Some months ago, my daughter Traveler was re-playing an older Tales game, and she said that it was like chicken soup to her. I am not a big Tales fan, but I get it. I like soup too. And chicken soup… wholesome, comforting, capable of mending wounds. Wraps you in a mantle of protection. It’s good stuff.
And since I am on the subject of chicken soup, let me tell you: my mother made the best chicken soup. She used orzo pasta and added tiny meatballs, which were really tasty, because she used parmesan cheese in them. And mint. Must be an Italian thing, and maybe I should be writing a recipe blog instead of a gaming blog. But trust me when I tell you, my mother’s chicken soup was the best. And Traveler knows this.
In any case, and I said it before today on this blog, there is now an entire subgenre of new JRPGs that are made on purpose in a classic-retro 90s style, but with modern mechanics and beautiful graphics. Basically, these games have the same comforting appeal as mom’s homemade chicken soup. And if there is any one game which I have played recently that is absolutely chicken soup, it is Bravely Default II, which was released earlier this year on the Switch.
You play as Seth, the hero (whom you can rename by the way) who washes up on shore after a wreck at sea that has caused him to lose his memory. Poor Seth! Well, he soon teams up with others, and they all set out on a quest to reclaim four elemental crystals before the world is destroyed by evil forces. Got that? A hero, a party, lost crystals, and a quest to save the world. That right there is the chicken and the meatballs and the orzo and… well, I’m not really sure how far this analogy will take us, but right there you have the basic ingredients.
Here is where I stop to point out that the word map is actually the broth to the soup, you see what I mean? You do see that, right? …. I mean, right?
Now the story of BD2 is not especially deep or surprising, but it does have its twists, and it is enjoyable for what it is, which is standard 90s JRPG fare. Enemy encounters are turn-based, strategic, and tough in general, and boss fights are especially rough. You will need to grind, you know, like, old-fashioned style. But if you are like me, you will like it! Dungeons are challenging enough that you can die, but not so long and deep that you despair.
BD2 has a lot of optional side quests (if you like doing those) and an impressive and fun job system. Characters can equip occupations, each of which comes with a set of abilities which are acquired as the job levels up, and (also important) each occupation comes with a fancy new outfit. And who doesn’t like that?
One last thing. Let’s talk about the graphics. Visually the game is beautiful and colorful, modern but retro at the same time, and I love it… except for one thing. The character models are rendered in a cheesy, chibi art style that spoils the whole way the game looks. My mother always said you can add as much basil as you like, but be careful with the oregano. The chibi characters are like that — too much damn oregano!
My 16-year-old son thinks I need to can the soup analogies.
I can’t help it though.
Trailing Sleeves gives Bravely Default II 8 / 10 bowls of soup: