Review: Bravely Second End Layer Original Soundtrack

The Bravely Default soundtrack was widely acclaimed. It featured rock artist REVO providing some fantastic themes that earned the score a lot of praise in 2014. With Bravely Second on the horizon, Square Enix is going big once again with the soundtrack, this time by hiring ryo, the producer of one of my personal favorite acts in Japan, supercell, to score the game.

Can lightning strike twice? Does ryo have it it takes to give JRPG music fans what they so desire?

In a simple word: yes.

Most, myself included, associate ryo’s productions with the world of J-pop, so I was surprised to see the standard retro RPG goodness featured throughout, enhanced with the modern production know-how of ryo. There’s some great rock, orchestral, and even jazz featured throughout, but you’ll also hear retro choir hits and other such oldschool sounds that should bring a smile to your face. Overall, the score is fairly playful and upbeat, which I think suits ryo’s strengths.

While I only have access to the track listing in Japanese, I will call out a few key themes. There’s a catchy and memorable orchestral main theme that quickly gives way to a rockin’ battle piece that is reminiscent of Castlevania. There’s a regal piece fit for a majestic castle, a swingin’ jazz tune that would be right at home in a jazz club, and an fantastically dreamy overworld theme that is incredibly beautiful. I love ryo’s sparkly dungeon track, tense military themes with effective use of dissonance, and broodier brass and piano work featured towards the end of the first disc. From there, we get a mysterious dungeon with some cool harp runs, a music box and string ballad, a lovely waltz, and a triumphant and uplifting march that will remind you of Iron Chef (or Backdraft?).

Oh, and that pop sound I mentioned before? We get it through a number of beautiful ballads (both instrumental and vocal), in addition to some quirkier vocal tracks along the way.

A few of my other favorites include an exotic acoustic guitar and accordion piece that sounds half flamenco and half European cafe, a traditional Japanese track that is very smooth and contemplative, and some explosive rock leading into the final battle, which sports some impressive guitar shredding and wailing in addition to the aforementioned flamenco influence.

In all, I think I may prefer the Bravely Second End Layer OST to even the first Bravely Default soundtrack. I love the pop influence, and there’s a pleasing aesthetic to the entire score that really resonated with me (in fact, in my review notes, I wrote “beautiful” in my description of nearly every track). It might be that I’m a huge fan of supercell, so I went into this with high expectations, but Bravely Second End Layer definitely delivers.

Pick it up on CD Japan if you’re interested.

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