I've experienced this soundtrack in so many different ways, and I'm still learning how to appreciate it. It doesn't (often) come naturally.
I first experienced this music in its original form by importing the soundtrack a decade ago. That same music, track for track, makes up the first two discs of this six disc set. At the time, I enjoyed what I heard, but I had no attachment to it.
Earlier this year, I played the finally-localized PSP remake of Innocent Sin. And in truth, I didn't like the music much. Or rather, I didn't notice it. Not in the way I notice P3 or P4. It felt like a half-hearted attempt by Meguro and crew to add meat to the bare-bones PS1 score. And I absolutely loathed that opening vocal track.
With the exception of the vocal track (which I still despise), the new six disc set has grown on me, to a degree. Yes, it's still inferior to the soundtracks of P3 and even P4. But the "remix" tracks (discs 3 through 6) really do fill out the sparse sounds of the originals and bring the music to life. For whatever reason, be it compression or the tiny speakers on the PSP, I didn't get a lot out of listening in-game. This is the first time I can think of where the music in-context didn't do much for me, but out-of-context, I was pleased.
But still, it's out-of-context, with context. I now know who the characters are, and what the story is. I have context, but it's not the in-game experience that allows me to enjoy the music. The separate listening experience, for this OST, is where it's at.
Nonetheless, six discs of audio is a little daunting. I would never recommend listening to it in one full listen. I have yet to try such a thing myself. I don't think I would enjoy it.
Not familiar with the style of the music? The audio samples tell the tale pretty well. Jazzy, dance-y, pop/rock fusion all with that distinct Shoji Meguro sound. Sans the heavy vocal/hip-hop influences of later Persona titles, of course.
I think, at the end of the day, this won't be a favorite among SMT fans. It can't be. There are better things on the rock side, and the jazz side, and even the classical orchestra-ish side (Strange Journey, anyone?). But that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed. Consider it one of the latter steps in a collector's journey.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann