The transition to the Nintendo Switch saw Bravely Default 2 triumphing in many ways over its predecessor. From upped graphics and sound, to some quality-of-life fixes, it was very much as sequels should be. The game released to positive reviews, praised for its adherence to classic JRPG formulas. However, where it could be argued it is found lacking is in regards to the intrigue of the game’s opening. This is especially apparent when compared to Square Enix’s first entry in the series, Bravely Default. While this article won’t compare the games as a whole, it will argue why the opening of the first is superior. From characters to plot, here is why the first entry had a better opening than Bravely Default 2’ story.
As mentioned above, this is not a comparison of the whole games, just as they relate to the openings. Tiz and Seth are fairly similar in overall nice-guy personalities, as well as their sudden devotions to Agnes and Gloria. This doesn’t mean they don’t have distinct traits, with Tiz being a farmer and Seth a sailor. However, where they differentiate the most is in how they are introduced.
In the first game, Tiz is introduced in the opening cutscene, where we see his village decimated. He loses his little brother as his home is swallowed into the ground. Thereafter, he awakens, still remembering his tragic loss. His motivation thereon is to rebuild his home (a mini game players can engage with). Tiz’s reason for following Agnes is she is the key to preventing further tragedies happening elsewhere. His backstory is thus defined and his motivations made clear.
Seth has an arguably more intriguing backstory if players are willing to overlook the vagueness of his introduction. Although referenced as Seth so far, this is just a placeholder as the player can actually name him themselves. This is entirely pointless, as his name is never mentioned in dialog and players don’t define his character. He has preestablished personality and traits, so its just a meaningless means of player input. Additionally, he is an amnesiac, with very little motivation to push him forward. He was a sailor who fell overboard in a storm and upon waking up decides to help out Gloria, who found him on the beach. He is presented as a tagalong with no real personal drive for Bravely Default 2’s story.
Getting the Gang Together
The Uneasy Alliance of Bravely Default
Much like with the protagonists, it’s easy to see that the developers played it safe by replicating the former’s characters. While still notably different, they share common traits. Adelle and Edea both have fiery spirits, while Elvis and Ringabel have light-hearted charismatic charm. Gloria is a princess, while Agnes is a priestess, but both have a certain noble and dignified quality to them. They diverge more as the stories progress, but the sequel consequently starts off as a less original Square Enix game.
Where Bravely Default 2’s story suffers the most, however, is in its pacing. While some players will never like a slow start, there are sacrifices to making a game too quick. In the first game, Tiz mourns his lost home for a while before running into Agnes. Following an ambush, the two work together, but somewhat uneasily, not knowing how long it will last. Further events happen in the opening city before Ringabel is introduced. He reveals an intriguing book that seems to predict the future, and he states it tells him to tagalong. Then they meet Edea, the daughter of the enemy leader, who changes sides upon witnessing the villainy of her allies. All of this build up provides ample character motivations that make their teaming up understandable.
Quick and Easy Allies in Bravely Default 2
By contrast, the party in the sequel is very haphazardly formed – blink and you’ll miss it. During your first fight as Seth, Elvis and Adelle jump in to help, and from then on you are a party. Gloria is kidnapped and the gang quickly rescues her before deciding to stick together. While character motivations are present, each is a lot vaguer and harder for the player to be immediately invested in. Elvis also has a book, but he can’t read it without asterisks, so players have no way of knowing the book’s worth.
When comparing Adelle and Edea, the sequel also falls short in giving players a quick reason to care. She is venturing with Elvis to find her lost sister, who we have no way of knowing or understanding the importance of. Edea, by contrast, added a unique dynamic to the group by being affiliated with enemy. The group sometimes had a hard time trusting her, giving their relationship room for development.
Perhaps where the new game shines the most is in the character of Gloria. Being a princess of a ravaged kingdom, as well as her quest for the crystals, makes her the standout. Her personality is also less grating than Agnes, who can be very rude and dismissive of her companions. However, even if she is less stuck up, her backstory is still less visible to the player. While the political intrigue of her refugee status is interesting, we do not see the fate of her home. By contrast, Agnes is shown in the opening cutscene when the wind crystal is corrupted and her home ruined.
The Driving Plot
This is another aspect of the games that is uncannily similar. Both narratives revolve around elemental crystals that, despite normally aiding the world, are now causing chaos. It is the mission of Gloria and Agnes both to prevent these oncoming calamities. On the side, Ringabel and Elvis have their mysterious books to add further intrigue. Where the first game begins to pull ahead is in regards to its remaining two characters, as both have personal goals. As mentioned, Edea has unresolved issues with her family, and Tiz must restore his home. The sequel falls behind a bit, as although Adelle presents her goal upfront, Seth is, initially, a void of purpose.
Bravely Default 2’s story lags compared to the opening of its predecessor due to telling rather than showing. The intrigue to the first is encapsulated within a single cutscene, whereas the sequel gradually explaining it through dialogue. While the world is supposedly being thrown out of balance, it’s hard to see proof of it. The first game shows the destruction of an entire village to hammer in this point. By contrast, in the sequel, the true sense of the crystal’s influence isn’t very clear until the second major settlement. NPCs talk about the terrible storms lately, but there is little to actually convince the player of this.
Furthermore, the mysterious intrigue of the books also follows the same narrative flaw. Ringabel’s journal divulges its usefulness immediately as he reads out its future-seeing passages. Additionally, players can experience this themselves as the book becomes a database of sorts. By contrast, Elvis’s book is illegible at first and cannot be examined by the player.
It seems that the sequel decided to forgo much of the opening build-up for its story, perhaps to its detriment. It seems likely that in understanding that the games were so similar, the developers decided the set-up was less necessary. However, in skipping more swiftly to the meat of the game, it sacrificed immediate investment in characters and story. This is not to suggest the rest of the game does not compensate, but beginnings are a crucial aspect of storytelling. As such, for the reasons states above, it can be concluded that the first game provides the superior opening.