(Pocket-lint) - One less-acknowledged feature of the Nintendo Switch is that it has become the home of some of the finest Japanese RPGs (universally known as JRPGs) ever made.
And here's another one: Bravely Default 2, rather unusually developed by Square Enix but published exclusively by Nintendo. So it is another Switch exclusive must-buy?
Classic JRPG, just less whacky
Bravely Default 2 certainly ticks the well-defined boxes that form the essence of any JRPG. Turn-based battle system? Check. Challenging boss-battles that generally require a bit of grinding before you can see them through? Check. Stylised, cartoonish art-style (in this case leaning towards the more bobble-headed end of anime)? Check. Bizarre terminology (Brave and Default are both key options in the battle-system)? Check.
One common JRPG aspect it does lack – which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view – is a willingness to delve into the wackier, more outre elements of Japanese culture (such as, say, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore's excitable examination of the idol phenomenon, or Yakuza: Like A Dragon's tender depiction of washed-up middle-aged men bonding). It aims firmly for the mainstream, like the Zelda games or Ni no Kuni, and is eminently suitable for an audience extending from youngsters to all ages beyond.
Earth, wind, air and fire
Story-wise, it's a fairly familiar quest through a mediaeval-style world, in which a group including Seth (your character), Elvis, a Black Mage with a Scottish accent, his fighting companion Adelle, and the Princess Gloria from the now-destroyed territory of Musa.
Evil is afoot, so in order to thwart it the party embarks on a quest to track down and acquire four crystals – wind, water, earth and fire – that are in the hands of baddies and causing havoc in various towns in the game-world.
It's a fairly conventional story, but endowed with plenty of twists, along with an overarching plot among the baddies that unfolds in a leisurely manner, while your party's bonding and back-stories are revealed by conversations you must trigger during your travels.
One exemplary aspect of Bravely Default 2 that will thrill JRPG lovers is its battle system. The Brave command lets you take two (or even more) moves during a round, although that is balanced out by your character then sitting out subsequent rounds. Thus, you can respond to situations such as, say, the need to resurrect a downed colleague and finish off a weakened enemy at the same time.
The concept of 'jobs' looms large, too. As you level up generally, your job level also rises, and each character can have a main job and a sub-job. Every successful boss-battle brings a new job – with the likes of weapons-specialist Vanguard, Black Mage, White Mage and Monk joined by Thief, Beastmaster (which lets you capture beasts, Pokemon-style, and unleash them on enemies), Berserker (who is great at dealing damage to all enemies at once), and buff-inducing Bard.
It sounds complicated, but it isn't – once one of your characters fully masters a job, you can set that as their sub-job and set about mastering a new job. Thus, you can generate characters with a vast array of skills encompassing both physical attacks and magic. Also, every crystal you collect endows one member of your party with the ability to perform special attacks, which you must work hard to power up.
There's a lot of satisfaction to be had from Bravely Default 2's battle system, particularly when you find sweet spots in which your characters' jobs mesh perfectly to counter the opposition which is presented to you. The boss-battles do a fine job of throwing curve-balls at you, triggering tactical tweaks or complete rethinks.
Puzzles add variety
Bravely Default 2 may be conventional in JRPG terms, but it feels beautifully honed, and that in itself should excite fans of the genre. Throw in a generous selection of mazy dungeons (which often require some light puzzle-solving to traverse) and a smattering of side-missions – some of which are disappointingly basic, but which come in handy when you need to level up in anticipation of a boss-battle – and you're left with an extremely solid experience.
You could easily spend 50 hours or more collecting those crystals, particularly if you get seduced by the endless possibilities offered by your characters' potential job combinations.
Bravely Default 2 is undoubtedly conventional and mainstream by JRPG standards, and it isn't the most sophisticated or arcane JRPG out there – graphically, it falls far short of the standards established by the likes of Final Fantasy – but it's as solid as a rock in terms of gameplay, and hugely moreish.
In terms of general vibe, Bravely Default 2 is quite reminiscent of the first Ni no Kuni, albeit with a charming personality of its own – so if you enjoyed that franchise, you should find it very appealing.
It's a solid, classic JRPG, offering a thoroughly beguiling fantasy-world in which to lose yourself for dozens of hours. And that might be exactly what we all need right now. Plus, it offers further confirmation that, if you have an interest in JRPGs, then you need to own a Nintendo Switch.