Bravely Default was an interesting title for Square Enix to release, as it was a classic Final Fantasy-style game in essentially all but name. Though it featured many well-trodden JRPG tropes, it mixed these in with modern gameplay standards and conveniences that made the experience all the more enjoyable. Bravely Second: End Layer aims to build upon what made it predecessor so successful, making this a game that's approachable to both newcomers and fans of the original.
The battle system is largely carried over from the original, and while it is rather confusing to a newcomer such as this writer, it all clicks into place if you stick with it enough. Basically, each party member uses one Brave Point for performing an action and one Brave Point is given to each character, each turn. If the player so chooses, a character can perform up to five actions in one turn, but will be unable to act for the following four turns. Similarly, a character can choose to Default, performing no action for the turn, but storing up an extra Brave Point for the next round.
The system makes sense in practice, and forces players to think over actions a bit more strategically than in a standard turn-based JRPG. Another fun feature of the combat is the titular 'Bravely Second'. This ability allows a character to freeze the battle at any time and perform an action, even in the middle of enemy turns. The catch is that it can only be activated by utilizing Sleep Points, which are given to the player after the 3DS sits in sleep mode for a certain number of hours.
The jobs system makes its return once again, with twelve new jobs and eighteen returning jobs from the first game. Naturally, new jobs were mostly shown off in the demo we played, and there are certainly some interesting new ideas. Our favourite new job is the Catmancer (like a necromancer, but with cats), which is a character who trains small housecats to use magic and do their bidding. Another intriguing new job is the Charioteer, which has different offensive and defensive stances for doling out special attacks.
Though we didn't get much of a grasp of the story, it takes place a few years after the first game and features several returning starring characters. Fortunately you're never at a loss where to go, as there's a girl on the bottom screen that'll update you on the current objective of your quest. Traversal is well managed as well - a tap of the shoulder button allows you to adjust the encounter rate to either nonstop attacks or none at all.
Another new feature is how enemy encounters can be chained together one after another, with the total rewards multiplying with each consecutive victory. The catch is that a loss results in a total loss of all spoils from the battles, and Brave Points don't reset between battles. It's a nice risk/reward system, and encourages players to plan out strategies and build effective teams.
In summary, Bravely Second: End Layer seems like a title designed to fulfil many dreams of JRPG lovers. With supposedly hundreds of hours of content, an elaborate job system and an interesting battle system, it has plenty to offer. While fans of the genre may not necessarily be blown away by the gameplay on offer, it's designed in such a way as to be approachable and accessible to newcomers; it has the potential to appeal to both types of gamer.
These impressions are based upon a press event and related preview time in San Francisco. Nintendo of America paid for our writer's flights and hotel stay.