Note: the vast majority of this import soundtrack is available via iTunes: all of disc one, and the first 18 tracks of disc two, are present. Track 19, “Reconstruction -rebuild-,” is the end vocal credits, and then tracks 20 to the end of disc two are all “jingle” pieces, ranging from 5 to 30 seconds in length. If you can live without the second half of disc two, the iTunes version may be the most cost-effective way for you to purchase this soundtrack.
The entire Danganronpa series, to date, has had its music written by the versatile Masafumi Takada. A quick look at Takada’s previous works can give you an idea of just how wide his compositional abilities range: as a member of the Grasshopper sound team (that’s Suda51’s team), Takada contributed music to No More Heroes, Infinite Space, and Platinum Games’ early title Vanquish. He even wrote some pieces for the ensemble-composed Kid Icarus: Uprising soundtrack, a highly-praised three disc set of music. Since then, Takada has taken almost exclusively to Spike Chunsoft’s quirky/macabre Danganronpa franchise, developing a soundscape that matches the odd blend of character and environment art: from pink blood and murderous pedo-bear clones (Monokumas) to relaxing days at a swimming pool with good, albeit amnesiac, friends.
This is the first published soundtrack in the series. Many songs written for this soundtrack managed to hold sway with the fans and the game’s designers, as they come back in DGR2 and in “Ultra Despair Girls,” the spin-off Resident-Evil-style shooter that takes place between the two main games.
Chief among them is the main theme, which can be heard in the opening (1-01) as well as “Climactic Re-Enactment” (2-16). The haunting vocal sample snuggled up next to that avant-garde jazz is unforgettable, and it perfectly fits a world where dazed teens try stand up against a nihilistic despair with the power to do what it wants and and fight for hope, meaning, and the value of humanity. What I’m trying to say is that this is catchy music, but it’s catchy music that makes you think.
Other songs on the soundtrack are perfect “mood” tracks. The ambient electronica we hear in “Beautiful Death” and “Closing Argument” are on par with, and at times superior to, the soundtrack’s peers (think Ace Attorney or 999). Speaking of 999, listen to “Box 15.” There’s no way Takada wrote that song without conjuring up some Shinji Hosoe magic; the track feels like it came right out of the Zero Escape series.
There are a handful of songs on this soundtrack that accompany FMV cutscenes. Most of these scenes are, well…spoiler alert, execution sequences — very elaborate ones at that. The one with the most impressive music, in my mind, is “Versailles Burning At the Stake Witch Hunt Preparations.” I lost my favorite character that day. But the entire setting, including the music, was on point.
For a bit of lighthearted music, you can’t go wrong with “Mr. Monokuma’s Lesson.” This song has gone on to become something of a prime Monokuma theme throughout the series. The first 30 or 40 times I heard it in-game, I hated it. But, eventually, even this song came to grow on me. It is dorky and awkward, but it has a charm all its own.
If you were looking for some high-charged EDM, the “trial” music from the game has some of that. Our audio samples feature “Discussion (Mix) [Edge Version]” and “Argument (Turn Up the Heat).” There are other songs in this vein, such as “Hangman’s Gambit.” The soundtrack is probably made up of about 20 percent intense EDM akin to these songs, but it’s hard to say for sure, as some of this music is quite difficult to categorize by genre.
When Spike Chunsoft got together to start making these games, they made the right choice hiring Masafumi Takada. He’s the only person I could imagine making the right music for this series, and I hope he keeps with it for as long as Spike Chunsoft chooses to churn out games for the franchise.