There’s something to be said for a well-curated experience. I tend to despise these bonus soundtracks, which will tout a few unique arrangements but are otherwise a “best-of” from the full OST. It creates a kind of collectors’ dilemma that ultimately costs the collector financially. In other words, we might call it a cheap grab for the die-hard fan’s wallet.
But I really do enjoy these kinds of mini-albums when they are properly assembled. And this album, the in-game bonus for the Japanese remake of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (for PSP), is about the best example I’ve seen.
From the “original side” (PS1 music), we get the standard battle theme, and then three absolutely awesome dungeon BGM themes: the Nichirinmaru (a naval vessel), Sumaru Castle, and Mt. Katatsumuri. All of these songs sound fantastic in their original PS1 versions, and they also set the stage for what the game itself represented. Fans of the game will draw fond memories from all four of these songs.
From the PSP “remix side,” we find the new opening cut scene track, the generic “BGM I” used in a variety of scenes throughout the game, P2EP’s “Velvet Room” BGM, and to complement what we found on the original side, we have the “Boss Battle” remix. Most Persona audiophiles failed to find much in the PSP remix that impressed them over the PS1 original. And, indeed, the standard was set so high originally, what could anyone do to improve? The “Velvet Room Nameless Arrange” benefits from a superior synth voice, though it still sounds inferior to what one would expect them capable of doing twelve years later. I think the big winner in this section is, in fact, the Opening track. I was surprised!
Before getting into the five stellar arranges, I just want to mention that the bonus track, “Persona Mambo,” was found on both the old and new OSTs as a bonus track, so you’re just getting it here, again, for a third time. It’s actually a super-fun track. If you can stay light-hearted, you’re bound to enjoy it. I can’t help but laugh whenever I hear it.
Now then, to the exclusive stuff, tracks 9 to 13, the “arrange side”…
The section opens with Shoji Meguro’s exclusive arrangement for “Parabellum II,” one of the shop themes. This arrangement features some solid instrumental performances. In the first 30 seconds alone, we hear some great bass and piano. But the lead melodic voice is a smooth, layered guitar. Of the five arranged tracks, Parabellum II goes the longest, at over five minutes. This is one to savor. It has all the standard Meguro trappings, and I mean that in the best of ways.
Toshiki Konishi offers up one arrangement: the standard “Battle” theme. I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling this arrangement by saying that it is “passable.” It’s not amazing; it really is good work. The guitar parts (both rhythm and lead) sound fantastic, and the drum fills add a lot to the music that was simply not present in its original form. Fans of P2EP’s battle theme may, in fact, be taken aback by how straight-rock it is, as the electronica is pulled straight out. Again, it’s a nice addition, but nothing too shocking or remarkable.
The other three arrangements are all done by Atsushi Kitajoh, a man who has quickly risen to prominence in the Atlus Sound Team, and in my own mind. He opens his set with “Everyday,” a beautifully bright and upbeat arrangement of an already upbeat tune. It’s strong enough to serve as the backing track for an opening or ending vocal theme for one of those really sugar-sweet visual novels that Japan so loves. I really appreciated this arrangement. Even better, however, was the restaurant theme “Jolly Roger.” The original track is strong, even the PS1 version, but Kitajoh takes that mid-tempo big-band jazz sound to a level that is nearly life-like.
Finally, we have an arrangement of the protagonist’s theme, Maya. This melody is also that used for the vocal theme “Change Your Way.” But Kitajoh takes the original melody and then builds it up to about as strong as instrumental pop-rock can go. There is a lot of diversity packed into this four minute arrangement. The tempo itself never changes, but the guitars can help drive a double-time feel at points, and the drums can bring it back to a half-time feel. Plenty of instruments juggle the main melody. I especially love the violin work — it’s very new-school Falcom/JDK style.
So, there it is. A surprisingly good bonus album thrown in with the LE version of the Japanese game. Fortunately, if you want this album in your collection, it seems to sell separately from the game for a reasonable price on eBay and elsewhere. I’ve seen it as low as $15 USD. Not a bad price for the five exclusive arranged tracks, nor the lovely curated experience that comes before the exclusive music.