Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, composed by Revo, houses one of the best JRPG soundtracks of recent memory. Every piece felt perfectly paced and expertly constructed, and I still whistle tracks like “Horizon of Light and Shadow” without realizing it. Sadly, Revo was not available to work on Bravely Second due to scheduling issues, and thus newcomer Ryo, songwriter of the doujin music group Supercell, headed the game’s music instead.
It’s hard not to compare Ryo’s soundtrack to Revo’s, superb as it is. But for a first-time effort from an artist that has zero experience with video game composition, I found myself suitably impressed with Ryo’s soundtrack. It doesn’t reach quite the same heights as its predecessor, but it doesn’t stay tied to the ground either.
Bravely Second’s album is just as instrumentally diverse as the one that came before it, with everything from guitars to pianos to choral voices being used in abundance. The game’s opening piece of music, “Bravely Second Main Theme,” is suitably epic, though I found the choir that goes along with the instrumentation to be a bit overbearing. However, the song’s end carries motifs from Bravely Default’s main theme, which is a great way to show that the music knows its roots, so to speak. Ryo incorporates Revo’s album in similar ways in some of his other tracks, without being too dependent on the first game’s style.
Three tracks later, the album shifts to “Battle of Oblivion,” which harkens back to the guitar-heavy battle themes from Bravely Default. Again, I feel as if Ryo could have refrained from incorporating a choir into this piece. The music carries itself well enough without the choir hanging over its head, but thankfully said choir is not nearly as overbearing as it is in the main theme.
The mood shifts again in “Gathelatio, Seat of the Orthodoxy.” The song captures the spirit of the town it plays in perfectly, and carries shades of Final Fantasy IX with its trumpets and castanets. Right after that comes one of my favorite tracks in the game. Short as it may be, the shopping theme, “This Would Be Good Too,” is wonderfully catchy. The drum beat and flute had me tapping and whistling along as I shopped.
“The Adventure Begins,” the world map theme, sadly doesn’t hold a candle to the first game’s theme. It opens up quietly, increases in grandioseness through a soaring orchestra, then inexplicably returns to that initial quietness. The shifts in tone mid-song are jarring and don’t lend themselves to the epic sound a world map theme should have. That being said, the next track, “War Bells Toll,” works well as the main battle theme. Ryo again utilizes a choir here, but it isn’t as constant as it is in other tracks, and the guitar that goes along with it works well enough.
Thus concludes the first disc. Sadly, the second disc does not carry the same level of quality, despite a strong opening. It leads in with the game’s new boss theme, “Battle of Tribulations,” which is a much more engaging battle theme than “War Bells Toll.” The choir (again!) works well here, and the guitar riffing mixed with the orchestra conveys the level of energy that the situation should provide. Of particular note is the electric break midway through the track, which I very much enjoyed.
“Theme of Magnolia” is beautiful. The piano is fantastic, and the orchestra that builds up behind it creates a swell of emotion that is reminiscent of some of the music you’d hear in Okami.
After that song is when things get rough. Most of the tracks are repetitive and forgettable, be they dungeon tunes or town themes. They are definitely the weakest links in in the album. On a positive note, however, there are pieces like “Rowing the Wooden Boat” and “Altair and Vega’s Theme.” With the latter in particular, I again felt shades of Okami’s gentle yet sweeping tones, and the music shows up at just the right times to give emotional impact, especially given the context of the track.
The third disc is a return to form. “Overcoming Many Obstacles” has a triumphant trumpet that lifts you up and, surprisingly, a choir that fits perfectly with the piece. This is followed by the four “Character Combat” themes, which activate mid-battle. They are high on energy, “I’m Getting Serious!” being a particular high note, but they don’t really lend themselves to individual listening, especially considering their shortness. The airship theme, “Ship Flying Through the Skies,” is what I wish the world map theme had been. The use of the violin gives the track a sense of speed, and the drum beat that goes along with it helps convey the epicness I had originally hoped to hear in “The Adventure Begins.”
After this comes the final encounter themes. “Battle of Anne” and “Battle of Anne 2” are fantastic, the latter in particular. The use of castanets is so far and away different from the other battle themes in the game that you can’t help but be engaged by their uniqueness. “Battle of Diamante” is good, but nothing special. It goes on for a little too long and isn’t as engaging as the Anne battle themes, especially as it’s placed right between the two of them, almost like a stop sign. “Via Celestio” is the most interesting dungeon theme in the game, and even so, it comes across as a bit repetitive.
We then come to “Battle of Providence,” the final boss theme. You can tell because it’s nine minutes long. The song sits under the surface for the first minute, before bursting out and giving us what we’ve found Ryo relies on most — guitar riffs and choirs. Luckily the interludes that occur throughout the track keep things from getting stale. The song really picks up at the five minute mark, when “Theme of Magnolia” and the game’s main theme appear as motifs to break through the choir-heavy darkness of the track’s beginning, leading to a satisfying closing.
“Last Song Ending ver.” is a shortened version of a song that Ryo did with his band, featuring Chelly as the vocalist. It’s great, and I almost wish it were longer, as a way to send off the album. At less than two minutes, it feels less like a goodbye and more like an Irish Exit.
And that’s that! Again, it’s hard not to compare Bravely Second’s album to Bravely Default, so indulge me for a moment here. If Bravely Default’s soundtrack is represented by Tiz, a character that returns in the sequel as a grizzled veteran of sorts, than Bravely Second’s soundtrack is represented by the game’s new protagonist, Yew: brimming with untapped optimism, but a little unrefined around the edges. For a first effort Ryo has done a commendable job, especially on the trail of one of the greatest soundtracks we’ve gotten in years. I would love to hear his music in a third game, if it ever appears — perhaps with a little less choir next time.