Takami Asano composed a fantastic, guitarlicious soundtrack for the original Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. Kenji Ito signed on for the second game, who opted to follow in Asano’s footsteps in terms of instruments. Yes, for those of you who’ve said, “Man, I love Legend of Zelda’s music, but there’s just not enough electric guitar,” this is the soundtrack for you. Not every track enjoys six strings of lightning, but the series’ trademark has been passed on to most of the second installment.
However, where Devil Survivor 2 falters is in the quality. DS2’s music isn’t necessarily bad, it just lacks lasting power. This may be for two reasons: 1) the average track length is about two minutes, which implies the use of short, derivative pieces; and 2) there’s no sentimentality with which to attach each track. If I were to play the game, I might impose some sort of urgency to the fifth track. Then again, 35 tracks on one CD hardly comforts consumers.
I often comment on battle music in my soundtrack reviews, because I view this as the most important role in a game’s soundtrack. After all, what does one hear most often throughout a 30 to 70 hour adventure in JRPGs? The battle theme, which I previously alluded to, is probably one of the few impressive tracks in this soundtrack. The guitar and drums work well together, keeping up a good beat throughout. Though, one point of concern is the short length. With about 1:28, one might expect a great deal of repetition during battles. For those who inspect the OST before purchasing games, this could be an indication of tiresome encounters, since DS2 will likely boast strategy RPG elements.
Although several of the tracks struck me as base, head-bobbin’ beats reign plentifully. Tracks 12 and 14, for instance, don’t offer much in terms of originality, but one can’t dislike the tunes. They keep the mind engaged for as long as their track lengths, and then the audience quickly moves on to the next song with little distraction. Again, I must stress that these pieces have no lasting power.
The occasional silly tune appears, seeming quite out of place. However, for those well-acquainted with Devil Survivor, this shouldn’t be entirely unexpected. Despite the gravity of the plot, the first game had its share of whimsical moments. I suppose JRPG developers just can’t help themselves. Ironically, these less-than-desirable pieces are some of the more memorable among the bunch due to how they disrupt the flow.
Constant consternation would be unfair, though. Track 7 is one of my favorite pieces on this tightly compact album. Of course, it also boasts one of the longest track lengths at a whopping 2:29 (oh my!) Initially, this track is reminiscent of DS’s end of the day meeting between Abel, Yuzu, and Atsuro, but the track quickly makes a name for itself in its tranquil piano tapping. Similarly, track 27 offers a moving, solemn use of the piano that’s less peaceful, and more morose. Although track 7’s piano is empowered by the light use of the guitar, track 27 remains strong in the piano’s independence. Both execute the black and white keys excellently in their own way.
Track 33 uses the piano to communicate resolution. Our heroes are tired and sacrifices have been made, but pink and orange rays peak in the distant horizon just past the skyscrapers. I have no idea how accurate that image will be, but track 33 paints that image quite well; I guess we’ll see how applicable it is. Nevertheless, if DS2’s ending is anything like the tracks near the end of the album imply, fans and newcomers alike should be pleased with the closure.
Overall, DS2’s music is okay and forgettable. Although this is definitely one of the least memorable soundtracks I can recall (see what I did there?), that doesn’t necessarily make this a bad album for a game. When listening to the tracks, I like what I hear and oftentimes find myself bouncing slightly; in this way, Ito might have gone for more of a subtle complement to the game, rather than an overt, outstanding soundtrack that threatens to usurp the writing with aural power. Music lovers will be left wanting, but a quiet sidekick might be what DS2 needs. Should you buy the album? Given the track lengths and mediocrity, probably not.