When Persona 3 first came out in 2007 in North America, it seemed that its music got very mixed reviews and reactions. Possibly those of us who play a lot of JRPGs are more used to often slower, more dramatic pieces instead of the upbeat, modern, sometimes almost-hip-hop tracks that you get in P3. I always felt that the soundtrack suited the game really well, that it fit in perfectly with a busy, modern-day city setting that is Port Island where your main cast is a group of high school students with packed schedules all the way up to the Dark Hour.
The main attraction of Persona 3 Portable is of course the addition of a female protagonist, and with its soundtrack only ten songs long, we can expect that a lot of the original music was kept around, although major tracks were swapped out. The first and most obvious change is the vocal theme, “Soul Phrase.” This is no “Burn My Dread,” but then again, the latter is a catchy and more memorable RPG vocal theme in recent memory – and one of my recent favorites. On its own, “Soul Phrase” is at best keeping up with the overall mood of the game; at worst, it is a somewhat generic J-pop/rock track whose guitars in the beginning drew me in far more than the vocals did for the entire song.
“Wiping All Out,” the new battle theme, while a bit less happy than its predecessor, is similar in that it features vocals from the same group (Lotus Juice), keeps a fairly quick tempo without the ramped-up intensity of, well, a battle. “Time” is one song that used vocals well without getting repetitive or annoying, with a decent blend of piano, guitar and drums. When “After School” comes on, I can not help but just picture the character profile of Junpei Iori excitedly talking the main character’s ear off about girls as they exit Gekkoukan High. Perhaps the most underwhelming song here is “A Warm Feeling” – even for slow background music, this one is rather forgettable and lost in the mix.
The tracks, some of which are only heard in the female’s story, generally seem lighter and more upbeat than the original Persona 3 soundtrack, (such as Sun”) and actually reminded me at times of the Persona 4 soundtrack. “A Way Of Life,” one potential afterschool/wandering-about-town theme, in particular sounds similar to P4’s “sunny weather” music with its laid back cheeriness. Even “Danger Zone,” my personal favorite of the ten tracks, would fit in perfectly there as well as a boss battle or a pre-battle theme.
While nothing here is truly outstanding on its own, and at times sounds like leftovers from both Persona 3 and 4’s original soundtracks, Persona 3 Portable’s music works well for the game seeing as it doesn’t stray very far from the original material. For those who enjoy the aforementioned soundtracks, you can’t go wrong here. To anyone who was hoping for something new, I would recommend skipping this one, especially if the original was not your cup of tea.