Editor’s Note: “Batsu” is the kanji character on the front cover, and can be translated as “Punishment”: this is the Japanese subtitle that got translated and romanized as “Eternal Punishment.” Hence, the “Batsu” here refers to the fact that this is an arranged album for Eternal Punishment, and not Innocent Sin.
Electronic music has been a staple of Megami Tensei soundtracks for a long time. After all, the games are primarily set in modern or post-modern urban environments; hence, electronic music is a great choice to capture that modern or post-modern vibe. Various styles of electronica can be found in the games, such as techno, trance, and even some trip-hop to name a few. Of course, the electronica in the games is more of the “listening” kind than the kind of danceable electronic music spun by DJs at clubs or raves. That being said, the Persona 2 games, Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment, had more examples of danceable electronica in their soundtracks than Revelations: Persona, whose soundtrack was almost all atmospheric. Therefore, it seems only logical that dance remixes would be made from some of the themes of Persona 2. Hence, we have the “Persona 2 Batsu Punitive Dance” soundtrack: a soundtrack featuring dance remixes of songs from Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
The Persona games have always been known to keep people on their toes and this soundtrack follows that exemplar. When I heard the title “Punitive Dance” I was expecting mostly dance club styled techno. In fact, the opening track “BGM 2: Groove Mix” fell in line with that expectation. But after that, my expectations were blown away. Subsequent tracks evoked images from a variety of dance styles of different tempos from all over the world, albeit always with a modern take. Sure there are requisite songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a trendy dance club, such as “BGM 2: Groove Mix” or “East Asia Defense,” but there are others that showcase different varieties of dance. “Opening: Shall We Dance?,” “Jolly Roger,” and “BGM 1” bring to mind more formal dance, such as ballroom. “Padparacha” brings to mind slower tempo island dancing such as the Hawaiian hula with Caribbean flavors with the steel drums. “Peace Diner” sounds like a piece that a circus troupe would dance to. These are but a few examples, and each song has a specific style of dance in mind. There are some tracks where I could not readily identify the dance style being aimed for, “Nichirin-Maru” being one, but someone more versed in dance styles of the world could. That certainly didn’t hamper my enjoyment or interest in the music one iota. Every track, with a possible exception, is good in its own right and all have a unique vibe to them, lending the soundtrack some nice variety. Lest I forget this is a game soundtrack, I will say that I was usually able to recognize the melodies and patterns used in the game, but other times I couldn’t. Either way, nostalgia was not a necessary factor in my enjoyment of Punitive Dance, save for two tracks.
One track where nostalgia increased my enjoyment was the remix of the Satomi Tadashi pharmacy song, called “Satomi Tadashi: Parapara Tadashi.” No Persona soundtrack would be complete without the Satomi Tadashi song, since it is a staple in the games. I have a hard time describing the song in words, but it certainly had me grinning from ear to ear and is one of the best, if not the best, version of that song. And anyone who’s familiar with Persona 2 knows that there are multiple versions of that song and it’s always a treat to hear a new version.
The other track that I feel is dependent on nostalgia is the closer “Memories: Sin or Punishment.” At seven minutes long, it is the longest track on the album and thus the most repetitive. The main melody is a lick from the opening theme of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment and were it not for the nostalgia tied to that, I’d have bored of it rather quickly. I still liked it, but it was the weakest track on the album.
With the exception of the closer, the songs aren’t very long (usually under 5 minutes) so they loop enough for you to get into them and groove along, but aren’t so long that they get boring and repetitive. Each song has a distinct melody that your ear could easily follow, as well as distinct openings and endings, save for “Nichirin-Maru” and “Kagyuu Mountain,” which end rather suddenly.
As with many import soundtracks, this one is not easy to get a hold of, and is highly sought after by Persona fans. Even if you’re not a Persona fan, the music is still very good, although some Persona fandom is a key ingredient to enjoying “Satomi Tadashi: Parapara Tadashi” and “Memories: Sin and Punishment” songs. The other tracks are all very good in their own right and showcase a wide variety of dance styles from all over the world. The soundtrack certainly defied my expectations and in the world of Persona, that can only be a good thing.