Danganronpa 2, the sequel to the breakout cult hit, is in many respects bigger and better, but it is also generally more of the same. The game’s mechanics are refined, the setting has changed, and the plot has its own twists that would be hard for any gamer to predict. The soundtrack, likewise, has plenty of familiar elements, but composer Masafumi Takada also added the occasional surprise.
If you are familiar with, or better yet own, the soundtrack to the first Danganronpa, you’ll be familiar with much of this soundtrack. Any environmental theme that begins with “Re:” is a rearranged version of a theme originally found in the first game. Most tracks with a “[2nd mix]” or “Volume 2” at the end of the title are, similarly, self-rearrangements on Takada’s part. This task is nothing to scoff at; working on one’s own material and attempting to bring to it something that adds to and does not take away the value of the original is a delicate matter. Generally, you will find the reused tracks to be more densely layered. Occasionally, additional measures are added for improv sections with new instruments. In any case, I found that nearly all of the reworked tracks ended up superior to their originals, but without denigrating said originals to the point where one would never want to listen to them again.
Case in point: “Re: New World Order.” The original is fantastic. There is no question about that. This new arrangement is also quite good. The densely-layered pad synths make the song more robust, and the changing dynamics from one instrumental voice to the next add much desired variation. But at the end of the day, I’m happy to listen to either version. That, my friends, is the trick. And Takada nailed it.
But what of the new tracks? I’m not afraid to condemn some of them to the dreaded label of “filler music.” But if you want a shortcut to the good stuff, here’s what you need to know…
First, all of the “Punishment” tracks are just as weird and wild as their predecessor, though these tend to be longer and also feature actual Japanese popular musicians performing alongside Takada’s weird Monokuma death chant. Second, the new environmental music is all solid: “Beautiful Ruin,” “3rd Island,” “5th Island,” “Beautiful Days,” and many more all set the tone for the happier side of life during Danganronpa 2. Third, most of disc 3 is a set of short jingles and cues for the game. The OST proper ends at disc 3 track 12, which is an ending vocal theme.
Finally, among the darker material in this three-disc soundtrack, the track titles tend to be a dead giveaway. “Despair Syndrome,” “All All Apologies,” “Tropical Despair” — if you have any familiarity with the first game, you know what these songs will sound like. Similarly, most tracks involving Monokuma, Monomi, etc. will have their crazy voices mixed into the song, and these tend to be the “quirky” tracks on the OST.
In conclusion, Danganronpa 2’s soundtrack is basically Danganronpa 1, and then some. I’d liken it to the soundtracks for Dissidia Final Fantasy and Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy. You really don’t need both soundtracks, and you’re probably better off with the latter of the two. But if you already own the first, you may as well pick up the second and own both.
My final speculation is this: what happens when a true Danganronpa 3 comes? Can Takada continue to re-re-use key themes like “Climactic Re-enactment,” “New World Order,” “Argument -HEAT UP-” and “-BREAK-?” The series cannot rest on its musical laurels for that long. We heard some great new music in the 1.5 side-story Ultra Despair Girls, so I know Takada has it in him to provide new music. It will be up to the full development team to shape the musical future of this franchise.