SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI if… ORIGINAL SOUND COLLECTION
SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI if… ORIGINAL SOUND COLLECTION
June 14, 2018
Buy at CDJapan
The Shin Megami Tensei if… Original Sound Collection, originally announced as part of Sweep Record’s Game Music Discovery series in 2010, has finally released as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the series. Released for the first time on CD, this three disc set sees the release of the music for the Super Famicom spin-off title of the same name, which never reached shores outside of Japan. In addition, there is also the Playstation version of the BGM as well, that also includes a few exclusive tunes. For fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series, is this release worth looking into, especially if most of the music is comprised of the music heard in Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II?
The album opens with a piece composed specific for the if… game, “Title Demo.” It’s a calm, mysterious, and atmospheric mood setter with mallet percusion, woodwind-like synths with ominous bell tolls and organ as it progresses. It may not be the most melodically forward piece of music, but it certainly captures the tone of the series and the rest of the music featured within. In addition to the “Title Demo,” there are a few other if… exclusive tunes. Both “Singing – Devil’s Hanamichi” and “Laughing – Devil’s Hanamichi” are short Enka style tunes but hardly develop. There is also “Karukosaka Senior High School Song,” a march-like anthem with a catchy melody performed with brass, percussion, and bells. “Ending” is a melancholy and contemplative tune with a fairly decent melody and a mysterious atmosphere and “Staff Roll” certainly has an 80’s rock vibe with drums, guitar riffs and, as it progresses, a brighter ballad/pop approach. The melody itself is quite memorable with an uplifting nature to it before moving into a more power rock tone towards the latter portions of the track.
From the original Shin Megami Tensei, there are many representative tunes. There are the three alignment tunes, “Neutral,” “Law,” and “Chaos,” each representing their intended purpose quite well. “Neutral” is rather nondescript with its mysterious tone, as it isn’t trying to pick a particular side, while “Law” incorporates synth choir to accentuate its more religiously toned atmosphere while “Chaos” features darker and more ominous soundscapes. Other prominent tunes are area locations such as “Shopping Arcade,” “Shop,” “Shibuya,” and “Ginza.” “Shopping Arcade” is a shorter tune, but incredibly catchy with great bass work and a minimal melody that work fantastically together to create an engaging atmosphere while “Shop” is funky with synth guitar, providing a bright and upbeat melody. Both “Shibuya” and “Ginza” are iconic tunes that would be used in many future Shin Megami Tensei games to come. The former incorporates plenty of slap bass and distorted synths, creating an otherworldly feeling with a slightly tense vibe. The latter features an incredibly memorable melody with great percussion and bass, working to make the overall tune more engaging. In addition, tunes like “Embassy,” “3D: Underground World,” and “Mansion of the Four Heavenly Kings” also provide a variety of tones. “Embassy” is a short rock oriented tune that doesn’t particularly stand out while “3D: Underground World” provides more funk mixed with ominous synths to provide a darker atmosphere. Lastly, “Mansion of the Four Heavenly Kings” brings slick bass work alongside bright woodwinds and heavenly synth choir to create an engaging tune. To finish, “Pascal,” “Cathedral,” and “Boss Battle (Akira Chapter)” round out the Shin Megami Tensei side. “Pascal” is certainly a quirky tune, given the majority of the soundtrack, but its melody is quite memorable. “Cathedral” features plenty of great drum rhythms, ethereal synths, with a somewhat ominous melody that is super engaging due to the dynamics of the piece itself. Finally, “Boss Battle (Akira Chapter)” incorporates sharp synths alongside a rock base, frenetic drums, and plenty of slap bass. The tune is intense with a wonderful progression full of slow, more dramatic sections met between higher tempos.
Likewise, there are also a well rounded set of represented tracks from Shin Megami Tensei II. From the original Super Famicom version, two alignment tracks are present, “Neutral” and “Chaos.” The former is unassuming, but ultimately unmemorable, while the latter is a bit more realized in its mysterious and ominous tones compared to the first game’s rendition. “3D: Virtual Battler” is an upbeat tune with a peppy funk feel with plenty of synth and bass, but a short melody does hinder it a bit. “3D: Center” also features plenty of funk while also featuring a warm melody comprised of synth and strings. Providing a more ominous tone is “3D: Makai,” a tune with an 80’s vibe, a wonderful melody, fantastic bass work, and synth choir that creates an excellent atmosphere while “3D: Valhall” is a short, upbeat rock tune that’s quite repetitive. Other location tracks include “Gym,” “Mansion of Heresy,” “Disco,” and “Casino.” “Gym” is quirky and upbeat with a bright melody but is largely forgettable while “Casino” is a bright and playful tune with a very game-like casino sound but suffers from repetition and is a bit underwhelming. “Disco” is also underwhelming initially with its dance beats, synth choir hits, and funky nature. However, it turns around once the strings enter the picture. The most memorable of these tracks is “Mansion of Heresy,” an organ led track with a fantastic melody and atmosphere. A majority of the battle tunes are also from the second game in the series. “Battle” is invigorating, sports a fantastic melody, and has a menacing sound to it, thanks in part to the great percussion and bass work, followed of course by “Level Up,” a celebratory rock victory theme that is short but encouraging in nature. “Boss Type Battle” is another rock oriented tune with distorted synths, bass, and drums while also providing a tense sound with its invigorating melody. Unfortunately, “Major Boss Battle” is less enjoyable. It’s quite tense and features synth choir, but it has percussion that has a droning effect, making the tune feel stale over time due to its repetitive nature.
When it comes to the Playstation BGM, the feel of the original Super Famicom versions are retained with updated synths and sound fonts. However, there are also a few tunes that are not present on the Super Famicom version of the soundtrack that come from Shin Megami Tensei, Shin Megami Tensei II, and even Majin Tensei II. From Shin Megami Tensei, “Battle (Akira Chapter)” provides a frenetic rock tune with an engaging melody and plenty of keyboard runs, making it quite memorable in the end. “Fiend” is a tense orchestral tune with industrial percussion and quirky synths that sports a dramatic and ominous tone. Lastly, “Mansion of Heresy” invites asimilar atmosphere to the other versions on the soundtrack with its organ approach and features some religious tones as well. From Shin Megami Tensei II, the missing alignment tune, “Law,” provides mysterious synth and choir tones giving it a revered and hypnotic sound while “Alice” is tense, dramatic, and ominous with its industrial tones and brass fanfare. It is most certainly a boss tune and a damn good one at that. From Majin Tensei II is “DEJA VU,” a tune opening with ethereal synths before heading into a more dance-like environment with plenty of funk and mysterious piano helping to accentuate an engaging melody. “Old Enemy (Akira Chapter) (PS ver. if…) is a frenetic rock tune with a synth melody. The end result is an engaging sound with plenty of keyboard runs and strings giving it an adventurous sound that is broken up with some more chaotic sections. Lastly, “Old Enemy (arrange ver.)” is a live rock tune with crisp electric guitar that helps bring the tune to life. It’s full of energy and has a lot of prog rock elements as well.
The Shin Megami Tensei if… Original Sound Collection is the first time that the music for this spin-off title has been released. Granted, there are a lot of tunes featured from the first two games in the series, but they represent a wide variety of tunes and are some of the more recognizable and popular tunes in the series. There are tunes full of energy and also full of mood that are enjoyable outside of context. For fans of the series who haven’t had a chance to get their hands on some of the classic tunes in the series, this might be worth a purchase. For those who may already have a lot of the tunes, the if… exclusive music is nice, but is not a major aspect of the release, given the recycled nature of the game’s soundtrack. However, it’s still a solid release worth mentioning.
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Posted on July 25, 2018 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on July 25, 2018.