Bravely Default -Flying Fairy- Original Soundtrack :: Review by Don
Back in 2011, when Bravely Default: Flying Fairy was first announced, only one piece of music was released and I would say that it definitely piqued my curiosity. I wondered who the composer could be, as it was confirmed that it was going to be an outsourced soundtrack. When the announcement was finally made, it was a surprise to many that the composer would be Revo a man known in Japan for his fantasy band, Sound Horizon rather than an established video game music composer. Given his breadth of range in his Sound Horizon albums, I was positive that he would be up to the task of handling his first full-fledged game soundtrack, having only composed theme songs for RPGs like Atelier Iris: Grand Fantasm in the past. Was the soundtrack worth the wait for this decidedly retro-inspired game?
The album opens with "Prelude Moving Towards Hope." It is a wondrous theme that introduces the main theme of the game, an extremely moving and captivating melody that has a strong sense of adventure to it. As the theme progresses, it features moments of bombast and mystery. I love how the melody shifts between grandiose orchestration and soft, soothing piano passages, with some beautiful woodwind accompaniment to support it at all. This main theme is incorporated many times into the soundtrack, but of particularly note early on is, "Towards that Prayer," a wonderful music box/rock rendition of the theme with powerful violin work in the melody line. "Foolish Event" is a very playful rendition of this theme and would fit well within the Kingdom Hearts universe, while "Shrine Maiden's Prayer" is a beautiful music box rendition of the main theme. Another theme that is heard a few times is "Eternity's Moment." This simple music box theme has a very mysterious and beautiful tone with a powerful melody. In another rendition, "A Melody of Nostalgic Reminiscence", it is turned into a woodwind driven piece that manages to keep the mystery of the original, but definitely has the tone of flashback music heard in early RPGs.
The introduction of other themes on the soundtrack is also heard early on in the soundtrack in the tune "Four Legends," a series of music used in various cutscenes in the beginning of the game. Opening up with ominous and haunting choir, it quickly moves into an air of mystery before the first section ends with bombast. As the theme progresses, it moves into a folksy and jazzy arrangement of "The Land of Beginnings," the first town theme, and one of the character themes, "Love's Vagrant" before moving into a short excerpt of one of the battle themes, "That Person's Name Is." From there, it takes a very bombastic approach with plenty of piano before moving onto a beautiful Celtic rendition of "You Are My Hope" before moving into an excerpt of "World of Scattering Flowers" before ending with a slightly creepy music box rendition of the main theme, which continues in the brief next track, "Prayer."
Speaking of "Land of Beginnings," it is the first town theme heard in the game and it is quite a stunning composition. It is very majestic and grand, at times also giving off the flavor of a small town theme in the country, with a strong brass lead and warm strings accompaniment. This town theme feels like a classic RPG town theme with a facelift. The second town theme, "Land of Sand and a Large Clock," represents the desert town of the game. The combination of folksy, desert-like instrumentation and sound, in combination with the rock percussion and bass is a fine example of Sound Horizon's style and it really works in accentuating the idea of a desert town. Another interesting addition is the inclusion of clock ticks in rhythm with the music that really gives off the idea of this giant clock ticking in the distance. "Land of Fascinating Flowers" is another setting theme that oozes with Sound Horizon sound. It's a wonderful gypsy/folksy town theme that is definitely reminiscent in style, especially in accompaniment, of European sound.
"Sinking Land" is another softer addition to the album. It conjures up a very rustic image, reminiscent of Motoi Sakuraba's peaceful town themes on Eternal Sonata, although with much more finesse. The B section in particularly is extremely moving as the strings swell and create a more grand affair. "Land in Civil War" is very different than most town themes out there. It, as one might suspect, has a very militaristic sound. From the grand brass work to the chaotic strings and piano breakdown at the end of the A section, to the exquisite and beautiful strings harmony that underlies it, it is a fantastic piece of music. Of course, the bridge is also quite stunning, focusing more on beauty and heroic tones rather than the martial atmosphere present in the first portion of the theme. The final town theme, "Land of Immortality," conjures up images of icy tundra with its poignant melody, chimes, and ethereal synthesizer tones. It is an extremely heartfelt effort and the B section in particular with its powerful woodwind and strings passage rounds out the tune quite nicely.
As with any classic inspired RPG, there are a few world map themes to please the palate. The first, "Horizon of Light and Shadow" is the first theme that was revealed back in 2011. It gives off this sense of grand adventure, incorporating the main theme, focusing on bright woodwind notes for the melody and stunning brass harmonies that give it a very regal sound. It is tunes like this that make me long for the days of world maps in modern RPGs. Of course, there are also modes of transportation to use as well. "Ship Racing Across the Ocean" stands up with the best boat themes out there. There is an air of elegance and adventure heard in this rendition of the world map theme, reminiscent of the boat theme styles utilized by Koiichi Sugiyama of Dragon Quest fame, albeit a bit more melodically pleasing. The brass in particular makes a strong showing and the woodwind passages help give off this feeling of the salty air. However, "Ship Soaring through the Heavens" is, without a doubt, one of the best airship themes I've heard and manages to stand up among the greats of Nobuo Uematsu and the like. It isn't extremely complex, but after the rock intro, the piano melody really gives this feeling of weightlessness. Revo also throws in a bit of heroic bombast. This arrangement of the world map theme is clearly inspired by the classic Final Fantasy games of old.
Of course, there are also plenty of dungeon themes worth mentioning as well. "Silence of the Forest" is a haunting, ethereal piano led piece with eerie, tranquil synthesizers in an accompanying role. This manages to convey the essence of a forest quite well and definitely manages to conjure up images of Yasunori Mitsuda. "Sunlight Filtering through the Trees" is peaceful and vibrant piano led theme, but has more of a pop vibe, particularly in the B section. "World of Scattering Flowers" is another haunting piano led piece that is full of sadness. When the orchestra backing is incorporated, the mood is definitely accentuated, but also becoming a bit more romantic in sound. "Infiltrating Hostile Territory" definitely conjures up images of Final Fantasy VIII in terms of that sneaky, espionage sound in the accompaniment; however, the melody line is decidedly Revo, incorporating melancholy and mysterious strings work. "Cave of Darkness" is also reminiscent of earlier Final Fantasy games in terms of atmosphere, but the exquisitely arranged melody, which includes a motif of the main theme slightly altered, works wonders to create an ominous, uninviting soundscape. The final dungeon theme, "Aurora of Darkness," features ominous choral tones and some tribal percussion. Overall, it has a somewhat industrial sound, tinged with ethnic flavors, and works to create a sinister and oppressing environment as the adventurers' journey comes closer to an end.
Of course, there are plenty of battle themes on the album. The normal battle theme, "Conflict's Chime," is an interesting fusion of sound. It definitely has the progressive rock feel, particularly in the accompaniment; however, the focus on orchestral tones, primarily brass, in the main melody is reminiscent of Noriyuki Iwadare's more grand works. It's an interesting fusion and one that works very well. "That Person's Name Is" definitely reminds me of Falcom's style, focusing on speed metal mixed with violin and electric guitar leads. The melody is top-notch and really creates a fantastic energy in which to do battle. The boss theme, "Fighting to the End," featuring Marty Friedman on guitar and Motoi Sakuraba on keyboard, is most certainly inspired by Motoi Sakuraba's progressive rock battle themes, unsurprising given their collaborations on Sound Horizon albums and other Revo singles. It is an intense, heavy, and exhilarating theme that manages to take Sakuraba's progressive rock style and add a more guitar-led energy to it. This is one of two battle themes that doesn't loop, so there are plenty of guitar and keyboard solos interspersed throughout the tune that really help accentuate this intense feeling.
There are also four character/battle themes that apparently play when said character is performing a finishing move. The first, "You Are My Hope," is a fantastic woodwind led theme that has a bit of a rustic vibe. The melody is quite catchy and the woodwind solo at the end really helps hit the track home. The second, "Wind's Direction" is decidedly romantic, focusing on romantic strings, both evocatively played as well as in plucked form, and ends with a powerful violin solo. "Baby Bird" is a jazzy pop rock theme with a saxophone lead. It has a very sensual sound to it and I really like the smoothness of the melody. Lastly, "Love's Vagrant" definitely has a bit of a Spanish vibe, featuring flamenco guitar and accordion, to create an extremely romantic, yet upbeat, atmosphere. Of all the character/battle themes, this is definitely my favorite. Unlike the other battle themes mentioned so far, these ones are definitely more reminiscent of Revo's previous Sound Horizon works.
I'm not sure what role "Wicked Thing" plays in game, but it does reference a motif in the final battle theme suite, so perhaps it's the main villain's theme or perhaps a battle theme. It's another progressive rock theme featuring some amazing bass guitar work, wailing guitar, and some pretty sweet keyboard solos, thanks to Atsushi Hasegawa, Marty Friedman, and Motoi Sakuraba, respectively. The first of the final battle themes, "Wicked Fight," is definitely the most rockin' of the three. The heavy focus on guitar helps give it a powerful energy and the synthesizer melody definitely oozes classic Final Fantasy. It isn't the most developed of battle themes, at least compared to the ones heard previous on the album, but it manages to create this fantastic energy that really screams final battle with its intense and heroic passages. The second portion, "Wicked Flight," opens up with bombastic orchestra before into more synthesizer led material. It also screams classic RPG in terms; however, the focus is more piano and orchestral based melody with some guitar riffs to help keep the overall rock essence. The B section definitely features more heroic passages, referencing the main theme, led by electric guitar with some fantastic brass harmonies. What I really enjoy about this theme is that it definitely manages to capture that sinister nature, while at the same time, emulating what sounds like an evil airship theme, suggesting this final battle may take place soaring across the skies.
The last of the three battle themes, "The Snake that Devours the Horizon" is certainly the best battle theme on the album and is definitely one of the best final battle themes for an RPG heard in recent years. This theme is definitely one that sounds most like Revo in terms of sound. It's an intense orchestral rock theme that focuses on ominous choir backed by heavy rock riffs, percussion, and slick guitar work, not to mention ominous brass. However, since this track doesn't loop, it also gets a chance to develop a lot more. Revo incorporates a very romantic, piano rendition of the main theme, that helps break up the tension a bit, but still doesn't feel out of place, as he also turns it into an orchestral speed metal tune immediately after. As it progresses, it gets a bit more sinister and mysterious before the choir enters once again with renewed intensity before moving onto a sinister, almost carnivalesque, electric guitar sound. Another characteristic of this final battle that I really enjoy is that it also incorporates portions of "You Are my Hope," "Wind's Direction," "Baby Bird," "Love's Vagrant," and "That Person's Name Is," while evening referencing the victory theme. It really ties together this feeling of a final battle and also manages to create a more empathetic feeling to the composition since you have played the roles of these characters for the whole game.
The album closes with "Ballad Moving Towards Hope." This theme has also been featured on both the single and full album by Revo's Linked Horizon project. Primarily accompanied by piano, the vocal melody is a rendition of the main theme, featured in many tunes on the soundtrack, and in this particular version is melancholy and enchanting. The light pop mix really works well with Joelle's voice and she really carries the melody quite well. As the theme progresses, a beautiful violin solo is incorporated as well as a duet between Revo and Joelle. As the theme reaches its end, a more energetic rock focus is incorporated into the mix featuring some flashy guitar solos and more powerful vocal work.
In the end, the Bravely Default -Flying Fairy- Original Soundtrack is one of Square's best soundtracks in many years. Revo clearly is a fan of game music and definitely has a grasp on the fundamentals of RPG scoring. His extremely varied approach may be considered typical RPG fare to it, but it is music that has a lot of soul, is elegantly and expertly arranged, and manages to capture the essence of the world of Luxendarc, while providing a plethora of styles and giving us that feeling of nostalgia without sounding retro. Even the shorter, filler themes don't sound like filler at all, but rather thought out compositions. In the end, it's a huge accomplishment and given I'm a huge fan of Revo, I'd personally like to see him compose more game soundtracks. If this particular soundtrack is any indication, I suspect we might be seeing him more in the future.
Overall Score: 10/10