Shin Megami Tensei -Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker- Original Soundtrack
Shin Megami Tensei -Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker- Original Soundtrack (Devil Survivor 2 -Break Record- Original Soundtrack)
July 22, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
The enhanced port Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker was released for the 3DS in 2015 following a three year delay. While hardly a major upgrade, it did feature a whole new storyline: the Triangulum Arc. Persona superstar Shoji Meguro took charge of creating the eight new musical pieces featured in the game. However, the majority of the soundtrack reprises Kenji Ito’s lacklustre work from the original game. The game’s soundtrack release features two discs of unequal lengths: the 20-minute first disc features the new music created for Record Breaker, while the 71-minute second disc features the music from the original game. All music from the second disc was previously released Devil Survivor 2 Original Soundtrack, so are the new tracks really worth picking up?
Two theme songs are featured on the soundtrack. Created exclusively for Record Breaker, “Rotating World” deviates from opening theme convention with its male lead and offbeat J-Rock backing. Unfortunately, seiyuu Hiroshi Kamiya’s performance lacks soul and the backing sounds processed and shallow. By contrast, the returning theme song “World of Illusions”, written by Kenji Ito and performed by Kinuco Saga, is a fairly typical anime-flavoured pop song. The song once again affirms that Ito is a solid J-Pop composer, able to blend lyrical melodies with exciting rock-pop instrumentals. The vocalist could be stronger, but the memrable melody and rich arrangement ensures this track is a highlight. Unfortunately, only short versions of each song are featured on the soundtrack release, meaning neither gets to fully develop. Given the soundtrack carries a hefty 3500 JPY pricetag, many consumers might end up feeling cheated as a result.
The new instrumental tracks that Shoji Meguro wrote for Record Breaker range from good to excellent. “Threat and Vulnerability” brings back memories of the artist’s writing on Strange Journey with its tense orchestral progressions and strong percussive thrust. “Providence” shifts between intense orchestral parts and motivating rock segments to capture the ever-shifting tides of battle; it’s a fantastic hybrid of two of Meguro’s signature sounds and also stands out for its excellent implementation. Among other battle anthems, “Break the Record” and “At Last…” will appeal to the rockers out there with their blistering guitar parts and fast tempos. But perhaps the biggest fan favourite is going to be “Triangulum”. Perhaps written as a tribute to Kenji Ito, the track combines the 80s rock flavour and lyrical guitar leads of Romancing SaGa’s battle themes with the more punchy riffs Meguro has become known for. The guitar solos are particularly delightful in the extended version that concludes the first disc. Also on offer is “Grand Finale” that lacks originality — a typical RPG-styled sentimental piano and strings themes — but does have some heartrending undertones.
While Record Breaker does feature some great exclusive tracks, the majority of the soundtrack is a straightforward rehash of the original game’s. Unfortunately, as soon as listeners switch discs, they will notice a significant drop in the quality of both the composition and implementation. “Exploration”, for instance, immediately sounds like a step backwards with its dated synthpads and awkward stylings. Composed by Ito and arranged by Atlus, the composition blends string flourishes typical of Ito’s work with groovy bass riffs and deep synth sounds more characteristic of the Megami Tensei series. While the concept of the fusion is interesting, the components are too bland and the mix too sloppy for the track to ever be a highlight. The same applies to “Devil Fusion.exe”, an awkward, soulless fusion of Ito’s organ-driven gothic sound with Atlus’ pulsing electronics. Other tracks appear to be less influenced by Atlus’ sound team and instead retread the territory of Ito’s most uninspiring works, for example Lux-Pain or Okami Kakushi. It is entirely clear that “Dark Clouds” and “Requiem” were never intended to be more than scene-setting filler, while the enticing timbres of “The Enigma Deepens” soon bore when the composition develops nowhere.
The only enjoyable reprises from the original Devil Survivor 2 soundtrack are the action tracks. An excellent rock-orchestral battle theme, “Challenge to the Fate” is as memorable and exuberant as Kenji Ito’s best on the SaGa series. In fact, the piercing keyboard solos here are reminiscent of the battle arrangements on Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song. “Confrontation” and “Battle of the Brave” also channel that retro RPG sound to enjoyable effect; these tracks are hardly original, but add quite a bit of personality to the game nevertheless. Whereas Ito tried to tread similar ground on “Desperate Situation” and “Septentrion”, Atlus’ sound team adapted them so that they are closer to the series’ established style. The former eventually explodes into a series of distorted and frenzied metal solos reminiscent of Devil Survivor, whereas the electronic-ambient backdrop of “Septentrion” is closer in style to Persona. As with the rest of the soundtrack, however, this music is still a note-by-note translation of everything previously released on the Devil Survivor 2 Original Soundtrack.
Atlus’ internal sound team composed a large proportion of the original Devil Survivor 2 soundtrack as well, though their contributions generally disappoint. Ranging from thrashing rock themes like “Attack” and “Shudder”, to the moody electronic ambience of “Crumbling Routine” and “Anguished One”, to the upbeat pop flavourings in “A Moment of Rest” and “Special Auction”, these tracks all have two things in common. One, they stereotypes rather than fully fledged personalities. Two, they are too brief to make any impact on the score, given their use primarily in the game’s cutscenes. Whereas Meguro had the confidence to go all-out with his new tracks for Record Breaker, his subordinates only did half-hearted jobs with these ones (perhaps they were too busy cleaning up Ito’s compositions?). The only welcome additions are “In the Devastated Town” and “Dawn”, two acoustic compositions that bring some much-needed depth to the soundtrack. The soundtrack concludes with two arrangements of Devil Survivor 2‘s opening theme: “Memories of the Firmament” is an upbeat rock remix featuring one of the soundtrack’s standout electric guitar performances, whereas “Beyond the Firmament” is a simple but heartfelt solo piano performance by Ito himself.
The soundtrack to the original Devil Survivor 2 was one of the most disappointing in the series. While Kenji Ito’s name provided great publicity for the game, his contributions were completely generic and sound like they were taken straight from a stock library. It was left to Atlus’ secondary composers to polish the soundtrack enough for publication, but it’s a pity none of them ever quite dared express their own personalities. The eight new tracks created for the Triangulum Arc are fortunately better than those from the original game. Providing a template of how the soundtrack should have been, Meguro maintained the characteristic sound of the Megami Tensei series while offering nods to classic JRPGs. But with just eight of them, there isn’t enough original content here for the Record Breaker soundtrack to be worth purchasing for those who already own Devil Survivor 2 Original Soundtrack. It’s also disappointing that the original music wasn’t touched up: the tracks on the second disc are in desperate need of a synth upgrade, new arrangements, or, better yet, being replaced with an all-new Atlus score. While this album has its moments, it’s definitely one of the weaker entries in Atlus’ discography.
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Posted on August 19, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 19, 2015.