Phantom Brave is the third entry in Nippon Ichi’s popular strategy RPG series, and quite frankly, its soundtrack is the best. What makes Phantom Brave so great is while it combines the strengths of the two games that came before it (the aggressiveness of Disgaea and the beauty of La Pucelle), it has a style all its own.
This OST has many styles: Latin, Jazz, Orchestral, Rock, and even a tinge of Celtic. While all the tracks are diverse, they mesh into an extremely eclectic and enjoyable experience. The instrument palette is also much different this time around, featuring lots of acoustic guitar, operatic voice, pan flute, harmonica, and more percussion samples than you can throw a rubber glove at. And with the exception of a few, all of the instruments sound fantastic!
The soundtrack is divided into two discs, with the second disc being longer in length. The first disc is the better disc in my opinion, as almost every track on it is good. It starts off with “Angel Breath,” which is an amazing song that features the amazing opera singer, Serena. I know, I know, the mere mention of “opera” in VGM is unsettling to most, but let me tell you, Serena is perfect for this song. It starts soft and peaceful, but once the percussion kicks in, it becomes the most memorable song on the OST. “Flower Blossom Guide” is another unforgettable track; what begins with a simple melody ends up as a toe-tapping extravaganza. The violins in tandem with the acoustic guitar will blow you away. There’s also “To the End of This Passionate Feeling,” which is a Gypsy-styled song with lots of acoustic guitar and pan flute. Violins are also used heavily in this song, and the melody is pretty hummable. “Earth’s Step” is a song that features the pan flute. What more do I need to say? “You’re So Sad,” sounds like something you would hear in an Italian movie. The track has a violin with exaggerated vibrato that is accompanied by an soft orchestra and a lush piano. It is an extremely sorrowful track that you’ll probably listen to more than once. “B·A·R” is the odd ball on this disc. It sounds like bar music you would hear in a cheesy detective movie. The song’s slinky (and distorted) saxophone just slides across the song, never taking itself too seriously, and the jazz solos in the middle of the song made me gush since I’m a huge jazz fan. The disc ends with “Friend,” the second vocal track on this OST. It is very similar to “Dear Friends” from Disgaea, but it features a great vocalist. I actually like this vocal better than “Dear Friends” because the melody is more developed and the arrangement is top-notch.
The second disc is where things start to slow down, however. While, it’s not bad, there aren’t as many memorable tracks here as there are on the first disc because this disc consists of obligatory event music. It starts off strong with “R&R Junkiee,” which is a homage to the Wild West, with crazy acoustic guitars and a ridiculous harmonica solo. This song would be right at home in a Wild Arms game. “Dark Trick” is the broody, evil theme on the soundtrack. It is very passive, and uses strange sounding synths to keep the listener’s attention. “Demon Starfish” is the typical urgency theme with an addictive rhythm section; it sounds like a boss is approaching. It wasn’t my favorite track, but it was still decent. “A Hole in Space-Time” is a very weird dungeon-esque theme that uses synthesizers along pan flutes and guitars to create an engaging melody. It is pretty abstract, and hard to follow on the first listen, but it will grow on you if you keep listening. “Rumbling Beat” did not impress me at all. It’s one of the few songs on this album that I loathe. It’s very heavy on percussion and horn riffs, and I don’t like how Sato arranged it. In comparison to the other songs, it’s very weak. “Violent Emotion” is the final battle theme, and it is the only rock-esque piece on the album, and it is similar to “Underworld” from Disgaea. It’s got a killer electric guitar, good chords, and an awesome string breakdown that cuts in when you least expect it. “Heaven’s Garden” is the last track on the album, and it is a good vocal track. It is very organic, and has bits and pieces of “Angel Breath” scattered in the melody. The only strike against the song is that the chords and the execution are a little goofy, but it doesn’t detract from the whole experience.
Of course, Phantom Brave does have one significant flaw: the album is unnecessarily spread out onto 2 discs. The first disc has 13 tracks and a running time of about 34 minutes, and the second disc has 13 tracks and runs for about 42 minutes. If you add the two discs’ running times together, they total up to about 76 minutes, which would conveniently fit onto one disc, which holds about 80 minutes. I’m nitpicky when it comes to these things, and I personally don’t like it when CDs are less than an hour in length, especially in this case when they don’t have to be. I think it’s goofy and cumbersome to mess around with two discs when you can get the same effect with one.
All in all, Phantom Brave is a great OST to have if you can find it. Since the original soundtrack was released with a limited edition of the game in Japan, you’ll have to do some looking to find this one, but it’ll be worth it in the end. The bottom line is that Tenpei Sato has done it again, and you’d be a fool not to at least give this album a listen.