We've got all the details on Bravely Second's new Catmancer class
Last week's Nintendo Direct video highlighted some of the new job classes that would be available in Japanese roleplaying game Bravely Second: End Layer, including the wonderfully weird Catmancer class. You can see ZAM's highly articulate reaction to the reveal here.
As outlined in the video, Catmancers learn the moves of monsters the player encounters, and then train cats to perform them in exchange for treats. Bravely Second lets you train cute little kitties to kill, basically, which is something we’ve all wanted every videogame to allow for a while now.
Over here in Australia, Bravely Second has been out for a bit over a week (don’t get too jealous -- we’re not getting Fire Emblem: Fates until May, and the wait is genuinely destroying us). I’ve been playing the game and have made sure to level up party member Edea into an expert Catmancer, because she’s my favorite character and it seems only right that hordes of cats would follow her everywhere, willing to do her bidding. The Catmancer class is interesting, I’ve realised, not just because of the inherent wackiness of the whole concept -- it’s also a particularly solid way of illustrating how Bravely Default separates itself from the RPG pack.
The job systems in Bravely Default and Second give you a huge degree of customisation over your team’s abilities.. As you fight you earn ‘job points’ alongside your regular XP, and as jobs level up you unlock new abilities. Support abilities can remain active no matter which jobs you switch to down the line, and whatever your current job, you can still access the attacks and abilities of one former job during battle. This means that it’s worth levelling up your current job and unlocking as many abilities as possible before switching.
Some jobs come into their own and prove useful immediately. When I turned party member Magnolia into a ‘Hawkeye’ and handed her a gun, she instantly became the most powerful member of the team. I could rely on her to wipe out entire waves of enemies on the first turn. (If you haven’t played Bravely Default, you can make a character take multiple turns at once in exchange for several turns of inaction. There’s more incentive to do so in the sequel, as defeating enemies within a single turn lets you jump into another battle right away for substantially more XP and money.)
The new Catmancer job, on the other hand, takes a little while to wrap your head around. As long as one party member has the job, you can ‘learn’ new abilities during combat when you’re attacked. By the time my Edea was a level 5 Catmancer, she had unlocked ‘Blood Leech’ (a HP absorbing attack), Chomp (an attack with low accuracy that reduces a target’s HP to 1, which can be devastating when it hits), Perforator (a standard attack that reduces enemy defense) and Book Burning (a powerful attack that hits all enemies and causes Silence, which stops them from casting spells). All great, useful commands… all of which are tremendously expensive to actually use. You need to feed your cats in order to get them to perform attacks, and each attack carries a different cost -- the first two require beast flesh, which is fairly easy to obtain (you can purchase it if you’ve fulfilled certain in-game conditions that would take too long to unpack here), but I’ve yet to find any of the rare cheese that will let me use Book Burning.
By leveling up, my Catmancer has also learned Cat Nap, Mislead and Dig. The first two are simple status-changing powers, but the third is pretty interesting -- Dig lets you search for those cat snacks wherever you are. It means leaving Edea wide open in combat, of course, but it can be worth digging during the easier battles to prepare yourself for harder jobs ahead (and I’ve made sure that I’ve retained her Fencer class abilities, which allows her to switch into a defensive stance). What your cats can dig up differs depending on your region too -- I’ve stockpiled resources that I haven’t actually been able to use in combat yet, because I haven’t yet learned the right abilities from enemies. This means that the Catmancer on your team will become like a squirrel, foraging and stockpiling for the winter of its discontent (eg. a boss battle where the extra attacks will come in handy). It’s a unique dynamic to play around with.
It’s been interesting watching people lose their mind online about how cute the whole thing is too, because there’s actually an undercurrent of darkness to the class that has stuck with me. To acquire new jobs, you need to defeat the holder of that particular job ‘asterisk’ in combat. Quite often, that means killing them. Without spoiling things too much, the holder of the Catmancer asterisks…well, the game’s Wiki claims that she’s 17, but she seems much younger. In any case, I definitely killed a child -- one with a requisite tragic past, no less -- to acquire these cat powers.
Bravely Second is a very similar game to its predecessor in most ways, with a lot of content that will be familiar to anyone who played all the way through Default. But the Catmancer is a great example of how Second stretches out a little further, embraces strange, interesting ideas, and ends up being just a little bit more inventive and playful than the first game.
If you’re in Japan, Europe or Australia, you can check the game out now, while US 3DS owners will have to wait until April 15.
James O'Connor is an educator and freelance writer based in Australia. You can find his work on IGN, Kotaku, Game Informer, and roughly just about anywhere at this point, and you can find him on Twitter @Jickle.