The impending release of Square Enix’s next game promises the return of a beloved JRPG franchise. While not the first in the series, the game will serve as a standalone story, separate from its predecessor. Even so, many themes, motifs and game mechanics will be returning to the fantasy world. However, JRPG games, despite being increasingly accessible, have always possessed a certain learning curve. As a turn-based battle game, the strategies required are easier to pick up with some prior experience. As such, here is a list of 5 Square Enix games to play before Bravely Default 2.
1. Bravely Default and Bravely Second
Despite the previously mentioned disconnect from the upcoming game’s story, some prior experience with the franchise could be useful. The games are named after their primary mechanic, the Brave and Default system. Essentially, the game allows characters to stack up BP (Brave Points) which are used whenever they take an extra action. While most turn-based games simply allow one move per round, this is where Bravely Default distinguishes itself.
By using the default option, the character will simply guard and save a BP. With a maximum stack of 3 BP, a player can initiate 4 actions in a single turn. Alternatively, players can use Brave without saving them first, sending your BP into the negative. If you expend more than you have, you will have to spend an equal number of turns unable to move.
As the above suggests, the mechanic takes some getting used to. It can end combat in one fell swoop, or leave your party vulnerable if poorly timed. Simply playing the game without this mechanic won’t work, and as such players need to master the Brave and Default system. Taking some time to practice this in the first games should be the most efficient way to prepare before Bravely Default 2.
Additionally, playing the first will introduce players to the various jobs and items that will become essential to combat. Furthermore, an understanding of the themes and motifs of the game will be easier to comprehend with some additional lore knowledge. While you can enjoy the story blind, the overwhelming info dumps typical in JRPGs will be easier with some foreknowledge.
2. Classic Final Fantasy
Truthfully, any title in the Final Fantasy series could be beneficial to your entry into the Bravely series. The primary reason for this is due to both franchises sharing much of their lore. Square Enix developed both, with Bravely originally intended as a sequel to the DS game The 4 Heroes of Light. Veterans to the series will immediately recognize reoccurring items, such as the reviving Phoenix Down. Other notable connections include motifs such as the crystals and summoning. In many ways, despite its unique name and the Brave and Default system, it’s a classic Final Fantasy game.
The term “classic” is notable here because recent entries in the games have drifted away from turn-based combat. Adopting a more action-game feel in the likes of Final Fantasy XV, Bravely returns to the franchise’s roots. Pretty much any of the games from 1 to 10 will serve as good practice for this style of play. However, perhaps the most similar, overall, would be games such as Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy V. Not only do these games use turn-based combat, but also a job system that is core to the Bravely experience. Understanding the benefits of various jobs and practicing levelling multiple classes will be extremely useful before Bravely Default 2.
3. Octopath Traveler
Yet another game committed to old-school turn-based combat, Octopath Traveler possess some of the most similar mechanics. Much like the Brave and Default system, Octopath implements its own unique BP system. Each turn, characters in the party gains a boost point (BP) which can be used to increase your attack power. Essentially, an attack can be boosted to quadruple the effect after saving at least 3 BP.
The distinction from Bravely is that you can not spend BP you don’t have. No longer forced to spend a turn guarding to rack up points, each turn can be used to push towards victory via the Boost and Break system. As each turn passes you will naturally acquire BP without needing to wait, thus maintaining the momentum of battle.
In addition to combat, players can enjoy an extensive story for its eight characters, each of whom has their own path to walk. The game is rendered with beautifully vibrant pixel art, voice acting and a phenomenal soundtrack.
Returning to combat, Octopath’s “Break” mechanic is the key to victory as it can stun enemies. Each enemy in the game has certain vulnerabilities to specific weapons or spells. Each time one of these effective moves hits them, they are brought closer to their breaking point. Once at 0, the enemy’s guard is shattered and they are unable to move. This not only is essential to preventing bosses from landing devastating moves, but it also increases the damage they receive. The game teaches restraint in timing when to break an enemy, as sometimes it takes multiple rounds. If they are broken too soon, they will be harder to break in time to negate an oncoming attack.
4. Dragon Quest
Yet another classic Square Enix property, the Dragon Quest franchises is the oldest on this list, and still it’s running strong. The turn-based combat makes it once again a familiar point of connection with Bravely games. However, an interesting aspect of its recent designs is the implementation of monsters in the overworld.
Unlike the random ambush encounters of everything else so far, enemy encounters are easier to avoid in modern entries. Dragon Quest 11, the most recent in the series, is also available on the Nintendo Switch like Bravely will be. As many JRPGs are, it is a story and character driven experience across an epic fantasy world.
In regards to other similarities that could help players prepare, previous entries have even included a job system. Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies allowed for a lot of diversity in a single character’s various jobs. The key to this is learning how to effectively mix and match skills from varying jobs for maximum impact. Learning to carefully map your characters’ progression in advance is a skill surely needed to prepare for Bravely Default 2.
Just as Final Fantasy served as the basis for the Bravely series, so too did Dragon Quest for the former. In terms of retro JRPGs, its influence can be felt throughout most modern games in the genre. The series is known for its iconic monsters, so much so that it even got a spin-off based on capturing them.
5. Chrono Trigger
In many ways, 1995’s Chrono Trigger is the culmination of two of Square Enix’s powerhouse franchises. The game was developed by a team with prior experience in both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Additionally, its art was created by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. With a team consisting of such extensive experience in the genre and storytelling, its reputation makes sense. Often heralded as one of the greatest JRPGs, the multiple ending story offers plenty of replay value. Furthermore, the game is highly accessible even now, with various ports existing for the Nintendo DS, mobile and PC.
The mechanics it will familiarise players with before Bravely Default 2 include an overworld for exploration in which enemies visibly appear. Avoiding encounters is possible, unlike random ambushes, allowing players to explore at their own pace. Where Chrono Trigger deviates is in its implementation of the “Active Time Battle.” This meant that a bar appeared to show the countdown for a character’s next action dependant on speed.
Other games such as Final Fantasy 9 included similar mechanics, although settings can be toggled to make it easier. It encourages quick thinking as you plan your move, as you need to subsequently act fast when it arrives. It’s a good system for strategy and discipline during encounters with an extra layer of suspense.