Persona 2 -Eternal Punishment- Original Soundtrack
Persona 2 -Eternal Punishment- Original Soundtrack
June 26, 2000
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Persona 2 actually comprises two chapters, the Japan-only game Persona 2: Innocent Sin and the worldwide sequel Persona 2: Eternal Punishmment. Eternal Punishment was a more dark and mature game than Innocent Sin despite its continued high school setting and shift to a female protagonist. After a somewhat superficial and generic soundtrack for Innocent Sin, Toshiko Tasaki, Masaki Kurokawa, and Kenichi Tsuchiya offer a more refined and creative effort for Eternal Punishment. A lot of the soundtrack is comprised of arrangements or remasterings of Innocent Sin themes, but there are plenty of new compositions too. Let’s take a look at the stronger of the two Persona 2 soundtracks…
“Opening” demonstrates right from the start that the soundtrack will be a dark yet action-packed one. While short, the composition seems to be a step up from Persona 2: Innocent Sin both musically and technically. It establishes the pace with atmospheric electronic beats and arpeggios before presenting the melody on convincing synth vocals. Though exciting throughout, it is especially stimulating at its guitar-laced conclusion. To further reflect the change in mood, the background music for “Seven Sisters High School” is a solid variation on the much darker B theme from Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Meanwhile “Kasugayama High School” has lost its optimistic spirit in favour of downtempo electronica and eerie vocals. Even the once vanilla “Time Castle” sounds enigmatic in Eternal Punishment while the already melancholic “Aoba Park” is given a heartbreaking piano-focused rendition. Some of the changes will be difficult to accustom to, but it is ideal for representing the matured characters and darker storylines.
However, it’s still quite clear that the game is set within a high school. At the start of the soundtrack, the new main character Maya is portrayed with an arrangement of her theme from Persona 2: Innocent Sin. While very simple once more, it is bound to endear to listeners with its funky synth and naive melodies. Similarly the “Reminiscence” arrangements are once again written from a naive perspective. The world map themes would fit most RPG soundtracks with their serene soundscapes and multicultural influences; in particular, “Map I” has an easygoing and youthful quality, mixing pop beats with some worldly infusions. The three generic BGM themes also have a cheery feel to them, mixing funk, electronic, and pop influences to catchy effect. Other happy-go-lucky themes include “Normal Day”, which could have easily come from the True Love Story franchise, or the colourful yet innocent “etheria”. Of course, there are some catchy jingles such as “Peace Diner” and “Penthouse”, as well as a couple of new versions of the hyper-catchy “Satomi Tadashi Pharmacy” theme.
There are plenty of other interesting arrangements on the soundtrack. The once percussive “Mt Katatsumuri – Mifune” is given a makeover with rapid electronic beats and jazzy piano passages, while “Mu Continent” also sounds better than ever with its rousing piano and saxophone improvisations. The full rendition of the “Aria for the Soul” theme is limited to the ‘others mix’ themes. However, “Velvet Nanashi Arrange” is an interesting interpretation focusing on Baroque piano counterpoint and operatic vocal chants. Another inspired decision was to revamp the somewhat bland Zodiac theme into something more ideal for the dance floor. There are also more outlandish arrangements, such as a cutesy take on the Detective Theme in “Nekomata Rumor Office”, a hard techno version on the already pounding “Abandoned Factory”, and a funky interpretation of the once hip-hop influenced “Giga Macho”. Other reprises, such as “Hiragi Psychotherapy”, “Le Clair de Lune”, “Bikini Line” feature few compositional changes but are greatly enhanced by the improved synth.
The stylistic diversity is enhanced by quite a few original entries. The “Parabellum” themes emphasises the jazz element of the soundtrack, the first an original composition for piano, bass, and drum kit, the latter a simple instrumental version of Gershwin’s Summertime. “Ebony” is quite welcome in this regard too, but has a more modern palette with steel-stringed guitars and soprano saxophones. There are also a few welcome multicultural influences featured on the soundtrack, for example “Sumaru Genie” with its Arabian instrumentation and “Red Latern Shiraishi” with its flamenco rhythms. Though limited brevity, “Morimoto Hospital – Sanitarium” features some of the most interesting moments on the soundtrack. It opens with dissonant choir use that was very unusual for its time and could easily fit in a Siren game now. It subsequently softens the tone with an elegaic variation of the hospital theme from Persona and some impressionistic piano wanderings. This theme is so refreshing after the sloppily composed ambient themes of Innocent Sin.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Eternal Punishment is its greater focus on electronic themes. Tracks such as “Nichirinmaru” and “Smile Hirasaka” capture the interest of listeners with their fast beats and atmospheric mixing. They give so much mood within the contexts they are used in while adding to the pace of the game. “Control Center” and “Science Laboratory” are very effective experimental themes, the former creating an image of a technological facility with its synth use, the latter creating a disquieting ambience with its edgy rhythms. Similar entries to look out for are the harshly punctuated “Sumaru TV” and “Reverse Sumaru TV”. There are also once again themes that blend sound effects with electronic features to great effect. Most notably, “Subway Construction Site” is likely to give listeners the chills with its industrial samples, vocoded warning messages, and minimalistic piano use. It sets the atmosphere even better than the visuals, which really says something.
Although a little sparing in number, the battle themes tend to be solid this time around. “Battle” is easily the most listenable of the series’ normal battle themes so far. It’s almost entirely electronically-oriented, blending the penetrating beats of hardcore styles with the anthemic melodies of mainstream trance. “Boss Battle” isn’t as imposing as its Innocent Sin equivalent due to the smooth electronic mixing techniques employed throughout the soundtrack. However, it still stimulates the listener with its electronic beats and keyboard improvisation. “EX Final Battle” achieves a suitably climactic sound with a mixture of epic string passages, warped electronic beats, and synthetic chorus chants. Following four compilations of other tracks, the soundtrack ends with two bonus vocal themes, the hyperactive Latin-flavoured “Persona Mambo” previously remixed for Persona 2 -Innocent Sin- – The Errors of their Youth and the American band performance “Persona Rock” featuring a guest appearance from Shoji Meguro. Not all will like them, but they’re a worthy bonus.
After the bumpy Persona 2: Innocent Sin soundtrack, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment restores the series to form. For one, the series’ musical identity has returned with the focus on moody, experimental, and electronic compositions while still fitting the game. In addition, most compositions are of a higher quality both musically and technically; there are inspired arrangements of Eternal Sin themes, well-developed new themes, and far fewer uninspired or sloppy tracks. The presentation of the soundtrack is also better, since 68 compositions fit a little more comfortably on two discs, though it’s a pity that some were squashed together in the ‘others mix’ medleys. Overall, this soundtrack should be the first point of call for those who enjoyed the game or the score of the original Persona.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.