.

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Kusann

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@blkgsr: That's basically it, a good looking game. You'll be over with it after 7-8 hours never to touch it again (no replay value, no multiplayer)

2 • 
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Tony56723

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One more hour till I get out of work and go pick up my collectors edition....mrgrgr >_<

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zura_janai

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Edited By zura_janai

so gamespot decides to give a game like "hyper light drifter" 9/10 and gives bravely second 7/10?

it appears that you didn't play the game past chapter 1 the game deseves at least an eight

i won't waste my time again on reading these unacceptable reviews

2 • 
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AndreasRufus

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Edited By AndreasRufus

They should have made it just like they did with "4 Heroes of Light" and "Bravely Default": Both games were similar, yet very different. This however feels way to much like the previous game with a lot of "copy - paste" elements. Even worse: There's a lot of repetition given as well. Sure, same world and such... But still. Why didn't they use the moon setting for example?

On a personal note: I did not enjoy the new music and new jobs as much as the old ones. I even don't understand why there are two "white mage"-ish healing jobs and the same goes for the black mage.

And don't get me started on the "twist" this time around. It's not as worse as playing the whole game over and over again, but it just feels off once more. Maybe the clue to the solution is a bit beyond me (I may be to stupid for that), but I bet some players will be pretty much lost at that certain point in the game!

Overall it's nice to be back in Luxendarc, but it could be way better.

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Naridar

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I think the developers misinterpreted what made Bravely Default such a sweeping success in the first place and tried to make a direct sequel to a game that was closed for good. A spiritual successor could've worked. This one's story was doomed to fail from the start. Shame, the gameplay's still awesome with the job system being more creative than ever.

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AQWBlaZer91

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Would have been better if everything was kept intact for it's English release.

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Raizak

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"Well-paced late'game hours"

That's a really good improvement over the previous, since the pacing was too dreadful for me to even finish the game. I didn't care for the writing/dialogue in the original, so doesn't surprise me too much with this one. I might actually consider buying this because the improved pacing though.

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Scarshi

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Edited By Scarshi

The dramatic side to writing any Japanese game is usually lost on Westerners. Its not a problem of translation; it's the emotional concept of what is being said being under/over emphasized. Japanese, even for them, are often more dramatic than necessary in any storytelling. Its part of the fantasy.

I bought a 3DS just for Bravelely Default, and I've played it several times. I've yet to find the time to play this sequel. Looking forward to it.

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Kjranu

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Why is this exclusive to the 3DS? This should be on the Vita too. I don't care to purchase a 3DS for a single game.

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deactivated-58bd60b980002

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@Kjranu: Because Square know it won't sell well on the Vita, if at all ...Sony gave up and so no wonder there is almost nothing to purchase in store for that system, they all left after the first 2 years.

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Furwings

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@Kjranu: Not sure if you've been paying attention but as someone who owns both the Vita and 3DS I can tell you there's simply no contest as to which portable system has the better library. Owning a 3DS is WELL worth your time and I'm positive you'll be purchasing more than just one game once you own one.

This is a AAA game, something the Vita hasn't had in about 2 years and will NEVER have again.

Sony has all but given up on the Vita. Heck even 3rd parties have for the most part as well. If it wasn't for ports of indie titles which are also on PS4, the Vita would be dead.

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Kjranu

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@Furwings: I don't care to spend money on another portable. I already have a Vita and I won't like the 3DS because it's a severely underpowered machine that should be selling for $100 or less.

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fastica

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@Furwings: I have both Vita and the new 3DS and while there are more AAA titles for the 3DS, the game library for the Vita is bigger. I don't care about the lack of AAA for the Vita, I can have more fun with a Neptunia game than with a 3DS AAA title. I know it's totally subjective though, but I don't think the Vita is worse than the 3DS game-wise.

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Furwings

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Edited By Furwings

@fastica: Ok fair enough. And you're right it is totally subjective. I just wish the Vita had a stronger physical-release retail presence than it does and I wish Sony's worldwide studios wouldn't have abandoned development for it. I want to love my Vita and I did at the start with games like Uncharted Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, Wipeout, Hot Shots Golf etc. But my enthusiasm for it has really dropped off over the last couple years.

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regix416_basic

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@Kjranu: You clearly haven't played the original... if you had, you wouldn't mind it so much. I'm just worried about how badly it may have been altered thanks to Nintendo taking over the translation this time instead of keeping it the way Square Enix had intended it.

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kaealy

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Can we just stop with the oneliners and word puns please?

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regix416_basic

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@kaealy: That again is something the original game had in spades... if you didn't like it the first time, I doubt this time will be any different... in fact, it sounds like it might get worse...

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KahnArtizt

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@regix416_basic: I loved the word puns! It was a half-serious, half-comical game so I thought it fit in well tonally.

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LunaticJetman

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Personally, I am a bit sad that they no longer review music score, because the first one had a surprising amount of nice tunes. But I guess that the bgm is not important anymore it is all about the sfx :*( And in my personal opinion I find the recent bgm lacking, with a few exceptions as always. Compared to the amount of games released today the decent bgms are way too few and far apart. It is tragic that most of the money seemingly goes in to polygon polishing instead of music scores, but hey if the market is ok with some token generic bgm then that is what they get.

As gor good stories, I am also willing to say that it has decreased per game compared to say the 90's. Nowadays it seems that all you need to do is tell a somewhat personal story entangled in some mystery with a major plot twist that you can see from miles away and people are amazed. As for these open worlds, I think it is a mixed bag, most of the local stories are quite engaging, but then the overall plot line is just ridiculous and feels out of place like in Skyrim and Witcher 3 (that last chapter?). So thete is definitely work go be done in those so called western RPGs when it comes to story telling.

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deactivated-58bd60b980002

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@lunaticjetman: Well yeah I understand that. I guess that music was much more important in the past since it was they only aural conveyer of the emotion... now you have voice acting that take care of that ... plus they treat games like movies and in movies the music is just a background thing.

On top of that open world and first person shooter are really the most popular genre these days and music is quite poor in those if there is any music...

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Furwings

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@lunaticjetman: I completely agree with you. Music should still be a factor in reviews as should control. Yes play control, which used to be reviewed in the 8, 16 & 32/64-bit eras. Some games these days have laggy, delayed, clunky controls (Lords of the Fallen anyone?), yet there is NO mention of it in today's reviews.

I also agree that 90's JRPG's (because WRPG's weren't even really a thing back then) had very engaging stories where you actually cared for the characters - even though they were tiny little sprites with no voices and limited animations. I play RPG's for story, not pull-your-hair-out challenge (Dark Souls) or style-over-substance (Witcher, Skyrim). Sure today's RPG's visually blow away those old 90's JRPG's but they just don't engage me the same way those old games did.

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ArabrockermanX

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@lunaticjetman: "Nowadays it seems that all you need to do is tell a somewhat personal story entangled in some mystery with a major plot twist that you can see from miles away and people are amazed."

This is 100% true... I'm sick of hearing about "great stories" that are grade school level stories...

Also BGM is easily one of the most important aspects of video games... Good BGM makes a good game far more memorable.

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hystavito

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@ArabrockermanX: Music, background music or whatever, usually only get's brought up when the reviewer feels it's very very good, or very bad/annoying.

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regix416_basic

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Edited By regix416_basic

@ArabrockermanX: A lot of things went wrong during the making of this one though... the artist left and came back (strangely) saying I'm not staying gone... I'll do the art for the third game! Then the writer left and did the same thing... It was strange. But the worst decision that befell the game was when Nintendo was the one chosen to translate and release the game... I just hope it wasn't Reggie in charge of the translation of the dub track... I'll be GLAD to turn that thing off during the cutscenes...

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naughtyottsel

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Love this game, had a blast with it 2 months back.

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sladakrobot

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Story driven JRPGs are failing with the actual storytelling nowadays!

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deactivated-58bd60b980002

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@sladakrobot: They just have a very Japanese style that most American can't get behind like it was the case in the 90's

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kaealy

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@sladakrobot: no, the translations are awful. The games often tell a very different story after the translation into english is done. Read up on what happened with a lot of story and characters in the recent Fire Emblem games when the english translatiors had had their fun.

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sladakrobot

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@kaealy: I dont think that a tweak here and there can ruin a great story and there is no way that it can change to a different story.
Dont hold on the original japanese version in all aspects...if there was no internet,almost noone would knew that some aspects was changed(underage sexuality as clothing style and comments,japanese humor or sidekicks unrelated to western audience etc etc etc).
How many JRPGs you played you personaly think there was awesome,was changed to fit the western audience but you wasnt aware?


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kaealy

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@sladakrobot: The famous final fantasy games (6,7 and foremost 8) tells a very different story and portray characters very differently. Squall Leonhart is a prime exemple. I found out this much later when I starten to listen to podcasts about the issue with translations where people understood both languages.

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regix416_basic

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Edited By regix416_basic

@kaealy: Nintendo themselves ruined the translation this time... Square Enix gave them complete control... To quote Edea, "Mrgrgr... Just what were those imbeciles thinking?!?!" Seriously, who says, "Mrgrgr?" Was it a poor attempt to keep her from swearing or something? If you're going to say something vulgar, just say it... Don't make s%^& up!

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jayz0ned

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@regix416_basic: Mrgrgr fit the game and character really well.

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Tony56723

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@regix416_basic: I actually quite like "Mrgrgr."

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realguitarhero5

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Edited By realguitarhero5

So it looks like it's pretty much a carbon copy of the first, but with worse writing?

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Warlord_Irochi

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@realguitarhero5: That's not what the reviewer said.

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realguitarhero5

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Edited By realguitarhero5

@Warlord_Irochi: I played a little bit of the first, and it looked like it not only had the same combat as the first, but the map was even identical.

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Warlord_Irochi

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@realguitarhero5: Then that's what you think, not what the reviewer said :)

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realguitarhero5

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@Warlord_Irochi: **** off

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leathershield

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So at a 7 its almost as good as game of the year DS3, ok Mr. MaHardy!

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jayz0ned

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@leathershield: Bravely Default was a better game than Dark Souls so I'm not surprised.

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drumjod

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@leathershield: Just like how oranges are almost as good as apples right?

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iandizion713

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That sucks about the poor writing and dialogue, hopefully switching to Japanese audio will help a little. Good to know the pacing is improved compared to the first and that the combat is still great. Looks like they did a good job and fans will be happy. Ill have to try it out when i get some time.

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regix416_basic

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Edited By regix416_basic

@iandizion713: You CAN'T in this one... or so I've heard... yet another minus in the rating that they didn't bother to mention. That's why I HATE it when Square Enix won't release their own games anymore and let other people do it for them... because you end up with mistakes like this. The ONLY thing you CAN do is mute the English track, which is a blessing, because most of the stuff I have heard is downright dreadful from the trailer alone.

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Job class games always suffer in the story department. Hard to write a meaningful narrative when the identity of your lead characters is in a constant state of flux. Having said that though, the Bravery games remind me how much I want a 3D FFV remake.

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deactivated-58bd60b980002

2016

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@cjimrun: I see it more like a costume change than anything else during cut-scene

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Bravely Second: End Layer More Info

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  • First Released Apr 15, 2016
    released
    • 3DS
    Bravely Second is the sequel to Bravely Default and will feature a new protagonist named Magnolia Arch.
    9
    Average Rating9 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Silicon Studio
    Published by:
    Nintendo, Square Enix
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol