For some sad and strange reasons that Atlus USA never disclosed, the English localization of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment’s PSP remake never came to be. As a consolation prize, they did release the original version on PSN as a PSOne Classic. And of course, they did get us the remake of Innocent Sin. But Japan got remakes of both… they always do get the more complete deal.
This five disc soundtrack is the counterpart to the Innocent Sin six disc set, in that it contains in its entirety both the old PS1 soundtrack and the new PSP remake music. That’s a lot of music, yes, but really you’re getting the same soundtrack twice, the second time with enhancements (elaboration, elongation, new instrumentation) and a handful of additional tracks.
The original mix, which covers the first two discs, is a second-for-second, note-for-note reprint of the old OST, for which we have a review here. My summary take on this portion of the soundtrack: it holds up extremely well more than a decade later, and it sets a high bar for the remake’s music to live up to. For fans of Persona 3 and 4, this music is less dance-friendly than the Shoji Meguro-only music you’re used to. It’s more ambient and dark. Nonetheless, I suspect most fans of the newer Persona games will enjoy this soundtrack.
Now then, to the three-disc remake portion…
These arrangements are primarily the work of Toshiki Konishi, with some help from the extremely talented Atsushi Kitajoh. A handful of tracks have their arrangements assigned to the generic label “Atlus Sound Team,” meaning either that Konishi and Kitajoh worked together on the arrangement, or that somebody doesn’t want to (or for legal reasons, cannot) be identified and credited for their work.
The quality of these arrangements? While some may chalk it up to personal taste alone, I think it can be said rather objectively that there were missed opportunities for improvements. The old OST is great, sure, but some of the synths are truly outdated and could have been made better. In some cases, Kitajoh and Konishi take care of business and bring about a beautiful rebirth in this music. In others, I feel like they must have been rushed, and the end product sounds lazy.
For an example of the former, I present “Seven Sisters High School.” One of the earliest tracks in the game, you can compare the audio samples here and hear for yourself how much of a difference we get. Kitajoh-san personally handled the arrangement for this one, and I think the difference here is obvious. The piano sounds amazing, female choral vocal is lovely, and the backing percussion track sounds much clearer and more interesting in this new version. Bravo!
As for the latter, where things didn’t fare so well? Check out the standard battle theme. Konishi-san handled this one. Yes, there’s an electric guitar now, very nice. But most of the synth sounds very similar to the original. This results in a clash of the old and the new, and they really don’t blend well at all. Considering this is a piece of music the gamer hears very often throughout their play time, one would think that much attention to detail would’ve gone into this particular song remake. And, for all I know, maybe much attention was paid to it, and the Atlus Sound Team was satisfied with the result. I’m not satisfied, though. I’m rather disappointed. This shoddy workmanship is exactly what people complained about in the Innocent Sin remake OST (although I myself found much to enjoy there, others are vehemently opposed to the entire venture!).
Because I don’t want to give Konishi-san a bad reputation, check out Mt. Katatsumuri (aka “Snail Mountain”). It sounds great on the old OST, but the remake sounds even better. Everything is more clear, and the backing percussion is smooth, it’s like you could drink it down. Nicely done, Konishi-san!
I suppose I should also mention the end credits song, “Change Your Way” (disc 5 track 16), performed by Elisha La’Verne. It uses the main melodic theme on the maps (and the new Staff Roll). It’s not awful… it’s a soulful piece, akin to The Legend of Dragoon’s ending theme.
Here are the takeaways: this is two soundtracks in one, original and remake. The original still sounds great. The remake sounds great sometimes, yet it diminishes the quality of certain songs at other times. It’s five discs of Persona-y goodness that life-long fans will be sure to enjoy, even if it’s not their most cherished OST in their collection.