Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack Volume 2
Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack Volume 2 (Blu-ray Edition / CD Edition)
Square Enix Music
SQEX-20049/50 (Blu-ray Edition); SQEX-10646/50 (CD Edition)
March 21, 2018
Buy at CDJapan (Blu-ray Edition / CD Edition)
The Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack Volume 2 is the collection of music from DLCs and other additions to the world of Final Fantasy XV. The soundtrack is available in three different versions: a 5-CD edition with a disc each for “Episode Gladiolus”, “Episode Prompto”, “Episode Ignis”, “Comrades”, and “Royal Edition” DLCs; a two-volume digital edition which includes the above in the first volume, then “Moogle Chocobo Carnival”, “Assassin’s Festival”, “Monster of the Deep”, and other miscellaneous tracks in its second volume; and lastly a double Blu-ray edition that includes all of the above as mp3 files and as tracks accompanied by video or images, along with a video recording of a Piano Collections Final Fantasy XV: Moonlit Melodies Concert performance from Osaka. The amount of content is quite massive, ranging from 5-8 hours depending on the version. Despite a wider array of composers and arrangers, it for the most part has a consistent quality, bringing solid new material to the established sound of the Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack.
The first CD (or the first 8 tracks in the other editions) is dedicated to the music of “Episode Gladiolus”, and it is the shortest disc at just 27 minutes. Keiichi Okabe (of NieR fame) is the featured composer, though he provides just two tracks, one of which is the main theme of the DLC. Okabe’s distinctive choirs and strings are a good fit for the Final Fantasy XV soundscape, and his restrained main theme has solid melodies bolstered by a steadily building arrangement that captures Gladiolus’ character and struggle. But much better is Okabe’s reinterpretation of “Battle on the Big Bridge”, which feels very fresh while remaining recognizable. Okabe’s version aims for something darker and again more restrained, to which end he appropriately cuts out the more forceful and chaotic sections of the original, leaving behind the melodic lines. He also makes various modifications to the melodies and harmonies, but it all coheres in a brilliant arrangement that does so much more than merely change up the track’s instruments.
Unfortunately, the rest of the DLC music is less interesting. Of Tetsuya Shibata’s three original rock tracks, the best is “Steeling My Resolve”, a brooding track that could be a sibling to “The Hunt” from the first soundtrack. His other offerings are generic rock battle tracks that lack strong melodies and distinctive instrumentals. The other arrangements by Shibata and the tracks by Yoshino Aoki are too sparse or too short and redundant to merit much revisit, even when they are arranging key themes from the original.
The next disc (21 tracks) is for “Episode Prompto”, with Naoshi Mizuta as the featured composer. His main contribution is the main theme for the DLC, which first appears as the opening track, “A Frozen Soul”. The wonderful somber cello melody is here played over a bleak atmospheric accompaniment, partly strings and partly electronic, previewing the styles of music for the DLC. The theme, however, is at its best in other versions, such as the haunting piano and cello version of “The Fire Within” arranged by Takuro Iga, or the lightly orchestrated and more developed “Home Sweet Home”, both of which are among my favorite tracks of the entire release. Mizuta also produces the two versions of “Orbital Instability”, moody electronic tracks that don’t feel all that out of place within Final Fantasy XV, though both feel overlong.
The rest of the music is mostly provided by Yoshitaka Suzuki. He produces some emotional themes like the beautiful “Coffee and Contemplation”, carefully balancing feelings of hope and despair. He also writes “Lost in the Snow” and “Identity”, which both use a piano to provide the melody over gradually building strings, to great effect in the former. He also provides many of the more exciting tracks for DLC, though their results are more mixed: “Crazy Motorsleigh” is a wonderful electronic track with good melodies over a fun accompaniment, while “Sound of My Heart” and “Face the Music” are too repetitive, despite being otherwise well made; the more orchestral “Sins of the Father” and “Aberrant Experiment” are epic and pressing but unmemorable as far as their melodies go, although they have good rhythmic variation; the atmospheric “Where None Dare Tread” and “Helix of Insanity” are above average in having more unique sounds, but they’re more effective in-game than as standalone listens. It’s overall a solid disc, but it’s melancholic material easily outshines the rest.
The third disc (17 tracks) is for the “Comrades” DLC. The main theme is provided this time by Nobuo Uematsu, in the form of the vocal theme “Choosing Hope”. Although I’ve enjoyed most of his vocal themes in the past, this one doesn’t quite succeed; its chorus is decent, its composition more sophisticated than Uematsu’s usual offerings, and its vocalist Emiko Suzuki suitably emotional, but its heavy-handed arrangement and slow first minutes drag the song down. Uematsu also provides the epic battle track “A Clash of Swords” which utilizes the “Choosing Hope” melody. It works well enough as it is, it could have had a more forceful climax.
Better are the contributions by Tadayoshi Mikano and Yoshitaka Suzuki. Their battle tracks “Hunting for a Thrill”, “On the Defensive”, “The Clock is Ticking”, “A Daunting Challenge”, and “The Wrath of Swords” all expand on the general sound for battle tracks of Final Fantasy XV, but do a better job of varying the instrumentation and rhythmic profiles to be more distinctive. Further, the tracks all carry tremendous energy and manage to not get wearisome over their track lengths. There are a few other tracks that rather glaringly break up the tone, like the bright “Cheers!” and “Lodes of Fun” which are alright tracks in themselves, yet don’t do much for the disc as a whole. Generally, this disc’s main attractions are the battle themes, which are consistently exciting and effective.
The fourth disc (23 tracks) is for the music of “Episode Ignis”, with Yasunori Mitsuda as the featured composer. The main strength that this disc has is a relative wealth of leitmotifs, largely provided by Mitsuda and expertly arranged into distinct tracks by Tadayoshi Makino and a few others. This gives the disc a unity and strength that was sorely missing in the original soundtrack. Thus the leitmotifs introduced “Episode Ignis – Main Theme” (which is already excellent in itself, sporting an expert violin performance) appear as an exciting battle theme in “Altissia Under Seige”, then later as a moving piano solo with light added instrumentation in “A Lightless Journey”. It’s also great to hear the main theme mixed in with new material, as in “Ashes to Ashes” and “Become the Fire”, the latter being an epic track that manages to work in a wistful solo wind instrument to become one of the disc highlights. Even lesser leitmotifs are used, like those shared between the weighty “United Front” with its surprising waltz interlude and the desperate “Tear Stained Sword”, as well as the fiery “Tactician” tracks.
Makino’s own work is also worth mentioning; he uses a captivating central melody for “Stress in Solitude” and “Spelldaggers” that is made of upward movements that don’t ever make it as high as the melodies at first suggest, perfectly capturing the feeling of constantly coming up short. Makino also gets a hand at arranging some of Yoko Shimomura’s original themes and essentially improves each one, largely by introducing new material and countermelodies. “Clash on the Waves” is an updated “Nox Divina” that adds more substance to the strings, while “Ardyn III” transposes the villain theme to organ and even gives it some development, while “Apocalypsis Magnatus” again benefits from great added strings work and a reworked progression. All this comes together to make the most satisfying music disc of the entire Final Fantasy XV series, one that is musically coherent, melodically rich, adorned with great musical performances, and lacking in filler.
The fifth disc (15 tracks) is the music for the “Royal Edition” DLC, which is mostly made of rearrangements from the original soundtrack, though there are notable new songs. The album starts with two tracks by Yoshino Aoki. “Over The Waves – At Anchor” is a lovely rearrangement of the original soundtrack’s “Over the Waves”, featuring simpler but more charming instrumentation. It still meanders like the original, but that is part of its appeal. “Bismark, God of the Sea” is less notable, having a nice shifting atmosphere but not otherwise being very compelling. Tetsuya Shibata’s “Dirt Track Trials” follows, another serviceable over-the-top rock track that feels quite out of place here.
The remainder is more serious, focusing on the expanded endgame of the DLC, and most of these are handled by Yoshitaka Suzuki. There are a couple of cutscene tracks that arrange familiar themes, like “Moonlit Melodies” which is a beautiful combination of Noctis’ and Luna’s themes, though others like “Return of the King’” and “A Warm Welcome” are generally too short and lack any meaningful development or variation. The area themes are much better, like the foreboding “Insomnia Ablaze” which makes good use of “Somnus”, and the grittier arrangement of “Veiled in Black” which adds a lot of new material to give the familiar sections more punch. The new superboss theme “Omega” has wonderful references to the Final Fantasy V’s main battle theme and “Lenna’s Theme”, though it’s “Omega – Limit Break” counterpart is a bit too repetitive. “Cerberus” and “Es it foron! A Prayer” and suitably epic, and the latter particularly plays up the tragic aspects of the endgame encounters. “Encelevenemus – Kingly Compassion” is Shimomura’s thunderous climax for it all, though I felt it could have benefitted from a lead instrument (like a violin as Shimomura so often utilizes). These tracks might all be a bit heavy at times, but they more than make up for the original soundtrack’s lackluster endgame section.
Extra Blu-ray and digital contents
Although the CD edition ends with “Royal Edition” DLC, the digital and Blu-ray editions have an extra 43 tracks. The first 18 of these are additional tracks inserted into the main game through patches, or else they are tracks that were simply not included in the original soundtrack release. Many of these are composed or arranged by Yoshitaka Suzuki. Unfortunately, I largely found them to be filler without memorable melodies to distinguish them, although they otherwise do their job of establishing a mood or atmosphere. Some manage to rise above, such as the fast-paced “Raid on Gralea”, the emotional “True Love”, or the grand “World of Wonder”, but even these do not feel essential. Then there are the driving and traversal tracks, handled by Tetsuya Shibata, Yoshino Aoki, and Afrojack. They are rock or electronica or dubstep, and often rather obnoxious and cheesy, though that might work for some listeners. As tired as I am of the chocobo theme, it seems to work for me in “Braver”, and the ethereal “Gliding Along” is quite lovely. On the other hand, tracks like “Party Around the World” downright annoy me, and the glitchy “EZ Dub & Bass” has potential but doesn’t quite pull it off. There isn’t much impressive or even Final Fantasy XV-esque in the car tracks, so one’s reception of them will depend a lot on personal taste.
The remaining tracks for the other game additions are just as scattered. The three “Moogle Carnival” tracks are playful and light, but also predictable and monotonous, save for the quick quote of the “Valse di Fantastica” in “Fireworks Finale”. The eight “Assassin’s Festival” tracks fare better, thanks to the guitar and winds emphasis that bring a western/folk sound. Mitsuhiro Ohta composes the relaxing “Time Well Spent” and the colorful “Man on a Mission”, while Tadayoshi Makino again brings his best in the sweeping “Your Neighborhood Assassin”, the frantic “The Hunt”, and the epic “Everything is Permitted”. The remaining 14 tracks are from “Monster of the Deep”. The three new versions of “Reel Rumble” are alright, each one successively building up the accompaniment around the main violin melody, but I felt that the central melody (or at least its instrument) was what needed changing the most. There are some gems among the rest, like the airy and mysterious “The Murky Depths”, and the two comforting “Welcome Home” tracks. But there isn’t quite enough across these extra tracks to recommend them to anyone who isn’t already attached to them from encountering them in the game.
Blu-ray exclusive content
For those who purchase the Blu-ray, as usual there is the option to download all of these tracks as mp3 files, or to listen to them alongside montages of cutscenes and gameplay. But generally the accompanying videos don’t have any coherent direction, and the lack of sound effects create a further dissonance between the video and audio, so that this function hardly seems like a justification of the medium. This is different from the later Final Fantasy XIV Blu-ray soundtracks, which at least offer unique perspectives for some of the battles and areas; but for Final Fantasy XV, there isn’t much that you wouldn’t have seen in-game.
There is however the further inclusion of a performance of a Piano Collections Final Fantasy XV: Moonlit Melodies Concert from Osaka (although these tracks are not available for download as mp3s). All of the Piano Collections tracks are present, as are two of the arrangements that were exclusive to the limited edition of the Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack, “Disquiet” and “Melancholia”. There is also a new arrangement of “Moonlit Melodies”, from the “Royal Edition” DLC. The arrangements are the ones we know with a few flourishes here and there, but unlike the originals which had a team of performers, here there is only Hiroyuki Nakayama, who thankfully is more relaxed than he tends to be for studio recordings. The concert is professionally shot and recorded, though a bit too dark from editing. Although the arrangements are standard fare, fans can appreciate seeing the songs performed, particularly the more virtuosic ones.
Far from the Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack Volume 2 being simply more of the same, the wealth of featured composers and arrangers make for a follow-up soundtrack that expands on and at times even improves on the sounds of the original soundtrack with strong new melodies, motifs, and arrangements, although there is a fair amount of filler in its many hours of content. Keiichi Okabe and Naoshi Mizuta provide excellent main themes for “Episode Gladiolus” and “Episode Episode Prompto” respectively, while the “Comrades” DLC has strong battle tracks, but there are also many lesser tracks in these collections that are merely adequate. Elsewhere, Yasunori Mitsuda and Tadayoshi Makino do a stellar job on the “Episode Ignis”, with memorable themes and thematic cohesion throughout. The remaining tracks for the “Royal Edition” and other contents are hit-or-miss, with some gems like the new endgame tracks thrown in amongst weaker cutscene material or tracks that are stylistically too different from the central material. The visual blu-ray content aside is not much of a draw either, but it still can be worth it for fans of the game’s music. Fans of the game who enjoyed Final Fantasy XV and its DLC should find at least one of these versions worth getting, while others would be well off just picking through the digital editions to find what they are interested in.
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Posted on July 23, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on July 23, 2019.