While Star Ocean: Second Evolution’s soundtrack is not the massive overhaul and improvement that First Departure was, it is still a decent collection in its own right. The set may not be worthwhile to those own the original soundtrack from the PlayStation version.
The new opening song “START” by the schoolgirl J-rock band SCANDAL is enjoyable though hardly an album seller. It grew on me over time, and the full version feels very fitting at the end with its nice blend of dynamics and styles ranging from loud rock to quiet orchestral moments.
Like Sakuraba’s other Star Ocean works, Second Evolution’s soundtrack is extremely varied. Several genres are well represented, though Sakuraba’s best work is found in the electronic and prelude styles. With regard to the former, Second Evolution has some excellent boss music. “Mighty Blow,” the theme for the battle with Iselia Queen, is deliciously chaotic, while the Wiseman theme “Shiver” is percussive and intimidating. The standard boss battle song “Dynamite” is also worthy of praise for its wicked melody.
While the standard battle and overworld themes are underwhelming, a few of the dungeon and village themes stand out. “Discord” uses a simple, repetitive descending figure with chords that suit the title. “Mission to the Deep Space” is fabulous as ever. I also loved “Moderate,” for its richly evocative structure and instrumentation, and the two town tracks “Shower of Blossoms,” and “Walk Over” have pleasant and unique chord structures.
Rena’s theme is also glorious. Here, Sakuraba really squeezes all of the emotion he can out of just three notes at the song’s theme halfway into it. With its sinking minor five chords, just slow enough tempo, and sad yet proud melody, this song really suits Rena’s story, heavy with irony and tragedy as it is. It’s so good that Sakuraba reworked it into numerous interlude and cutscene songs, such as “Lose One’s Illusions,” “Music Box,” and “A Quirk of Fate.” All of them put a slightly different spin on a fantastic piece of music, thus the song never gets old or annoying.
It’s a fine soundtrack overall. It’s biggest weakness is its lack of difference from the original game. There is very little that is new here, so the real winners would be those who never enjoyed the Playstation version of the game; they will get to enjoy all of Sakuraba’s wonderful musical ideas for the first time.