Persona 2 -Innocent Sin- Original Soundtrack (PSX Edition)
Persona 2 -Innocent Sin- Original Soundtrack (PSX Edition)
June 17, 1999
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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. Innocent Sin made quite a few changes to ensure that the series appealed to a wider audience and some of these affected the music. The soundtrack features a rather different cast; heavyweights Hidehito Aoki and Shoji Meguro are nowhere to be found, leaving Toshiko Tasaki, Masaki Kurokawa, and Kenichi Tsuchiya to create a 104 track score. The result is diverse, accessible, and effective in the game, though doesn’t quite have the same character or refinement as its predecessor.
“Opening” is a multi-tiered composition that instantly establishes the moody feel of the game. Opened with a short piano and chorus introduction, most of the work is dominated by the piano transcription of Schubert’s Schwanengesang Der Doppelganger. While it’s dubious that the team weren’t able to compose an original melody, the well-selected composition creates so much atmosphere with its solemn romantic chords. After a short rendition, the composition takes an unexpected transformation into a pumping orchestral-rock anthem reminiscent of those of Persona. Although it’s a shame the composition doesn’t expand beyond the three minute mark, the individual selections are all well done. Much of the rest of the soundtrack reflects the relatively youthful feel of the game. “Main Theme A” and “Main Theme B” are melodically continuous themes that seem ideal for representing simple and uplifting high school days. “Seven Sisters High School A” is a softer theme featuring soothing piano melodies and acoustic guitar arpeggios, setting the precedent for similar themes in the anime adaptation. The B version is considerably darker, with warped synth and minimalistic piano, to reflect the change in context. Other themes such as “Kusogaayama High School” reemphasise the high school feel and could easily fit in a dating simulator.
The stylistic influences for the soundtrack generally seem different from Persona‘s. For example, even interestingly titled setting themes like “Time Castle” sound like generic RPG town themes; the core of the theme features light-hearted flute melodies against plodding accompaniment, though there are at times some jazzy and abstract piano improvisation later in the piece. Ambient contributions such as “Tension”, “Big Trouble”, and “Premonition” lack the individual character of those of Persona; though these tracks are tolerable in cinematic sequences, they are very sparse and repetitive assemblies of motifs on a stand-alone level. There are also an abundance of catchy and gimmicky jingles such as “Comical Line”, “Jolly Roger”, “Riding a Vehicle”, and “Peace Diner” that are potentially overwhelming in bulk. Nonetheless, there are a few surprising stylistic threads too. For example, “Crazy Party” raises spirits high with club beats and chanting, the Giga Macho themes introduce some hip-hop to the soundtrack, and “Ramen Shiraishi” is one of several themes with a cartoony samurai feel. The latter influence culminates in “Persona Ondo”, a marching song featuring a ridiculous male lead. Though I am anything but a fan, some will find it an enjoyable way to lead out the soundtrack.
Despite the youthful direction, there will be some familiar styles and themes for fans of earlier Megaten games. “Gold” is especially welcome since, like Persona‘s futuristic themes, it hybridises electronic and other stylistic threads to create a breathtaking sound. “Underground Shelter” seems to homage Hidehito Aoki with its blend of faint instrumentation and sound effects, whereas “Sumaru City” is a very relaxing and catchy with its blend of organic and electronic elements. Other favourites include the impressionistic “Iwado Mountain”, bubbly “London House”, daydreamy “Aoba Park”, and climactic “Abandoned Factory”. Some of the jazzy themes are pretty well done too, such as “Casino – Mu Continent” with its blaring trumpets, “Rosa Candida – Rengedai Store” with its laidback approach, or the short reprise of the hyper-catchy “Kuzunoha Detective Office” from the Devil Summoner series. “Velvet Room” makes a return from Persona, but is a considerable regression; it focuses on just piano and voice, lacks the development of the original, and has a slightly cheesy pop flavour. At least the rendition in “Shrine of Taurus” is more interesting. Satomi Tadashi’s light-hearted pharmacy theme also returns in numerous incarnations, whether in anime-inspired, piano-based, chiptune, bossa-nova, or hip-hop styles. They’re a select taste, but add some quirk to the soundtrack regardless.
Some of the biggest highlights of the soundtrack are the various character themes. “Hero’s Theme” is certainly exciting with its overdriven guitar improvisations and rocking rhythms, though suffers from harmonic sterility and balance issues. Others are stereotyped but more effective. “Kurosu’s Theme”, for example, wins listeners hearts with its wistful melodies and acoustic guitar backing before adding more depth with some choral chants. Returnee Philemon is portrayed with a suitably mysterious theme with a fine melody. “Yukino’s Theme” seems inferior to its Persona predecessor, but at least continuous with the high school theme. Other enjoyable entries include the sugary “Maya’s Theme” and oriental “Ginko’s Theme”. There are also sad variations on most of the character themes that will be simplistic to some, emotional to others. Most effectively, Eikichi is portrayed in both present day extroverted and retrospective introverted arrangements. The antagonist, the Joker, is given one of the few two-dimensional representations on the album. The synth vocal focus is naturally haunting while a range of fluid forces such as harps give a sense of sneekiness and deception. It’s hardly spectacular on a stand-alone basis, but works very well in the game.
There are naturally a range of action themes to round off the soundtrack. The main battle theme is a little better than its predecessor. It’s quite heavy-handed with a blend of orch hit melodies, electronic overtones, and guitar riffs, but at least has a few hooks. In series’ tradition, the “Boss Theme” opens with clamorous orch hits before entering an electronic section with rave qualities. It is complemented by a few other boss battle themes, such as the much lighter funk-based “Foolish Boss”. “Time Count” is a hurry theme with driving electronic pulses and extravagant piano improvisation — it’s far more successful than most RPG themes both in context and for stand-alone context. “Holy Spear Knights” is perhaps the most enjoyable, however, since it’s a very tongue-in-cheek take on the typical bombastic orchestra and battle themes. The soundtrack once again ends on a fairly derivative note. The “Final Boss Theme” seems to hybridise influences from the final battle themes to Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VIII, but the superficial warped beats and occasional chants aren’t really enough to give it an identity of its own. The soundtrack is rounded off decently with another Schubert reprise on “Death Scene”, a techno-orchestral action theme “Last Battalion”, and the ending pop theme “Joker”.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin is an impressive soundtrack if it is approached like a stereotypical RPG score. The cyberpunk electronica or romantic orchestrations of Persona are mostly gone in favour of numerous stylistic derivations and a lighter youthful approach. This is a pity, but possibly fits the game more or appeals to a wider audience. Nonetheless, the Persona feel is kept alive with the characteristic instrumentation use or stylistic and thematic references of many themes. The soundtrack crams 104 themes into two discs, many of which are sloppy or superficial, though there are fortunately relatively few short cinematic tracks in the release. Given it is so expansive and diverse, there is bound to be plenty for people to like, though it is a potentially bumpy ride.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 19, 2016.