A procession of weirdly-timed circumstances kept me from polishing off Bravely Second and this review as quickly as I initially would've liked. Please don't hold the delay against Yew, or take it as an indication that I didn't enjoy myself. On the contrary, Bravely Second is a joy.
And, to repeat myself, it just feels good to have a classic JRPG experience with an adjustable "old school" meter. Are random encounters getting you down while you navigate through labyrinthine dungeons? Turn them off for a bit. Need to grind? Fight several battles in a row to multiply your experience earnings.
Simply put, Bravely Second is a successful blend of old JRPG values and new ideas. This point is demonstrated through the game's job system alone, which offers a grand mix of old favorites (Knight, White Mage, Black Mage, Thief, Monk) and new vocations that are so bizarre, you're helpless to keep your hands out of them (Catmancer, Patissier, Exorcist, Yokai).
Obviously, not every job is built around turning your character into a murder machine. You're probably asking "How the heck am I supposed to kill bad guys by throwing cake at them?" You're right to do so, but a big chunk of Bravely Second's enjoyment comes from seeing how classes complement one another. The Patissier, for instance, supports their fellows by lobbing stat-lowering foods at foes.
"So the Patissier specializes in buffs and debuffs? What's wrong with just casting regular spells to do the same thing?"
Because that's not as much fun. Besides, there are other jobs based around buff and debuff magic -- the Astrologian, for instance -- but the Patissier literally crafts a sweet before they whip it at a bad guy. In the same vein, Catmancers learn enemies' moves by observing them, essentially making them Bravely Second's Blue Mages. The twist is that cats are coaxed into mimicking said attacks by being fed certain items, like "Dragon Steak" and "Leviathan Sashimi."
It's easy to glance at Bravely Second and decide it never takes itself too seriously. And while Bravely Second undeniably puts its sense of humor above all else, it's also important to point out you have some control over how thickly the game lays it on. Don't want a party full of cupcake-hurling cat-whisperers (you monster)? That's fine. You're hardly working with a handicap if you opt for traditional Dark Knights and Red Mages.
Bravely Second makes no secret of its light mood, same as it's wide-open about its preference for improvement over innovation. Instead of introducing a slew of new ideas, Bravely Second polishes its predecessor's rough spots, then offers up more of everything that worked the first time around. More jobs. More characters. More options to keep ye olde JRPG mechanics from becoming too much of a grind. More searching. More side-quests.
Oh, there is less of one thing: Less threadbare anime jokes about dirty old men hitting on young ladies. Hopefully, your heart will go on.
If you avoided Bravely Default because you found the first one too twee or you just weren't a fan of its core mechanics, you can dodge Bravely Second without regret. If, however, you enjoyed the first game but found its end game a massive slog, you'll be pleased to know Bravely Second is a tighter, sleeker experience all around.
And if you simply enjoyed bravely defaulting in the face of your foes the first time around, don't hesitate to pick up Bravely Second. Go for the gravy.
Bravely Second is a long game, though you have some control over how many hours you want to pour into it (you're not obligated to schlep around the world in search of every last job asterisk, for example). If you're a job fanatic, you can toy with learned skills forever in search of your favorite build.
Supercell band member Ryo takes over for Bravely Default's Revo, and everything sounds great -- though whether or not Bravely Second sounds "better" than Bravely Default is a matter of preference in the end. There's no arguing the battle theme for the Ba'als is delightfully weird and creepy, though.
Akihiko Yoshida's character designs are at their best here, and the enemies you go up against are creative and well-animated. The adorability of the costumes for each job class cannot be overstated, either. I still can't get over the Merchant class's tophats, bonnets, and stupid bling-bling clock necklaces. The characters wear their costumes in cutscenes, too!
Bravely Second: End Layer is a worthy follow-up to Bravely Default, which in itself is one of the best RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS. Granted, if Bravely Default didn't move you the first time around, Bravely Second probably won't, either. For better or worse (but mostly better), it's a straight-up second helping of its predecessor.