Music is, as I've written here so many times I've lost count, a part of the soul of any good video game. The beats and melodies that propel us forward are more than just aural decoration, they're a vital aspect of the character and feel of a game.
Last weekend, after 65 hours, countless battles, and a metric ton of steak, I completed Persona 4 Golden. It was a bittersweet end, the conclusion of an utterly wonderful game that I'll never get to experience for the first time again. (For more wide-ranging thoughts, see our lengthy, wandering but hopefully illuminating review.)
Of all the things it does so well, Persona 4 has a musical soul. Composer Shōji Meguro's tunes run to the very core of the game, and without his work, complemented so perfectly by vocalist Shihoko Hirata, Persona 4 would be incomplete; an engine without wheels, a tin man without a heart.
I've written about Meguro's music in the past; his soundtrack for Persona 3 was also outstanding. When I wrote that article, a lot of you guys piped up to say, "Wait until you play Persona 4." You were right. This has immediately become one of my very favourite game soundtracks: Iconic, beautiful, goofy, fun, hip, and organically tied to the game it accompanies. And in a nice bonus, the new tunes added to Golden are just as good as the original pieces from the PS2 game.
Most of the pieces aren't just fun on their own, they fulfil important… hmm, "rhythmic functions" is the best I can come up with. The way the cues repeat in certain circumstances, the drop of the happy socializing music, the creepy piano of murder mystery, the swing and wheel of the battle music, and all the others. It gives the game a feeling of ritual that Jason described so well.
Here are some of my favourite pieces of music from Persona 4 Golden. I've written a little about a couple of these individually, but it feels worth collecting them all together.
"Like a Dream Come True" - Hang Out Music
I don't know how anyone could not like this tune, which plays every single time you and a friend meet up to hang out. My favourite is when you call the Fox and it plays as the Fox jumps onto the roof of the shrine. Makes me smile every time.
"Striptease" — Rise's Dungeon Music
This is easily my favourite of all of the dungeon jams, though Kanji's dungeon music is a close second (that bassline) and Yukiko's music (those synths) is great too. "Striptease" channels something dark and sexual, with a drugged-sounding Shihoko Hirata asking, lazily, "Could you make the music louder" before bizarrely responding (singing and inhaling?) It's just a weird, groovy, haunting bit of music that makes Rise's dungeon my favourite of the bunch.
"Your Affection" - The Sunny Day Song
I like a lot of the city-exploration music, but "Your Affection" is my favourite. Like a lot of Meguro's music, it's idiosyncratic, and as a result took me a little while to get my head around. That weird, angular intro with the shimmering, climbing synth and grunty bass didn't make me think the song would end up with something as triumphant as that lengthy chorus. But there it is. This song also has some of the best misheard lyrics in the game, which is saying something, considering that I make up my own lyrics to just about everything Persona 4.
Man, not many games have tunes this hip on their soundtracks. A flipped 7/4 groove with a legit hip horn melody twists and turns through all manner of turnarounds, both rhythmic and harmonic. Yet another tune that, like a lot of my favourite Chris Potter tunes, has a groovy 7/4 verse with with a bridge in regular ol' 3/4, just in case you were getting comfortable with the counting. Meguro's jazz chops come to the fore in tunes like this, and I love it.
"Signs of Love" - Home Music
As "Home music" goes, I'm not sure if "Signs of Love" outdoes Persona 3's amazing "Iwatodai Dorm", but it's close. Which is saying something. I like the breakdown in the middle where Hirata says "Bro."
"A Sky Full Of Stars" - Nighttime Music
This one, I believe, is also new to Golden, since I'm not sure you were able to do as many things at night in Persona 4. And it's definitely one of my favourite tracks — just a lovely jam throughout. But it really comes into its own when the piano and electric guitar take the lead and carry it out halfway through. This is the one to have playing every time I walk down a sun-dappled street.
"Make History" - New Battle Music
This one's a new addition to Golden, apparently, and I am a huge fan. I've come to the game from the unique perspective of one who didn't play Persona 4 on the PS2, so I don't notice a lot of the new stuff (Chie's new voice actor, most of the new recorded dialogue). But the minute I heard this song, I was a huge fan — I'd say I like it even more than the babybabybabybaby battle theme from Persona 3. (Heresy, I know! But there you go.) It's flashier than any of the other battle music (the also very good "Reach out to the truth"), but I'm OK with that. The tempo of the song pairs really perfectly with the rhythm of Persona 4's combat. It sort of reminds me of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" (aka the video where Christopher Walken dances in the hotel), in a good way.
"A Corner of Memory" - Main Menu, Closing
This song. Gah. This song that plays near the end of the game, as you think back to all the good times you had with these characters that have become your friends. Few pieces of video game music get to me like this one does. And given its name, "A corner of memory," it knows exactly what it's doing. It'll take up a corner of my memory for a good long while now. The tune "Never More" that plays over the credits, as well as the oh-so-melancholy new song "snowflake" are both icing on the cake. The cake of sadness.
Just about every piece of music in the game is grand, but those are my favourites. If you've got any you love, I hope you'll share 'em below.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a new game+ to work my way through. These social links aren't going to build themselves.