Game Music, Reviews

Persona Soundtrack Gets Remixed and Bundled With Shin Megami Tensei: Persona on PSP (Review)

September 26, 2009 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Persona Soundtrack Gets Remixed and Bundled With Shin Megami Tensei: Persona on PSP (Review)on Twitter

The Megami Tensei franchise as a whole is a rather unique one in the realm of Japanese RPGs, and has been ever since it started on the Famicom in 1987, not only in the subject matter that it used, but also in its presentation and soundtrack.

Now, the popularity of the franchise has risen dramatically, which can be attributed to the critical success of Persona 3 and 4, both spin offs from the main Megami Tensei franchise. In the US, however, the two other games in the Persona franchise weren’t as well known or well treated when they were brought to the US originally, with the then titled Revelations: Persona featuring very questionable cultural changes in addition to some rough translation work, and only one of the two games that made up Persona 2 actually being brought over. As a result, after the PSP remake/port of the original Persona was completed, Atlus has decided to not only bring the game over to the US with the promise of a better localization, but also with the added bonus of a 2-disc soundtrack for those who buy a physical copy of the game, featuring the work of Shogi Meguro on this project.

Read our review of this new soundtrack after the jump.

In short, the soundtrack features a mix of arrangements of various songs from the original Persona (composed by Hidehito Aoki and Kenichi Tsuchi), while at the same time incorporating new music that shows some of the same musical stylings that Meguro has infused into the more modern installments of the Persona franchise. Those who were fans of his work from Persona 3 and 4 will most likely enjoy these new songs, while those who are more diehard Persona fans from the beginning might be left longing for some of the nostalgic tracks that have been replaced. To be honest, before I listened to the 2-disc soundtrack, I was a little worried that the new music that was being written was going to go to far in replacing the original tracks, but fortunately, those fears were resolved for the most part as I started to listen in.

The variety of music genres being represented are fairly in line with what one expects from the Megami Tensei franchise as a whole. One kind of music you can expect to find is the driving, sometimes aggressive electronic tracks like “Tension,” “Deva Yuga,” and “Mikage Police Station,” all remakes of songs from the original Playstation edition of Persona. Next in line are the more subdued tracks, ranging from several ambient tracks (including “To a Shining Future” and “Bestowing the Persona”) to more orchestral/piano focused works (such as “Persona,” “Alaya Cavern,” and “Overcoming Sadness”). For those who are familiar with Meguro’s past work in the Megami Tensei franchise, the inclusion of tracks that are more rock oriented should also be no surprise, with songs like “Pandora, the Last Battle,” “Confrontation,” and “A Lone Prayer” all giving another flavor of intensity in the musical score. Lastly there are the more lighthearted, jazz/J-Pop influenced tracks that became more popular and common in Persona 3 and 4, as embodied in tracks like “School Days,” “Ice Castle,” and “Voice.”

From a composition standpoint, most of the songs came across as strong, including the arrangement tracks. Personally, the strongest tracks were some of the shorter, ambient works that Meguro incorporated into the soundtrack, as these were full of rich textures, harmonies, and had a degree of interconnectivity in their writing that made them all feel like cohesive members of a larger general work. Furthermore, a lot of the arrangement tracks did a great job of retaining enough of the source material to be recognizable, while at the same time upping the production values enough to keep them in line with the rest of the soundtrack. The exception to this were tracks that were pretty much imported in without any alteration, like “Battle with Tesso,” “Persona Fusion,” and the Persona 3/4 version of the “Aria of the Soul.”). I spent a decent amount of time just listening back and forth between the original version of the songs from the PS1 release of the game, and its arranged version from the PSP release… and frequently enjoying the arranged version of the songs overall. My biggest gripe in this category is the inclusion of the “Aria of the Soul,” which is a great song, but hearing it now in three games without any real alteration at all or development is just a tad frustrating personally. Ultimately, this is a minor gripe to how the other tracks turned out.

When talking about the music’s production quality, it’s easy to say with assurance that despite being set up for a handheld platform, the music retains the same level of quality one would expect from the other recent Persona titles we’ve seen on the PlayStation 2. In particular, some of the new vocal tracks are surprisingly strong production wise, with my personal favorites being “A Lone Prayer” and “Dream of Butterfly,” which both feature some pleasant variety in textures and tones within. However, both of these tracks feature an element that I’ve found to be a weakness in Meguro’s approach to this type of music – namely, the use of Japanese Female vocalists to sing English lyrics (which I also had an issue with in some tracks for “The World Ends With You”). I’m not saying that this can’t ever be done, but it just makes words much harder to understand for me personally when this vocal approach is taken. Despite this minor gripe, these songs are pleasant enough to listen to for me. One point about the vocal tracks that will likely make some of the older fans of Persona somewhat upset is the fact that the battle music for the game is more or less replaced by some of these vocal tracks. The only other tracks that came off as a bit weak from the production side were some of the orchestral tracks, especially “Night Queen.” However, given the production budget of the game, and other likely factors, it’s not too surprising that they didn’t use any sort of live orchestral instruments for this track.

Ultimately, the soundtrack is a fine bonus to have with the game, and its inclusion, coupled with the fact that the digital release of the game is being delayed by a week, makes it even harder to resist just getting the UMD version of the game if you’re a Persona fan. It is a soundtrack that brings in some fresh new music that’ll please newer fans of the Persona franchise, while keeping enough of the nature and spirit of the original score in place to keep those old diehard fans (like myself) satisfied. The game ships on the 22nd, and should be in most stores by the 23rd, so whether you’re playing this entry in the franchise for the first time, or revisiting it after some time apart, it is sure to be a feast to the ears at the very least.

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