RPG fans got a nice surprise at the 2019 Game Awards: A reveal for Bravely Default 2, coming from Square Enix to the Nintendo Switch in 2020. The elation is laced with some confusion, as people are asking "Wait… don't we already have Bravely Default 2 on the 3DS?"
Well, yes. Also no. Indeed, there are already two Bravely Default games—three if you count an earlier edition of the first game that came out in Japan—but the Switch game revealed at The Game Awards is seemingly the first true sequel. Not only does it bear a telltale "2," but the trailer shows off an entirely new cast.
The three Bravely Default games currently available for purchase include:
- Bravely Default: Flying Fairy (3DS, 2012—Japan only)
- Bravely Default: For the Sequel (3DS, 2013—Added content not available in the first release. This version was localized for North America)
- Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS, 2015)
The Bravely Default games are directed by Kensuke Nakahara and produced by Tomoya Asano, who also produced 2018's Octopath Traveler. The series' distinctive art comes courtesy of veteran game artist Akihiko Yoshida. Bravely Default's strange name refers to its unique twist on a traditional JRPG battle system. Players can attack enemies or "Default" to store up Battle Points (BP) and queue up multiple strikes. Defaulting before releasing a devastating attack is the preferred way to take on the games' hard-hitting bosses. Thus, "Bravely Default."
The first Bravely Default was a surprise hit in Japan, as well as overseas. JRPG releases were few and far between at the time, and RPG fans gladly latched onto Bravely Default's menu-based battle system and heavy emphasis on class changes. Encouraged by game-hungry RPG fans, Square Enix released Bravely Second: End Layer on the 3DS in 2015.
It's been noted—both casually and disparagingly—that End Layer feels more like an expansion pack for Bravely Default than a separate title. Many of the same characters come back to continue a story that picks up where the first game left off, and you visit familiar locales. Even much of the soundtrack is recycled. Still, there are some new classes to enjoy, some of which go leagues beyond the traditional Warrior, Mage, or Dragoon. Weirder jobs include an Exorcist, a Patissier, and a Catmancer who can summon felines to do their bidding. (Who decided to call it a "Catmancer" when "Nekomancer" was right there?) Bravely Second sold well, eventually moving 700,00 copies worldwide, but it didn't quite touch Bravely Default's one million sold—a number nearly unheard of for an RPG at the time, let alone a 3DS RPG.
It's possible Square Enix didn't want to simply call Bravely Second "Bravely Default 2" because it too felt like the game was more of an extension of the first than a truly new adventure. Then again, when you call a series "Bravely Default" to begin with, normal naming conventions probably don't hold much of a thrill.
That said, I understand why Square Enix decided to bust out the title Bravely Default 2 for the new game: it's been five years since Bravely Second, and "Bravely Default 2" instantly tells lapsed fans, "Hey, remember that game you loved on the 3DS? It's getting a sequel on the Switch!" Square Enix doesn't disavow Bravely Second, nor should it, but its title doesn't command the same recognition as Bravely Default. It's also worth pointing out the new faces we see in the trailer for Bravely Default 2 and the series' debut on Switch already makes the game feel like a clean break and a new start versus Bravely Second's reliance on old characters, music, and locales. A "2" feels appropriate.
If all this education about numbered sequels versus suggested sequels hasn't driven you to drink yet, here's a tidbit of extra trivia. The Bravely Default series is a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, a 2009 Nintendo DS RPG also produced by Tomoya Asano and illustrated by Akihiko Yoshida. 4 Heroes of Light isn't officially connected to Bravely Default or Bravely Second, but you won't have a problem finding shared references between the games.