In general, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series and all its spawn are unique amongst the epic catalogues of roleplaying games available today. They are often comprised of equal parts horror flick, psychological thriller, and surrealist film. Persona 3 set a lighter pace with its more mainstream approach, but was no less compelling to gamers everywhere. Take all the above aesthetics, insert at least two drops of J-pop and you have your typical Persona soundtrack.
My issue with Persona 3 was its musical focus. It was extremely peppy and upbeat, catering to a J-pop crowd of modern deportment. Persona 4 thankfully undoes some of that, and while it retains a degree of J-pop, it nonetheless speaks more assertively of its elder predecessors.
Excellent tracks include The Almighty, The Genesis, Belongings, and Reasoning. The last item in particular reminds me of standing around inside shops in Persona: Revelations, a game I dearly love despite its faults.
Belongings is an Enka-style song, a popular form of romantic, forlorn music in Japan. The song itself is an impassioned piece, with the singer exerting a great longing through her voice. I personally enjoy Enka, although some may find its lilting melodies a little dated-sounding.
The Poem for Everyone’s Souls is another great piece; a take on the classic “Velvet Room” music, which has featured into every Persona game to date. As a vocal take on the Velvet Room’s theme, I assume it’s being sung by Igor’s eternal companion, Belladonna. Despite having no words, it’s a very easy piece to listen to and a wonderful arrangement of the classic theme.
There is of course Electronica in Velvet Room, yet another arrangement. I enjoy this less, but it still makes good use of the classic melody. It’s very upbeat and easy listening, though I find it does get monotonous after a time. It’s perhaps the only track that does regularly bore me, despite a very nice shift in tone between 1:10 and 1:25.
Perhaps the one issue I have with Persona 4 is that much of its music sounds the same. I can’t readily distinguish the majority of tracks from one another, not because they are similar, but because they are unremarkable. It isn’t anything new to Persona as a series – all its games suffer this problem – but I really thought they would have gotten a handle on it by now.
Shoji Meguro serves as composer on this soundtrack, working together with Atsushi Kitajoh, whom fans of Trauma Centre: New Blood will recognise, and relative newcomer Ryota Kozuka. While Meguro was similarly responsible for Persona 3, there’s definitely a return to the older titles in the series, as well as strains from Digital Devil Saga. Mist for instance, sounds like it came right out of Persona’s sister series, with its shrill-yet-subtle electric guitar.
In the end, Persona 4 is not my favorite Persona soundtrack, but it certainly brings back some fond memories. It deals less with J-pop and more with Persona’s initial aesthetic identity as explored through the first two games. It’s a recommended buy for fans, though if you’re just casually searching for good music, this is perhaps a questionable choice.