Persona -Be Your True Mind- Original Soundtrack
Persona -Be Your True Mind- Original Soundtrack
June 17, 1999
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Though the Persona series is now well-known for its sassy soundtracks by Shoji Meguro, the series’ music sounded quite different when the series’ first title Revelations: Persona debuted on the PlayStation in 1999. And not in a bad way, at least according to series’ aficionados. The score was way ahead of its time, hybridising orchestral, rock, electronic, funk, industrial, and even the occasional operatic influence to portray a dark cyberpunk journey. Majin Tensei mastermind Hidehito Aoki headed up the hundred track score and was assisted by Kenichi Tsuchiya, Misaki Okibe, and Meguro himself. Following the incomplete release of the Megami Ibunroku Persona Original Soundtrack & Arrange Album, the Persona Be Your True Mind Original Soundtrack offers a complete three disc release. Most of the exclusives are short cinematic tracks, though there are a few bonus dungeon, battle, and emotional themes as well as a once exclusive peek into Persona 2 Innocent Sin. Let’s have a closer look on what is offered…
The dungeon themes are probably the biggest highlight of the soundtrack. “Dungeon – Sebec Underground Research Lab” demonstrates the intricate approach to electronic atmospheric themes on the soundtrack. It instantly gets gamers moving with its warped bass line and ethnic percussion before introducing a perplexing melody and haunting backing strings. It subsequently enters an introspective section from the 1:07 mark blending trance features with light orchestration. Hidehito Aoki elegantly blends so much together when so many other composers would have struggled. “Dungeon – Kama Palace” is another early highlight blending infectious orch hit melodies with mesmerising electronic soundscapes. Others such as “Dungeon – Abandoned Factory Underground Passage” and “Dungeon – Sebec Above Ground” manage to build so much on a few electronic bass lines, complementing the dynamic and colourful city scenes. Exclusive to this set, “Dungeon – Ruins” is a perplexing minimalistic composition integrating horror sound effects and pizzicato strings. Rounding off the Sebec Chapter, “Dungeon – Deva-Yuga” deserves a nod for the way it complements the cyberpunk feeling with a blend of surreal voice-overs and electronic beats.
The themes for the Snow Queen Chapter have a distinct tone to them. “Snow Queen’s Theme – Main” adopts an orchestral rather than electronic focus and mesmerises listeners with its elegant woodwind melodies, gentle harp arpeggiations, and atmospheric percussion. It’s clear that not all is right with the character, yet she is intoxicating nonetheless. The ‘violent’ orchestral arrangement and ‘sad’ harp solo version of the theme are also very effective in context. “Dungeon – Devil’s Mountain” is initially filled with beautiful impressionistic sounds reminiscent of Final Fantasy X‘s “Wandering Flame”. Given it is a dungeon theme, it soon enhances the tension with an espionage-style bass riff and more moody synth sounds similar to Final Fantasy X‘s “Twilight”. “Dungeon – Hypnos Tower” resembles those of the Sebec Chapter with its infiltration grooves and occasional voice-overs whereas “Dungeon – Thanatos Tower” focuses on minimalistic piano elements and synth vocals, leading to a shocking climax. One of the unifying themes of the chapter is “Dungeon – Reverse Dream World”, which is introduced by a rasping brass fanfare before taking numerous surreal twists.
The character themes are among the more accessible additions to the soundtrack. “Reiji’s Theme” sets the bar high with its catchy blend of funky synth melodies and slapped bass riffs. Other themes such as “Maki’s Theme”, “Elly’s Theme”, and “Mark’s Theme” take the same approach and are melodic highlights, though lack the intricacy or development of most other themes on the soundtrack. Nevertheless, there are deeper portrayals of some of the characters provided in the slow contemplative themes such as a sad variation of Maki’s theme, the Nemurin love theme, or even the unexpectedly integrated “Battle – Hospital Before the Disaster”. They adhere quite closely to RPG norms, but are beautiful in and out of context nonetheless. Rounding off the tour, these are other enjoyable and contrasting depictions of Persona‘s world in the incredibly outgoing funk piece “City 1 Shopping District East Exit”, the decent hip-hop emulation “City 1 & 2 Shopping District West Exit”, or the murky jazz improvisation “Black Market”. Oh, and where would a portrayal of Japan be without the occasional silly vocal theme, such as “Satomi Tadashi Drugstore Song”, which is given two bonus remixes on the fourth disc.
Being a Megaten game, there are of course plenty of battle themes in the Persona soundtrack. The normal battle theme present on the second disc is a surprisingly weak effort — more of a mess of dissonant orch hits and the sporadic keyboard improvisations than anything as profound as earlier entries. The mid-boss theme opens with icy percussion and vocals inspired by the Snow Queen Chapter, but soon transitions into a fast-paced motivating theme filled with influences from 80s progressive rock. “Pandora Battle” provides a memorable accompaniment to the battle against Pandora, blending formidable orch hit figures, uplifting trance, and the occasional sinister interlude. While the individual elements are not that remarkable, the mood created when they all come together is fascinating. Going a little deeper into the soundtrack, “Battle – Awakening” is an amazing fusion of bombastic orchestration, industrial beats, and progressive rock solos, while “Battle – Queen of the Night” demonstrates its cinematic inclinations with an epic blend of chorus and orchestra work. Don’t expect much intense from “Battle – Thesso” or “Foolish Boss Theme”, though, although the latter is simply hilarious.
The “Opening” theme is featured in the third disc of the release is one of several cinematic highlights on the disc. It merely features minimalistic piano explorations against some eerie backing effects, but it is so effective due to how sensitively the force is treated. The “Aria of the Soul” theme makes its first appearance on this title as the expansive ending theme to the Sebec Chapter. Actually Shoji Meguro’s first work to date, it channels his early classical influences with gorgeous soprano vocals and intricate piano harmonies. It is very similar to the versions heard in the Persona 3 and Persona 4, except there is rich supporting orchestration and less clear sound quality. On the third disc of the soundtrack, it is also given a faster simpler remix for the “Velvet Room” theme. “Sebec Chapter Bad Ending 2” is a melancholic piano solo tinged with jazz influences. It suddenly builds up from the 1:38 mark into an angsty passage driven by heavy bass chords. The ending theme for the Snow Queen chapter is quite a hit too, building from an explorative orchestral section into an upbeat rock anthem. It really gets the emotions rushing at the end of the game. There are a range of other cinematic themes in the three disc release, though most are short despite their effectiveness in context.
What an achievement! The Revelations: Persona score really transformed the Megami Tensei series from its often miserable Super Nintendo years into a musically pioneering franchise. The atmospheric depictions and stylistic fusions featured here weren’t really paralleled by any scores at the time, particularly RPG scores, and are ahead of even the Parasite Eve and Silent Hill series in my opinion. It’s no wonder that Japanese fans were so critical of the more superficial approach in Shoji Meguro’s PSP remake score. The Persona Be Your Mind Original Soundtrack is a well-presented complete score for the title, so is the one many soundtrack collectors will wish to go for. However, the Megami Ibunroku Persona Original Soundtrack & Arrange Album is more suited for those who want the main tracks and a few arrangements too. Either way, one of these scores is a must-have.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.