In a year filled with games like It Takes Two, Deathloop, and Resident Evil Village, It would take a lot for a game like Bravely Default 2 to stand out, yet it did! An excellent job system with mechanics that integrated into the narrative led to a fantastic battle system and even better endgame. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Bravely Default 2, like most Team Asano games, is heavily inspired by old-school Final Fantasy.
When the first Final Fantasy game exploded onto the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, it was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. You’d pick a job for four characters, like Knight, Monk, Black Mage, or White Mage, and set out on a perilous journey. Each job had different abilities, different stats from one another, and be good and bad in certain aspects. You stick with the jobs you pick at the start, plain and simple. In Final Fantasy III, the job system returned and allowed the player to freely switch between jobs, accumulating points to level up each specific job they chose.
Final Fantasy V continued this trend to switch jobs freely. However, it added in the Ability Points mechanic, where you gained such points after every battle and used them to obtain specific command abilities and passive abilities. These abilities could eventually be used in tandem with other jobs, allowing for a wealth of customization options. Bravely Default 2 takes directly from these job systems but expands on them tenfold.
Jobs, Jobs, & More Jobs
Bravely Default 2 puts significant emphasis on having players experiment with jobs for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, just like in Final Fantasy III, you can switch jobs at any time and level up each job and the character’s level. Each of these jobs learns a specialty at level one and level twelve; these include skills like the Vanguards equipping shields at no cost to their speed or accuracy or Red Mages casting each spell twice at no additional MP cost. These are only equipped when you use the jobs attributed to them. Thankfully, you’re allowed to use two jobs at once, so you can mix and match these special skills. Each character also has five slots they can put passive skills into. These passive skills are learned by leveling up jobs, but they aren’t job exclusive, so you can use a Shieldmaster’s passive skills on a White Mage and vice versa. It’s endless how far this customization goes.
Even if there are specific jobs you aren’t interested in using, that job may have a passive skill that you’re interested in using with a different job. So you’re incentivized to mix and match rather than stick with a couple of jobs the entire game. It takes the support abilities mechanic from Final Fantasy V and allows you to equip more of said abilities.
An important factor with Bravely Default 2 is party variety. Like Final Fantasy, you have to have certain roles assigned to certain characters. Like a healer, a tank to absorb damage or someone to deal magical attacks. Bravely Default 2 doesn’t just want you to think of party composition, though; it always wants you to think of weapon usage since every enemy has particular vulnerabilities. Maybe the rat you’re attacking has a fire weakness, so you’ll want to have a black mage on your team, or at least someone with the Black Mage as their secondary job. Or another monster has an ax vulnerability, so you’ll want to have a proficient job with axes, like a Berserker. Berserkers have an S proficiency in Axes, which means they’ll do extra damage when using them. Every job can use any weapon type, but if a Berserker has an E proficiency level with staves, they probably won’t do much damage. So even though the game allows every job to use whatever weapon, you’re rewarded for sticking to certain weapon types depending on the job, and battles will be much easier. You can also dual-wield one-handed weapons. So a Vanguard has S proficiency in axes and an A proficiency in swords. If no one in your party is using swords, but you don’t want to change jobs, it’s a helpful solution to your problem and gives you a wider pool of vulnerabilities you can expose. It’s a bridge from games like Final Fantasy III or V where classes HAVE to use certain weapon types and can not deviate. Instead, the game gives you bonuses for using the weapons a class is good with but gives you room to customize what vulnerabilities you can expose.
Prepare for Battle
These things come to a head when engaged in a boss battle. Preparation is vital if you want to obtain victory. Losing to each boss once is almost a guarantee because their abilities and weakness have to be learned, and then you’ll have to change up your party to fit the situation. For example, maybe the boss does a lot of physical damage to one of your party members continuously. So you’ll need a Shieldmaster since they have the highest defense, and their level one specialty allows them to take hits for party members with low health. If your Shieldmaster is still struggling, equip them with the Dual-Shields and Better Than Ever. Dual-Shields allow them to equip two shields at once to further boost their defense and accuracy, while Better Than ever, a White Mage passive ability, will enable them to raise their health pool beyond what they’re capable of. Maybe the boss you’re facing doesn’t have an ax weakness, so it doesn’t matter if your Shieldmaster can’t attack. Them tanking hits means your other party members can focus on damaging and exploiting weaknesses. It’s all important, what jobs you use, what weapons you equip your party with, what passive abilities they use. There are infinite combinations and ways to tackle obstacles, and it all builds off of the wonderful mechanics first introduced in Final Fantasy.
The job system itself is more worked into the narrative of Bravely Default 2 as well. Whereas in Final Fantasy, four jobs are obtained once you reach a new crystal, in Bravely Default 2, they are paced out much better and in smaller doses. Instead of crystals, there are Asterisks, which grant the user powerful abilities (so the Monk Asterisk lets the user become a Monk). Once you defeat that Asterisk user, you obtain said Asterisk and can use that related job. The characters you encounter who hold these items usually embody the job they use. Sometimes it’s as simple as the Bard Asterisk holder being a traveling performer or the Shieldmaster being a guard for a specific area. But some other Asterisk users are heavily ingrained into the story and would require spoilers to be spoiled. They’re more than just a reward for defeating a boss and gaining a crystal; they’re plot devices used to showcase certain characters’ personalities and motivations, and it works beautifully.
Bravely Default 2 is one of 2021’s best games because of Team Asano’s dedication to improving upon staples from past JRPGs. It takes the ideas laid in titles like Final Fantasy III & V and runs away with it, allowing for more engaging battles, greater party customization, and more freedom with equipment choice. The mechanics and narrative intertwine in an organic and fun way while still being grounded and not too wacky. Bravely Default 2 is an instant classic for any JRPG fan.