This rare arrange/drama CD comes with the Japanese Super Limited Box Edition of the “budget re-release” of the PSP game. Yes, I said PSP. Danganronpa was originally a PSP title, but it was not localized in the US until Japan had ported the first two games into one set for the PS Vita.
What all is on this disc? There are a total of four arrange tracks (five if you include the karaoke track); five short, individual-scenario drama tracks; nine “cast comment” tracks; and the remainder are jingles and FMV cutscene music pulled from the OST. And of course, when I say “FMV,” I am referring to the various execution sequences. The fact that they are placed between each cast comment track somehow makes them extra creepy. I mean, Celestia’s cast member talks right after her execution. That’s morbid.
I suppose it’s best we focus on the few tracks worth focusing on: the arrangements. Hands down, my favorite is the final track, a five minute version of “Closing Argument,” one of the most enjoyable tracks from the OST. But don’t be fooled by “Extended Mix.” Takada didn’t just loop the track a few times and call it a day. This is an entirely new version. The first half opens with orgel (music box) only, followed by sustained synth pads and synth leads that slowly but surely build…and then BAM! Right at the midpoint of the song, we get the fully layered original version, but now there is extra percussion supporting it, turning it into something of a dance track. That, and it sounds like there’s a new improvised piano part recorded with this mix. So it actually is an extensive arrangement, and it’s really wonderful.
Jumping from the end to the beginning, we have the “RX-Ver.S.P.L” title track remix. At first, it sounds exactly like the original version, haunting vocals and all (side note: the karaoke track cuts these weird, arrhythmic vocals, as if someone would attempt to recreate such a strange and difficult melody with their own voice!). Eventually, the remix changes, primarily by pulling different layers so we can better hear some of the backing track, especially a rhythm guitar part I’d never really paid attention to before. Listening to this new extended version, it suddenly hit me: Takada needs to collaborate with Lotus Juice. You know, the hip-hop artist in all the Persona games of the last decade? It would really work. If not here, then especially on track 12, “Break.”
Speaking of “Break,” let’s take a close look at that track. This is another “RX-Ver.S.P.L” remix (I have no idea what that suffix means, but I suppose it means something to the people who put this album together). In this arrangement, much like “Closing Argument,” everything starts soft: even the percussion seems muted, subdued. This gives the arranger time to build the track until finally, about 90 seconds in, the full track as Danganronpa players remember it is bombarding your ears. Even so, it’s only present for about 30 seconds; then there’s an extended break with just enough instrumentation to keep the beat alive, and when the full track comes back, it’s square-waved, aka “chiptuned,” at least to some extent. It’s not a smooth synth lead, that’s for sure. The crazy background-talking is still there, which is sort of the signature style for this whole franchise. I was glad to see Takada keep his traditional soundscape alive while managing to find new ways to play with the sound.
Finally, let’s talk about the Prototype version of “Class Trial Solar Edition.” If the parenthetical subtitle is to be believed, this is no remix, but a former version of the music that didn’t make the cut, and had to be changed to work itself into the game. However, that doesn’t mean the prototype version is bad. In fact, it is extremely interesting. Musically speaking, it embraces the more esoteric side of EDM, making it great to really focus on while listening. Unfortunately, since it’s not a new arrangement, it is of unlooped OST length, just under two minutes.
As stated at the beginning of this review, obtaining this CD is tricky. If you can find someone willing to sell their LE set in parts rather than one whole, you can probably obtain this disc for 2000 yen or less. However, most sellers will try to sell the complete box; if sealed, it’ll be an obscene amount of money. More likely, you would be able to get a used set for perhaps 6000 yen, more or less. It’s your choice whether or not you want an extra-complete music set for the Danganronpa series. Frankly, unless you know Japanese and can thus enjoy the drama tracks, I would argue it’s not worth the cost, no matter how good that arrangement of “Closing Argument” may be.