Professor Layton and Pandora's Box Original Soundtrack :: Review by Mac_Tear
Near the end of 2007, Level 5 released the second installment of the Professor Layton series called Professor Layton and Pandora's Box. The music composer was once again Tomohito Nishiura and the soundtrack was released together with the first one on Christmas Eve in 2008. As Professor Layton and the Curious Villag had a rather lame and repetitive selection of compositions, I was curious to see if this score is better or even weaker than its counterpart. Let's take a look.
In series' tradition, the soundtrack begins with "Theme of Pandora's Box", which sets the mood of the overall score. It's more serious and dark compared to the light-hearted first soundtrack; the piano gives a mystical touch while the deep violin sounds depressed and sad. However, the whimsical detective atmosphere is still present, mostly due to the beloved accordion. A nice opener. Its live arrangement develops the already nice opener into a stronger and more powerful theme with stunning features. The piano, violin, and acoustic guitar offer a great listen.
Subsequent tracks like the waltz-like "London" and its arrangements "Molentary Express" and "Drop Stone" return to the whimsical accordion-based style of the first soundtrack. However, there are slightly more interesting elaborations on this formula, such as the mysterious and dissonant "To the Darkness" or the easy-going and melodic "Moment of Rest". The chimes also have a role here, but are a little less important than in the first entry. The puzzle theme returns in a slightly editied version with "Puzzle 2". Here Nishiura develops the original only a little more with additional layers and use of percussion in the section half. Still it's very calm and easy to listen to he did a good job with this. A music box solo is featured as last original track on the disc in form of "iris ~ Music Box ver.". It gives a nice retrospective feel and fades the album out nicely.
The remaining tracks are even better as Nishiura finally gets out of his accordion whirl and uses more orchestration like in previous albums. "A Disquieting Atmosphere", for example, uses an string ensemble together with timpani to bring up the right atmosphere. In contrast, "Lost Forest" takes us almost back to the roots to Dark Cloud with a slow but beautiful arrangement of the main theme featuring harp, flute, and violin. The string-based "Dance in the Dreams" and "The History of the Village" also inspire some memories of his earlier works. A harpsichord appears in conjunction with violin on "Dignity of the Castle" to deliver the fitting soundscape for the scenery. Finally, "The Village of Truth" features a short but effective chorale for female voices.
For the soundtrack release, there are once again four live arrangements and three high quality versions. While the latter sound better with more reverb and cleanliness, they're more or less identical to their original. The meat is once again the Layton Grand Caravan Orchestra with accordionist Tetsuya Kuwayama. "Folsense" has a lot more depth and emotion thanks to the real instrumentation and the the second part is especially done very nicely. A guest appearance is "Don Paolo's Theme", which isn't featured in the game soundtrack, but instead was taken from Professor Layton and the Curious Village. This rendition features the same strong and energetic atmosphere the original had with even more impact in the second half, where the accordion really comes to life. Not one of my favorite tracks, but it's a nice addition on its own. With "Moment of Rest" you really get a feeling of being in a holiday resort with its relaxed and lounge atmosphere. Just lay down, close your eyes, and imagine you're lying on a sunny beach with a glass of fruity cocktail on your mouth... hmm haha. Anyway, a splendid arrangement.
I'm very glad to say that this album is way better than its original counterpart. Tomohito Nishiura finally gets out of his cave and brings a bit more variety into the soundscape. Instead of only using accordion and violin he colors the scenery with strings, harp, or harpsichord while the whimsical style is still present. Still, there are no masterpieces on this score, even though the variety and entertainment is much more enhanced.
Overall Score: 7/10