Hello and welcome to another edition of Sound Test! I am incredibly excited to dive into this episode, as Persona 5 very well may be my favorite original soundtrack ever. It is a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) developed and published by Atlus for the PlayStation 4 in 2017 and is a continuation of both the Persona and Megami Tensei series. Shoji Meguro is the lead composer for the soundtrack, as well as the rest of the games in the Persona series. Additional composition credits are given to Toshiki Konishi, Kenichi Tsuchiya, Atsushi Kitajoh, and Ryota Koduka. The vocals on the soundtrack are done by Lyn Inaizumi.
I’ve said it’s probably one of my favorite OSTs, so what makes Persona 5 so special? There are 110 unique tracks in the game spanning a multitude of genres and tonalities. Funk, jazz, big band, contemporary, J-rock, heavy metal, and post-rock elements emanate through the eclectic soundtrack. There is an immense amount of music to sort through, and everything is accompanied by a track. Many moments are accompanied by small thirty-second to two-minute long medleys, while some reach almost eight minutes in length. The backbone of the soundtrack is incredibly funky, with bombastic bass riffs and catchy, high energy guitar and synth.
The opening of the game featuring the track “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There” is a pretty perfect summation of that whole aspect of the soundtrack. The soaring vocals of Inaizumi accompany the refreshing string arrangements, soft synth chords, and vibrant percussion for the perfect mix. The first time I watched the game’s opening video and heard this track, I knew I was in for a serious treat. This soundtrack is rife with funky, upbeat jams like this, and each of them is infectiously catchy. “Life Will Change” was voted the most popular song from an OST by Japanese fans of the game and features very similar vibes to the intro.
While a good portion of the tracks definitely have the prominent funk feel, Persona 5 is incredibly diverse in what it has to offer. Many emotionally charged segments of the game are backed by tracks with a softer touch, with a lot of modern classical, contemporary jazz, and lo-fi touches. They are a lot slower and softer, and in my opinion the highlight of the soundtrack. There is a lot of beauty in the languishing piano chords, somber strings and horns.
“Sunset Bridge” is a track that plays near the end of the game, when a lot of the main cast of characters are saying goodbye to each other. Persona puts a lot of influence into the characters, and your bond with them is actually a prominent mechanic of the gameplay. The guitar has a very dreamy, shoegaze touch to it with soft percussion and vibrant, although subdued, synth leads. It’s a very emotive track, and fits the scene so perfectly the moment nearly brought me to tears.
A moment that actually did cause me to tear up is “Hoshi to Bakura to”, the ending theme. Not to jump ahead and wrap things up early, I just can’t talk about the emotional moments of the game without instantly thinking of this absolutely beautiful track. It is a seven-minute long J-rock ballad, and the only song that Inaizumi sings in Japanese. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it packs a serious punch to the heart and I couldn’t sit through it with dry eyes because of the music.
One of the things I love the most about Persona 5 is how easy the music is to listen to outside of the game. I have a weird time listening to game or movie soundtracks outside of their natural setting usually, and I don’t find them nearly as captivating without the accompanying medium. Meguro is an absolute mastermind and pretty much the only exception to that. I have oftentimes sought out many songs from this soundtrack on YouTube long after completing it. “Beneath the Mask” is probably my favorite track from a video game ever, and I play it a lot in my regular listening. There’s even a 10-hour loop on YouTube of the rainy day mix I put on when I’m taking a nap sometimes.
One of the biggest parts of Persona 5 are the palaces, dungeons that your party takes deep dives into to solve. Each palace is specific to an individual, who is always the boss at the end. Some of the most memorable tracks in the game are the unique ones that accompany each of these dungeons. “The Whims of Fate” is the only vocalized one, and is a funk fest of a track that mirrors “Last Surprise”, the most catchy track in the 110 featured. “The Whims of Fate” is almost equally catchy, and one of the ones I search out on my own.
“The Days When My Mother Was There” is also a palace theme, yet in an entirely different wheelhouse as the proprietor of this one has a much more somber personality and story. It features a gentler baseline with a more soulful guitar lead and harmonizing synths to create a repetitive melody that will hook you on its first repetition. This is an example of how well Meguro understood the emotions of the moments he was writing for and how to capture them in his music.
“Tokyo Emergency” and “Tokyo Daylight”, two tracks that play at different intervals as your character does his day-to-day traveling in the city, show more of Meguro‘s skill. They are frantic tracks with a fast pace and a lot of different arrangements going on, and it reflects perfectly on the hustle and bustle of a crowded hub like Shibuya. “Beneath the Mask” plays at night and on rainy days, and the subtle differences to the different versions emulates the different feels precisely.
While doing your daily routine, the protagonist encounters many characters and finds many shops to visit. Even some of them have incredibly memorable themes, like the Big Bang Burger shop, which has a theme that sounds like UK club music with pulsing deep bass and a house beat accompanying it. Iwai’s airsoft shop has one of my favorite tracks in the whole game, however, with “Layer Cake”. It begins with an industrial synth build up before exploding into a poppy electronic tune with an extra funky bass line.
Takemi’s clinic, where you go for all your healing needs, has a similarly catchy shop theme with “Butterfly Kiss”, a cabaret jazz tinged bop. Music really does follow you everywhere in Persona, and before you know it you are completely captivated by the full soundtrack because of its depth and catchiness.
You have likely heard the victory theme from Final Fantasy 7 at some point-the small flourish of fanfare was incredibly popular for years after the game’s release. Persona 5 has many small medleys like that which I consider just as good and will likely remember as long. The “Triumph” theme that plays on winning a normal battle features a series of jaunty keys that will never fade after so many battles through my playtime. “Talk” is another very similar medley. This is a track that plays during a hold-up, a really common occurrence that happens near the end of battles. It is a brief, distorted rock riff that repeats throughout the interrogation of the enemy and another serious earworm.
Persona 5 like many other games ends with a bang, with a huge end boss to send you off. Yaldabaoth, an enormous Persona controlled by the big boss, is a giant asshole, and can be a pretty tedious fight to get through. It’s only fitting that such an epic and tense battle is backed by a heavy hard rock/metal track rife with deeply distorted guitars and crashing drums. “Swear to My Bones” and “Our Beginning” play throughout the following sequence and cutscenes, which I won’t spoil here since they are crazy cool and I’d hate to ruin it for someone. They are all heavy, fast, and epic, pushing the fight with Yaldabaoth to a wild level of stress.
There is so much obvious love and care put into this soundtrack and game in general. The loading screen you see between days has a trademark phrase of ‘Take your time.’ and even the upbeat music in this game exudes that this is something you should do. I’ve never stopped just to listen to music in a game like I have in Persona 5. You can pause to enjoy the surroundings and music in almost any moment, even mid-battle since it is a turn-based system. My playtime for my first run was 155 hours, and that isn’t a joke or a stretch. This is because of how often I slowed down and just stopped to appreciate the captivating moments.
Meguro made an absolutely incredible soundtrack that doesn’t get boring even after spanning 110 tracks and hours of playtime. The eclectic nature of its contents is hard to beat when it’s all so fresh, inspired, and fits so perfectly into the in-game moments. While it would still be a fun game oozing style with other composition, the soundtrack of Persona 5 puts it a cut above most games in my book, and solidifies it as one of my favorites of all time. You can play Persona 5 for the PlayStation 4, and find its soundtrack to purchase online if you’re only interested in that!