Bravely Default’s Soundtrack Sets It Apart From Its Peers

By Ethan . February 4, 2014 . 1:32pm

Bravely Default is a game that balances old and new at every turn, and nowhere is the push and pull between modern expectation and genre tradition more evident than in the soundtrack. Though Bravely Default is a real looker on the graphics front and is filled with some of the best in genre multiplayer features and customization options, it strictly holds to rhythms of JRPG design more than a decade old.

 

This means that the music can’t push boundaries the way some contemporaries have, and every track fits into an established formula. There’s a two-minute or so random battle loop, a twangy guitar track for the desert city, and an overworld map anthem.

 

The challenge then, is how to make music that fits these categories without being predictable or—even worse—forgettable. The previous game from this creative team, Final Fantasy 4: The Heroes of Light, managed this by mixing chiptune melody lines into a more standard synthesized score. That game’s soundtrack fit both classic inspirations as well as twentieth century expectation by literally grafting the music of both eras onto each other.

 

I’m a huge fan of how that score turned out, and at first I was bummed that Bravely Default didn’t adopt the same tactic.

 

I was wrong to cling to the past, though. The Bravely Default score was composed by Yasuo Kamanaka, better known to the world at large as Revo, and he’s done a fantastic job. Where 4 Heroes of Light maybe took the easy way out, making the music sound like the classics by using sounds right out of the classics, Bravely Default manages to evoke those classics without ever sounding like less than a top-of-the-line 2014 release.

 

The key to this similarity is in the melody lines. Rather than imitate the symphonic grandeur of something like the recent Xenoblade Chronicles or do as Tales of so often has, and use electric guitars as a shortcut to high energy sound in combat, Bravely Default largely sticks to classical composition with instrumental solos coming from woodwinds and strings. These distinct melody lines evoke the simple compositions forced by 8-bit and 16-bit hardware limitations, but without ever sacrificing sound quality or sounding dated.

 

 

More important than recreating the style of composition used by classic JRPGs though, the Bravely Default soundtrack reminds me why so many people are nostalgic about this style of adventure. There was a time when these games never questioned character motivations or tried to offer insight about the human condition… they were about good triumphing over evil. The righteousness of the party was never in doubt, and any time you encountered a character with a problem it was expected that the party solve it. There’s an allure to that simplicity – to knowing that forward progress will lead to happily ever after, to knowing that every battle will make your numbers go up and every little level up helps.

 

The soundtrack in Bravely Default embodies this directness and optimism like no soundtrack I’ve ever heard. The overworld map track demands that the player go on an adventure. The music during minor boss battles, rather than sounding ominous, implies that triumph is just around the corner. Throughout the entire game there’s nary a dissonant chord and only rarely does the music adopt a minor key. Though there is wickedness in this world of Luxendarc, the soundtrack tells us that whatever evil exists is a blight on a world that is essentially good and that justice is never more than a dungeon away.

 

That’s the real achievement in this soundtrack–it’s no great feat to imitate the style of classic compositions, but capturing the spirit of those classics happens far more rarely. In Bravely Default, Yasuo Kamanaka does both, and does it with high quality orchestrated collection of songs that will stand the test of time just like the Square Enix RPG soundtracks players loved all those years ago.

 

Random Thoughts:

 

1. One thing I definitely do miss from The Four Heroes of Light is the night version of the overworld map music. It seems a really picky little thing to complain about, but I felt like that added a lot. It made the world seem different at night, whereas here it’s still just triumphant adventure time.

 

2. The random battle music in a JRPG always warrants extra attention since the player hears it so often. This one is more on the upbeat side of things, recalling the quick tempo and brass of the Final Fantasy III re-release from a few years ago. It’s not a classic, but it gets the job done.

 

3. You can look forward to further coverage of Bravely Default on Siliconera in the coming days!


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  • surakian

    Can’t ever go wrong with Revo/Linked Horizon.

    • Aspenharls

      I came here to say this. I wish people knew them more for their awesome work, and not just the AoT openings (despite how awesome those are).

    • 愛憎

      /Sound Horizon!

  • Mayjay

    While playing the demo the music was definitely one of the things that really struck me and added to the sense of nostalgia. You should include more references of the OST. Like the title theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slB7pxrWYkw) or boss theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4wCMJh4KPA).

    • E.T.993

      True.The music rocked the crap out of my 3DS speakers.

  • Kelohmello

    Revo being a part of this soundtrack was probably one of the greatest decisions any developer ever made for their game. Everything he worked on is ridiculously good and the normal battle theme is so great I get into battles just to hear it.

  • DesmaX

    I dunno. The soundtrack sounds amazing, of course; but I fell like it’s a bit too overkill. I tend to get tired of these kind of tracks at some point, and I do have that feeling that the soundtrack doesn’t seem to fit what I’m seeing on the screen

  • roboticpainter .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPPBj1cpPB0
    This track from Bravely default blows my mind, the chorus just screams bravery in a dicey situation. I could almost swear I have heard the chorus in a final fantasy game before though but I cant seem to figure it out, any ideas?

    • https://www.youtube.com/user/BaoZakeruga BaoZakeruga

      Sounds like music from a tales game to me.

      • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

        Even though I generally love Tales music, my probably is that Sakuraba has had such a poor variety in his sound the last decade and a half. SO4 sounds just like the last Tales game that sounds just like the last. The only real variety that happens is when another composer/arranger gets thrown into the mix. ;n;

        • http://thespellcraftcolumn.wordpress.com Rudolph Consuegra

          He also did the Dark Souls music which is different but vaguely similar to his Orchestral tracks.

          • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

            Huh, I didn’t really think about it, but I could hear that. I think Dark Souls and Beyond the Labyrinth are the most unique he’s done lately.

      • roboticpainter .

        Could defiantly be a tales game, I love tales just as much as FF. I was told by a wiser person than I that the chorus has elements from a lot of different music styles. She made it sound like a lot of songs had arrangements similar to what im talking about, im getting a lot of different responses so I guess she was right!

    • Alex Shadov

      Actually, it reminds me of something from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow… maybe I’m wrong.

      • roboticpainter .

        It might sound EXACTLY like a song from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow…but I have never played that one so that’s not it for me. :)

    • God

      really? if i had to choose a word to describe it, i would use desperation, but men hear what they want and understand it the way they like it better, so it’s not surprise.

      • roboticpainter .

        no your right, desperate is a way better word, I was posting quick before class and I needed an adjective! :p

    • JohnNiles

      This tune reminds me of Chrono Cross music.

  • samsneeze

    The music in the demo is what made me go for the collector’s edition of the game. What I heard there can only lead to greater things. It’s very rare for me to find soundtracks that I can genuinely enjoy.

    The music does seem to be less triumphant at night, it’s just a bit more subtle. Considering that it’s only dark out for about twenty seconds before the track loops back into morning, I can see why they didn’t bother expanding into something more.

    • GH56734

      I loved “Civil War” and “Under the Duchy’s Banner”, and of course the battle theme, the boss theme and the overworld themes are addicting. Really wish for Revo to work on more games, they’re Yoko Shimomura-tier.

    • God

      For me music is quite important, one of the main reasons i don’t play older games is beacuse i don’t like the soundtrack… Xenoblade spoiled me too much…

      • samsneeze

        You are honestly missing out on a lot, then.

        • God

          Maybe, but i had a HUGE to play list of modern games so i don’t get bored.

      • icecoffemix

        At least play Chrono Cross, one of the best game OST ever.

        • God

          I’ve played it 3 times, always ge to around the same part and stop playing (not out of boderom though), so i don’t plan on playing it any time soon, since it’s annoying to replay the same thing for the 4th time…

  • icecoffemix

    Okay that remind me of Chrono Cross, Xenogears and FF9. A bit too busy for my taste though.

  • revenent hell

    Since I mostly listen to games muted I don’t get terribly picky with the music until I actually hear it… Normally at a much later date but for the demo I did use my headphones and I did enjoy most of it.
    I must admit I kind of enjoy the different sounding battle music when they change depending on who gets the first attacks in ect and when in a game the music changes at night to something different… I don’t think its really nit picky per say but it definitely shows developer attention to even the minor of the minor details.
    You have to admit its kind of rare for each “town” in a game to have its own music sound let alone for them to have them all change at night to something different. Its just a nice immersive thing to do. Hardly *mandatory* by any means but it is always noticeable I think.

    • JohnNiles

      I’ve gotten used to each town having a dedicated theme. Alternate themes are kind of rare though – Chrono Cross probably takes the cake there.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/BaoZakeruga BaoZakeruga

    My only fear about this game is the story. Love the battle system and the music isn’t bad. Can’t wait for Friday.

    • God

      I still 4 unfinished games on my 3ds and haven’t even started the demo… damn this gaming heart of mine!

  • Tinye

    This soundtrack is practically flawless. It really is a master piece, I hope the next is just as good.

  • skyenix

    SPOILER ALERT:
    They awakened the four crystal and saved the world!

  • chronopower

    WHen I listen to this Land of light and shadow the quieter parts sound like soemthing from a ghibli movie.
    Joe Hiashi is amazing.

  • Zer0faith

    Note to self: Don’t maximize the full screen on Agnes OST while in the library.

  • stephane3012

    All the hype behind this game turns me off a little. I might go in expecting more than it can actually offer.

  • MogMoogle

    I really love his new one you hear during particular DLC battles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDi3Olyp02w

    • JohnNiles

      That track was bonkers, like a super medley.

  • 愛憎

    As a big fan of Sound Horizon, I’m very happy that Revo has been getting so much spotlight this past year!

  • Pegasusu Fantaji (Umar)
  • mikanko

    I think this soundtrack has gotten more playtime on mp3 playlist than any other over the last year+. Can’t wait to finally play the game it goes to!~

  • Erde

    I got Revo’s Mii on my 3DS today. Oh joyous day.

  • Triplicity

    “You Are My Hope”

  • Göran Isacson

    Revos music really does a good job of building a very “classical” feel, all orchestral instruments that nonetheless have strong melodies and clearly stand out instead of just fading into the background as “mood music”. They’re all pretty memorable so far, and very fast-paced despite the lack of electric instruments.

    And I must admit: the overworld music for soem reason REALLY reminds me of the overworld music from Ni No Kuni. Anyone else feel the same?

  • Exkaiser

    I’m really excited for BD, too, but does it need three separate reviews?

  • Notquitesure?

    I’ve finished the game (aus), and i have to say, i didn’t really think it was outstanding or anything. The only bit of music i really genuinely liked was the “wicked battle” (i think im not sure), the song that plays during the second final boss of the game during its second form. You should know what i mean. the violins in it were awesome and it felt like it had a lot of energy.

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