Try Bravely Default II right now with a free demo

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For anyone who likes classic JRPGs, Bravely Default II is easily one of the most exciting games on the horizon this year. A new demo released on the Nintendo Switch eShop today offers players a taste of what to expect, as well as a chance to give feedback before the final release later this year.

The demo follows a storyline that is separate but related to that of the main game (an approach seen previously in the demo for Bravely Second: End Layer). It sees the four heroes—Gloria, Seth, Adelle, and Elvis—arrive in Savalon, a Middle East-inspired desert city that’s been almost entirely submerged by a freak flood. The group’s investigations lead them to a mysterious nearby ruin, rumoured to be home to strange rock—almost certainly the Water Crystal they’re looking for, which would explain the flooding.

As with Bravely Default and Bravely Second: End Layer before it, Bravely Default II features a job system reminiscent of Final Fantasy V. In the demo, five jobs are available to start with: Freelancer, Vanguard, Monk, White Mage, and Black Mage. A new feature this time around is the ability to set a sub job as well as a main job, though in practice, the only effect seems to be to give you access to the sub jobs commands—which you could set manually in earlier games, anyway. Sub jobs don’t earn JP or affect stats, as far as I can tell from my time with the demo.

The demo also offers a good taste of the battle system, which allows characters to take multiple turns at once—either by storing them up on previous turns, or by borrowing against future turns. This system is largely unchanged since earlier games, though the demo expects you to really push it to its limits thanks to an inflated level of difficulty. There’s an explicit message about this when you first load up, but I do still wonder if the difficulty is ramped up too much, to the point of alienating potential buyers. Early on, you can expect to run back to the inn after almost every encounter, and it’s not unusual to find groups of foes that are borderline impossible to beat at your level (my very first encounter was a surprise attack from a six-strong group of orcs that wiped my party before I even got a turn.)

The demo does a good job of showing off Bravely Default II‘s gorgeous presentation. It sticks closely to the art style of the previous games, with chibi characters and a hand-painted effect for towns and villages, but with the added resolution and power of the Switch (compared to the 3DS) to really make everything pop. The city of Savalon, especially, shows off an impressive new level of depth in the scenery and map design, without compromising the painterly feel at all.

Notwithstanding the increased difficulty, Bravely Default II feels very similar to the games it follows, which is not a bad thing at all. Bravely Default and Bravely Second are two of the best examples of a modern take on classic JRPGs, and sticking to what worked so well before sets Bravely Default II in good stead.

Bravely Default II is planned for release sometime this year, exclusive to Nintendo Switch. Square Enix plans to put out a survey for people who play the demo, in order to give feedback that will be fed into the full game.

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Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.