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Comparing Persona 5 Royal & Persona 4 Golden’s Soundtracks


Since the early days of this Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series, the Persona games have set themselves apart with their incredibly stylish presentation & unique aesthetic influences. Persona 3 was inspired by French New Wave Cinema, Persona 4 by murder mystery novels & psychedelia, & Persona 5 by gentlemen thieves & street culture. The stylistic cohesion of Persona games & their commitment to developing a distinct identity for each game has rightly won them praise from critics & fans. One of the key ways Persona games accomplish this is by paying specific attention to an aspect of video game design that tends not to take center stage: music design. The incredible talents of composers internationally have ensured that video games are filled to the brim with incredibly thoughtful & powerful music, but few developers take such pains to make music a fundamental piece of their game’s identity. With the jump from Persona 4 Golden in 2012 to Persona 5 Royal in 2019, Shoji Meguro’s diversity as a composer deserves deeper analysis.


Comparing these soundtracks, however, is not as simple as it would be with other game franchises. These soundtracks were not made as st&alone experiences, but are additions to pre-existing games, whose music also needs to be considered. Persona 4 & Persona 5 each released with complete soundtracks. When Persona 4 Golden & Persona 5 Royal released, their accompanying albums only contained new music, creating a clear line between them. For Persona 4 Golden in particular, Meguro actually diverged from Persona 4‘s original musical style & emphasized J-Pop songwriting & brass instruments far more heavily. In contrast, Persona 5 & Royal‘s music are extremely similar, with Royal feeling much more like a pure expansion of Persona 5 than Persona 4 Golden does to its predecessor. This makes sense, given that Persona 4 Golden‘s additional content was about bringing more fun, interpersonal stories to the original game, whereas Persona 5 Royal tells a new story that feels very similar in tone to Persona 5.

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The Musical Influences Of Persona 5 Royal & Persona 4 Golden


When analyzing video game music, it is critical to identify how the music contributes to the storytelling & player experience. Persona 4 Golden uses the genres of Shibuya-Kei, J-Rock, & J-Pop to reflect its Sparkling & playful color scheme & reinforce the game’s core theme that people suppress the darker parts of themselves that they fear society will shun, leaving only a happy, false mask behind.

The chipper & upbeat music reflects both the sanitized version of ourselves that people use to conceal their faults, but also the empowerment that comes from reconciling these conflicting aspects & living authentically. By using musical genres that evoke a sense of mass market appeal & a nostalgia for simpler times (much like the old school TV’s the game uses as a motif), Persona 4 Golden creates an inspiring musical world for players to inhabit, giving them the hope they will sorely need to navigate the twists & turns of its murder mystery plot.

Persona 5 Royal, on the other h&, is a story of rebellion, counter-culture, & finding one’s place within a society that seems more interested in easy answers than the truth. The game’s direct inspirations from classic French anti-hero thief Arsène Lupin & street culture resulted in music that is heavily inspired by Acid Jazz & the dramatic string sections characteristic of action film scores. When drawing from Acid Jazz & street culture in particular, Meguro is capturing the music of societal struggle. Acid Jazz emerged as a genre from youth in urban centers seeking new ways of expressing themselves. This particular emphasis on more ‘underground’ musical styles reinforces the characters’ own secret fight against society that they are forced to keep hidden for fear of retribution.

There is no better way to compare the fundamental differences between Persona soundtracks than by listening to how each of them executes their opening theme. This is the first piece of music every player will hear when they open up the game, & it is most likely the song they heard in trailers prior to purchasing the game. By all accounts, the opening theme is each game’s way of selling you on their world & giving you a glimpse into the rest of the experience.

“Shadow World” starts with a Sparkling & bluesy harmonica intro before transitioning into a bouncy, driving power ballad with a lilting melody sung by the eminent Shihoko Hirata. The song actually does draws on certain elements of funk music similar to Persona 5, specifically its use an organ & the very active bass line. This is where the similarities end though. The song has a much deeper connection to J-Pop & Shibuya-Kei artists such as Flipper’s Guitar, Pizzicato Five, & ROUND TABLE featuring Nino.

Shoji Meguro’s music, much like a lot of Japanese pop music, draws on a variety of different sources & through combining those influences, creates something entirely new & original. With that in mind, the song’s bluesy & funkier elements serve as just one small piece of a much broader set of musical influences. With Persona 4 Golden in particular, the darker Rap-Rock inspirations of Persona 3 which influenced Persona 4‘s original opening “Pursuing My True Self” has been nearly completely replaced with a Sparkling mixture of horns & gospel-style organ performing classic J-Pop-style songwriting.

“Colors Flying High,” on the other h&, gives listeners a sense of a conflict, action, & melodrama in a fashion so gr&iose that it borders on operatic. The song is also a power ballad, but instead of a lilting melody & playful folksiness, we are given a driving rock drum beat that underscores sweeping strings, distorted funk guitar, & electronic piano that is a trademark of Funk & Jazz. The song has a much darker instrumentation with aggressive synthesizers & percussive elements littered throughout the backdrop to reinforce the rebellious musical world of Persona 5 Royal. “Colors Flying High” is similarly optimistic in tone, but that optimism is in service of inspiring players to prepare for the fight against society that the characters are about to undertake. The music evokes the clichés of classic thief stories while retaining a firmly modern sensibility to remind us that we are bringing the devious antics of an old-school TV criminal into the present day with modern problems to solve.

Each of these songs serves to highlight the different creative priorities of their respective games. Persona 5 Royal‘s opening wants players to feel invigorated & powerful, prepared to take on the entire world if they must. Persona 4 Golden‘s opening is far more interested in showcasing the fun & playful relationships the player will find in its color cast of characters, even as they live under threat by a dangerous serial killer. Across the entirety of both soundtracks, the feelings evoked by these opening themes hold true throughout. The optimism in both openings serves the necessary purpose of preparing players to survive in a hostile world. The music’s ability to clearly showcase what the values of each Persona game’s characters & how they choose to overcome adversity is exactly what makes these two soundtracks so brilliant & distinct. With the Persona games continuing to hit major sales milestones even now, a potential Persona 6 would almost certainly bring even more Unbelievable music for fans to enjoy.

MORE: Persona Soundtracks Finally Make Their Way To Spotify


Source link gamerant.com
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