When Bravely Default’s composer, Revo, isn’t working on game music, he and his rock-orchestra Sound Horizon create concept albums and rock operas, and over the years, they have built a large following. That pedigree is extremely evident in Luxendarc Daikikou, an album of Bravely Default music expanded and reinterpreted in Sound Horizon’s extravagant style.
Most of the tracks in Luxendarc Daikikou take specific Bravely Default songs, add Japanese vocals, and have them continue beyond their loops into new phrases, often with solos and riffs that wander far away from the original track. Instrumentation is typically a full symphonic orchestra, with healthy doses of electric guitar and… accordion. The album’s second track, “Luxendarc Journey,” is a medley of town themes from Bravely Default with added lyrics and narration. It connects the theme songs of Caldisla, Ancheim, Florem, Grandship, Eisenberg, and Eternia together in a sort of Bravely Default world tour. Combine it with the intense, multi-dimensional opener “Theme of the Linked Horizon,” and you have a twenty minute introduction to an album that never wears out its welcome.
In addition to the “Luxendarc Journey” songs, several character themes are given lyrics in Luxendarc Daikikou, and the addition of singing parts to over a dozen Bravely Default songs is special. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, the lyrics add new levels of drama and emotion to each track. All of the singers do a fantastic job, but my favorite is Miwa Kominato singing “Baby Bird” (Edea’s theme). Her voice is lovely, and it’s powerful enough to carry some long notes above a busy countermelody of guitars, piano, and strings, making a fun, up-tempo pop song even better. Kominato’s voice is complemented by a soprano saxophone part, which is pretty rad. There’s not a ton of soprano sax around in video game music.
The biggest musical lengthening of a Bravely Default track in Luxendarc Daikikou is “Love in the Crossfire,” the 10-second cheer that Praline A La Mode performs to fire up her soldiers in-game. The Daikikou version is about five minutes long, with idol girl pop-styled staccato sing/talk verses and some added crowd noise to create the feeling of a pop concert. It’s an interesting choice for the remix album, since Praline’s song was just a repetitive chorus in the game, but also had a role in the game’s plot. On the flipside, you have “Shrine Maiden’s Prayer,” the most subdued song on the album by far. Performed by only a string quartet, “Shrine Maiden’s Prayer” is a minimalist arrangement, but soulful and beautiful.
If I have one complaint about Luxendarc Daikikou, it’s that many of the arrangements don’t go far enough. Yes, these songs are expanded and more elaborate than their original versions, but very few of them are arrangements that change the mood, key, or even tempo of the original versions (“Theme of the Linked Horizon” and “Shrine Maiden’s Prayer” are obvious exceptions). Bravely Default’s OST is gorgeous, so this is one of those if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it situations; I’m bringing up the conservatism of the arrangements to temper listener expectations. Luxendarc Daikikou’s arrangements of Bravely Default’s music are usually bigger and gaudier than the originals, but they rarely differ in tone.
Luxendarc Daikikou is credited to Linked Horizon and not Sound Horizon; Linked Horizon is a collaboration between Sound Horizon and the many others that worked on Bravely Default’s soundtrack (including several Square-Enix employees). Luxendarc Daikikou has two versions, a standard version and a Limited Edition, that have slightly different tracklists. The exclusive track in the standard edition of Luxendarc Daikikou is an arrangement of Conflict’s Chime, Bravely Default’s upbeat battle theme that plays for random encounters; the Limited Edition’s exclusive track is “Picopico Battle Medley,” arranged by Square-Enix sound designer Yasuhiro Yamanaka.
The Daikikou arrangement of “Conflict’s Chime” is over five minutes long and a lot crunchier than the original. The brass and strings parts are consistent through the entire piece, but holy crap the guitar solos and rumbling drums never stop bringing it. Halfway through the song moves into a new phrase that borrows motifs from some other Bravely Default tracks. It’s a really solid song that’s about as close to metal as Luxendarc Daikikou gets.
“Picopico Battle Medley” simulates a random encounter in Bravely Default, if it was a Famicom game. The medley begins with world map music and the URZSHHHHH of a random encounter initiating, then goes into a medley of all six battle themes in Bravely Default, from “Conflict’s Chime” to “Serpent Eating the Ground.” After the last battle theme finishes, it wraps with Bravely Default’s victory music. It’s a track that tells a neat little story, and it perfectly represents Bravely Default’s basic gameplay loop. The inclusion of NES-esque audio in Luxendarc Daikikou is a fun, unexpected surprise.
It’s unfortunate that the two versions of Luxendarc Daikikou contain exclusive tracks, because every song on both albums is a treat. If I was forced to choose between the two versions, I’d pick the Limited Edition. “Picopico Battle Medley” is delightful, and I’m a huge fan of chiptunes and retro game music. The standard edition’s longer version of “Conflict’s Chime” is a great song, but not as unique or interesting as Picopico, which is totally unlike anything else on the album. Bravely Default is one of the strongest RPG soundtracks in recent memory, and Luxendarc Daikikou is a must-listen for Bravely Default fans and Sound Horizon fans alike.