About a year ago we gave the original Bravely Default a whopping 9/10 in our review, so it was with some excitement that we battled through numerous eShop error messages for hours on end, desperate to get our grubby mitts on the Japanese Bravely Second demo that released recently.
So how does Bravely Second measure up to its critically-acclaimed predecessor? Well, if this specially-created demo is any indication – very well indeed.
Visually the game is very much as it was before; all picturesque watercolour washes and exquisite character designs by the always-welcome Akihiko Yoshida (Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XIV and many more); the 3DS’ stereoscopic top screen really making those storybook-like town maps and flashy battle effects pop out at you. Players will find more welcome returns under the hood too, such as the adjustable battle encounter rate that allows you to grind to your heart’s content or limp back to town without running into even the weakest foe, as well as the ability to automate or skip events and other scenes. You might argue that such options are against the spirit of the genre the Bravely series is so nostalgic for, but these concessions make for a customisable and accessible adventure regardless of not only your previous RPG experience but also your current available free time.
Questing in this demo is a rather simple affair – all "Kill six of this monster" or "Find me three of this item" sort of requests that send you scuttling off over the (beautiful) overworld map either looking to pick a fight or explore a small dungeon in search of treasure. Admittedly none of these feel particularly inspired, although Bravely Second’s flawless execution makes them feel a lot less tedious than they would otherwise be. We expect the full game to feature something more engaging, although we will of course have to wait until the 23rd of April next year before we can buy a Japanese copy and know for sure.
Overall Bravely Second feels like a refinement rather than a reinvention of the original Bravely Default; If the original charmed your socks off then be prepared to fall in love all over again.