Fellow audiophiles, I arrive with joyous news: Chained Echoes has one of the most engrossing, polished soundtracks out there. Like the game itself, the Chained Echoes (Original Game Soundtrack) has the “love letter to JRPGs” thing covered. Do you like the musical stylings of Yasunori Mitsuda? Michiko Naruke? How about Motoi Sakuraba? Composer Eddie Marianukroh synthesizes some of the best features from the 16- and 32-bit eras of JRPGs and adds his own touches with a two-hour musical tour de force that combines lifelike sequenced music and studio recordings.
I’m honestly unaccustomed to games with the “indie” tag having such high production value with its music. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a great indie soundtrack that works with a limited soundscape or feels a little rough around the edges in terms of mixing and mastering. But goodness did Eddie and crew pull out all the stops for Chained Echoes. The opening and ending tracks feature a 13-piece chamber orchestra, with the ending also tacking on a 13-member choir. Throughout the soundtrack, there are nearly a dozen tracks featuring one or more recorded instruments and/or vocals. Stand-out tracks in my mind include track 35, “A Promise Made Long, Long Ago” featuring vocalist xMEIYIN, and track 3, “Prologue – Interlude” featuring John Paul Hayward on cello.
Even the sequenced, synthesized music is captivating, though. I mentioned Motoi Sakuraba as a point of comparison earlier. If you were thinking prog rock, though, you’d be wrong. Though there are some upbeat rock battle themes, I am thinking along the lines of the slower, emotionally powerful tracks from Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean: The Second Story. Marianukroh hits all the same pressure points in track 31, “Flower Fields of Perpetua.” Track 36, “Winter Winds,” has similar emotional power behind it, but its musical genre and style are altogether different. Which is to say, for all the ways Eddie Marianukroh channels the styles of the greats who came before him, he is well capable of defining his own soundscapes too.
One of my favorite parts of the soundtrack is the “Prologue” section, tracks two through six. It reminds me of Michiko Naruke’s prologue tracks for Wild Arms, both in format and in style. However, Marianukroh’s approach to the Prologue also comes with a drop of impressionism, with short, minimalist motifs layered one over the next. This is especially noticeable in track 4, “Prologue – Into the Storm.” Speaking of impressionism, Marianukroh himself includes a quote from the great Maurice Ravel in his liner notes for the album: “I did my work slowly, drop by drop. I tore it out of me by pieces.” Fitting, given that RPGs borrowed directly from this style of music with Ravel in Breath of Fire IV and have been drawing inspiration there for even longer.
My colleague Caitlin Argyros stated in her review of Chained Echoes that the music is “utterly fantastic,” and I share her opinion that “you can hear the influence of and love for classic RPGs in every track.” Caitlin gave the game an Editor’s Choice award, giving the game a 90 out of 100, with the sound subscore set as the highest component with an impressive 95 out of 100. I fully agree with Caitlin here. I suspect there are a growing number of fans who share our opinion: the Chained Echoes soundtrack stands out as well-crafted and worth celebrating. Composer Eddie Marianukroh has the entire soundtrack available for free streaming on multiple outlets, including YouTube. The digital soundtrack is available on Bandcamp, while a physical 2 CD version is being published by First Press Games in 2023.