Square Enix has received more than its fair share of complaints with its handling of Final Fantasy, but if there are any shining lights in the publisher's work, they're on Nintendo's handheld systems, whether it's The World Ends With You or Bravely Default. As a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Bravely Default won over fans with a traditional job-based RPG formula with the added twist of being able to take extra turns and a cast of likable characters. Bravely Second: End Layer, which takes place a little over two years after the original game, continues the adventure introducing new classes and characters new and old.
Now, to make sure you're on solid footing, Bravely Second: End Layer has actually already released in Japan way back in April 2015. Europe and Australia will see a localized release in late February whereas the United States, in shades of Yoshi's Wooly World and Devil's Third, won't receive it until April 15, 2016. That said, I had the chance to play about an hour with the final English release of the game at a private Nintendo event.
Not to spoil too much, Tiz Arrior from the original game discovers that he's in a tank at a laboratory being experimented on by scientists, but Magnolia Arch, a self-described Ba'al Buster, arrives just in time to save him. The pair are soon accompanied by Orthodoxy swordsman Yew Geneologia, who fills the role as the protagonist, and his friend Edea Lee. As Yew is a bodyguard for Agnès Oblige, also from the original game, and Edea Lee is the leader of Eternia's Imperial Guard Knights, they become embroiled in a quest to recover Agnès after she is kidnapped by Kaiser Oblivion.
That wasn't the focus of the demo, though. Instead, it starts with the party encountering two figures you might recognize from Bravely Default: a thief named The Jackal and the red mage Fiore DeRosa. Both have changed for the better, which surprises Edea Lee to no end, with The Jackal turning a new leaf in helping stragglers find water in the desert and the once womanizing Fiore just wanting to discover an eternal energy source to end hardships around the world. However, both end up wanting the same thing, the Wellspring Gem, which springs forth water eternally. Whom you choose to help will determine which class you unlock for your team—thief or red mage—so you'll need to plan wisely.
Of the new classes in the game, the fencer and the wizard seem to hold the most potential. The fencer is based on different stances, like the Wolf stance and the Aurochs stance, and it's rather slow at first because it takes a whole turn to move into a stance before you can use a move that's specific to it. But as you learn skills in the fencer, you'll learn moves that automatically shift between stances easily, and you'll be able to string many attacks together (if you use all four Brave points in a row). If you're looking for straight-up power, though, the new Charioteer class can throw weapons and replace head and body slots with even more weapons for increased attack power.
The wizard has extraordinary flexibility, though, by way of spellcrafting. Instead of simply casting a spell that hits the entire party lightly, you can turn a spell into a powerful single-target Needle or deal damage over time to the entire enemy group using Mist. It takes more MP to spellcraft but it can clear enemies off the board quickly, especially if you're going after the multi-battle rewards, which make a comeback, giving your team another round of enemies for bonus experience if you manage to kill every enemy in the first turn.
Bonus battles certainly help when it comes to grinding out levels and maxing out class skills. The same goes for the adjustable encounter rate, which you can change from -100% to +100%, so that you can grind faster or get through an area without heading into too many random battles and save resources into fighting the boss. If you do grind, of course, the new Bishop class has the white magic spells to cure HP and any nasty ailments along the way. Luckily, every party member can be assigned a primary class which earns experience and a secondary class that doesn't earn experience but can supplement the party and round out any weaknesses. Given that there are 30 jobs and 300 abilities in the game, there's plenty of customization to be had.
Bravely Second: End Layer releases on April 15, 2016 in North America exclusively for Nintendo 3DS, and two months earlier on February 26 in Europe and February 27 in Australia.