I wanted Caligula, known in the US as "The Caligula Effect," to be a great game. A cavalcade of ex-Atlus staff, many of whom worked on early SMT and Persona titles, came together to create a new RPG. We all had high hopes.
Unfortunately, potential and reality do not always match. I refer you to our review of the PS Vita game itself, written by Nicholas Ransbottom. On almost every point, I agree with him: the game was a slog to play through and generally a letdown.
The only area where I disagree? A sound subscore of 50%. And this on top of stating the voice acting was a "pro," suggesting the major problem was the "repetitive music." Said music — the BGM on disc two by Tsukasa Masuko — may well be repetitive in the context of the game, but it stands on its own just fine. The actual BGM portion of the soundtrack is short, though. Only 42 minutes in length (tracks 01-26 on disc two).
But to me, what's there is every bit as enjoyable as the sound-upgraded Persona PSP soundtrack. Which is to say, I dig it. There are so many chill songs here; Tsukasa Masuko was in the groove while composing for this game, and right from the start, you can hear it. Check out the samples for "Horoscope" and "Ideal conversation." Groovy bass? Check. Synth voice? Check. Complex jazz drum rhythms? Check checkity check!!
Looking for something stronger? Maybe some...battle music, you say? Check out the impressive dubstep-esque work on "Lost road" and the groovy yet intense "Confronting."
Am I cherry picking here? Not really. If anything, I can pull out the rotten fruits for you. The intentionally silly/quirky tunes are "Itchy" and "hooky." Pull those from the mix and you have a nearly perfect set of BGM from one of the greatest unsung VGM heroes.
But wait, there's more!
I skipped over the entire first disc. What's going on over there? The bad news is that it's not from Tsukasa Masuko. The good news is that it doesn't matter, because the versatile team behind the rest of the music banded together to make some of the most intense and musically complex vocal tracks I've heard since Revo / Sound Horizon did the original album "Märchen." If you've never heard of that, just imagine the quality of the Attack On Titan season 1 opening songs, but elongated to an hour and telling a weaved-together fairy tale (à la Into the Woods) using power rock opera as the medium.
Now, these songs are more techno-heavy than Revo's work. But the vocalists are awesome, and the music composition is wonderful, through and through. There's not a single song I dislike. To make things even more interesting, disc one offers up the ten original vocal tracks, followed by self-arranged remixes of the aforementioned songs. After many listens, I've determined that I am decisively indecisive. I have no preference between the originals and the remixes. Both are great to listen to, for each song. Just take a listen to the samples for yourself. You'll see what I mean.
Even as I write this, I am aware that more Caligula music is out there. And I intend to get my hands on it, someday. I have no problem celebrating the "bad game, good music" category. If you feel the same way, and you want to add this soundtrack to your music collection as a sort of "spiritual kin" to the early SMT/Persona titles, I would give you a nod and a thumbs up. Go for it.
This review is based on a free digital review copy provided to RPGFan by the publisher. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the album.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann