Few game series evoke doom and gloom quite like Shin Megami Tensei, due to its unique post-apocalyptic settings and consistently eerie soundscapes. The long-awaited Shin Megami Tensei IV continues this trend, and thanks to the inclusion of a Music Collection CD in first-edition copies of the game, we’re afforded a chance to look at (or rather, listen to) where the series has been before we even take the first step on this latest “strange journey.”
Weighing in at a scant eight tracks, this album nonetheless provides a fascinatingly moody listening experience. Presented in chronological order, the three “Prelude” tracks are re-recorded versions of the intro themes from Shin Megami Tensei I, II, and III. There is a clear evolution in complexity from piece to piece, and the third is as darkly delicious today as it was ten years ago when I first heard it in Nocturne. “Hallucination I” and “Hallucination II” are more ambient than melodic, conjuring up a mental image of encroaching cumulonimbi. Thunder begins to rumble with the deep bass and electric synth of “Overture,” and the storm finally arrives with the excellent “Sdds IV,” the main theme of Shin Megami Tensei IV. Heavy, primal, and driven by a mesmerizing synth melody, this is my favorite track on the album.
Of special note is the final track, a nearly ten-minute piece called “Reincarnation.” The various motifs used in SMT IV’s Cathedral of Shadows were arranged and performed on live organ in a recording session done specifically for this album, and the results are most impressive. After hearing these songs in the game, I found an even greater appreciation for the quality of this production.
I would strongly urge every purchaser of SMT IV to tarry just long enough to give this album a listen before playing the game. It serves as the perfect primer, setting the mood and recapping the series’ history in one fell swoop. Highly recommended.