I was someone who was never really into music. That’s changed a great deal now, but even up until a year or so ago, a video game soundtrack never stood out to me unless I really tried to listen to it. But past games, I just never really had time for music. Today I still couldn’t tell you who is popular and who isn’t just because if I’m driving, I have my favorite music, some from decades ago, just cycling through the same, ever-growing playlist in my car. No radio contact.
The first album I ever listened to was given to me by my brother: The Gorillaz self-titled album, which I believe has completely defined my taste in music. Especially rap, which is definitely my favorite genre. I’ve always liked rap, but I’ve never really heard it used well in games, other than rhythm games or shooters I was never interested in. Persona 3, on the other hand, used it expertly, which introduced me to Persona 4 (and later Persona 4 Golden) which has, hands down, my favorite selection of music in a game.
I talk a lot about Persona 4 and how much I love it, but for me every piece of it comes together in a near-perfect way, including the music. You don’t really hear a lot of games use actual “songs” for their music, but Persona is different. Fully worded songs could conflict with whatever is happening on screen, whether it be dialogue, action, fighting, or an intense moment shared between two characters. Persona 4 embraces the moments outside of conflict though. Two of the best tracks found here are, “Heartbeat, Heartbreak,” which is one of the songs that may play while you explore Inaba, and the other is, “Your Affection.” Two simple tracks with beautiful words that can just relate directly back into the overall message and motif of Persona 4’s world.
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I couldn’t help myself from just singing along to the excellent tunes after a while. But the other songs to feature throughout the game are maybe more appropriately placed. Both Persona 4 and Golden have their own introduction songs, which unlike many JRPGs that feature a fully animated intro with a licensed song, the song for the intros of Persona 4 and Golden are directly in the style of their soundtracks and made especially for those games. “Pursuing My True Self” and “Shadow World” are just so disgustingly catchy I have to watch those openings every single time I boot up the P4 and Golden. I say this in a good way.
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Something worth mentioning: Persona 4 features a very pop soundtrack, something I normally do not like, but it works so perfectly in that world. The pop and sometimes jazzy feel just work to accentuate the beauty of the relationships you build in the game, as well as the complexity of the world and the people that populate it.
The battle songs, specifically, are my all time favorites from these two games. The two main battle themes, “Reach Out to the Truth” from Persona 4, and “Time to Make History” which was added in Golden, are absolutely excellent. Again, the lyrics are the opposite of distracting, and not only get me more pumped up for the battle, but also relate to the story of the game in a direct fashion.
Reach out to the Truth:
Now I face out I hold out
I reach out to the truth of my life
Seeking to seize on the whole moment, yeah
The bosses have more instrumental music attached to them, and picking a favorite from there is exceptionally hard, but the “Battle” version of “I’ll Face Myself,” which was used for a secret boss added in Persona 4 Golden, is definitely my personal favorite.
Finally, to close out this piece, I point out “Nevermore,” one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever listened to. It closes out Persona 4 and just defines the final moments of that game for me. Everytime I listen to it, it just brings in a resurgence of “the feels” in me. Nothing defines the friendship, the journey, and everything me and those characters went through quite like “Nevermore.” Unfortunately, it may be lost on you who have never experience the magic of Persona 4. I say give it a listen regardless, because it is simply beautiful.
The masterful composer Shoji Meguro and Shihoko Hirata are to thank for the magic of this soundtrack, and god damn, do they deserve all the thanks I have to give.
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My Top 5:
Nevermore – It gives me all of “the feels.” It definitely has an “ending” feel to it, but I still love it regardless.
I’ll Face Myself -Battle-
Reach Out to the Truth
Shadow World – One of the best intro songs in a game, ever!
Honorable Mention: Journey
I’d be remiss not to mention Journey considering what I wrote in my review. Journey is a very special piece of gaming magic, where I think the music actually is more important than what you see in the game. It’s visuals may spin you around one hundred times over, but they’d be nothing without the incredible score from Austin Wintory. The fully orchestrated sound that Journey captures is emotional, sensational, and foreign all at the same time. Journey really is like Fantasia, in that everything you see is what you hear in a remarkable way.