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As I was knee-deep in a particularly large composing gig last week (and still am, sort of), I was unable to talk about a piece of video game music that I like, which is a huge shame (for me and hopefully for you too). This week, I shall try and make up for that and talk about a cue that has two different versions within the same game, one acting as its main theme, and a shorter, instrumental version that plays during the game’s climax. This weeks #TuneTuesday is ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’, from Persona 5. It was composed by Shoji Meguro and sung by Lyn. I've discussed the Persona games in great detail before, so I will just give a brief overview. Take your favourite shonen, slice-of-life anime, slap it with Pokemon with an existential crisis, and you've got yourself every Persona game. The plot of Persona 3 revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids (surprise-surprise) who hit the books by day and hit the Shadows (daemons essentially) with their powers of Persona summoning by night. These are manifestations of one's inner self, which are essentially more mature 'Pokemon' based on real-life mythic deities. Persona 5 is the latest main entry to the series, with the enhanced version, ‘Persona 5: Royal’ expected to release later this year. Like so many, Persona 5 was my introduction to the franchise and was rather hesitant playing a game where I would have to micromanage animu friends and save the world from corrupt adults. 80hrs later, turns out that shit is loads of fun! I knew I was going to enjoy this game the very moment the opening titles rolled with all that pop art inspired artwork and the first thing you hear is the main theme, titled ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’. This track, as well as most of its soundtrack, is effectively Acid Jazz. Given that this may well be the most accessible Persona game to date, this musical direction is incredibly bold and brave, as Acid Jazz is not always the easiest form of Jazz to easy to listen to. A form of Jazz that is easier to listen to is Swing, An example of a game that is Swing-based is ‘Cuphead’, (composed by Kristofer Maddigan) which got a great deal of praise and yet. Anyway, back to Persona 5! To further my point about it being an Acid Jazz soundtrack and as to why it was a brave stylistic choice, I shall dump some music theory on you to soak up. The opening track, ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’ has a clear G Dorian sound (The use of the C chord gives this away as opposed to C minor). The intro then immediately going to G major for the verse (who does that?!). I believe the chord progression here is GM7, Gm7, GM13(?) and GmM7. This repeats before the brilliant use of a D half-diminished chord on the words ‘it’s useless’ which is fantastic word-painting I think. It’s not quite the four-chord progression that we all loathe and love of modern pop songs is it? The point I am attempting to make here is that these folks at ATLUS their in-house composer, Shoji Meguro and the rest of his team, had a very clear vision of the world and sound they wanted. You do not compose an Acid Jazz soundtrack by happenstance, or for the shits and giggles. For a track as polished and deliberate as this, I knew the game was going to be great as they clearly cared for the music, so they must care for the game just as deeply and therefore, would be a fantastic overall project.
As we're now in December, I am going to cover tunes that either Christmasy, Snowy or Icy in nature for this months #TuneTuesday tunes. To kick things off, here is the #Persona3 FES version of Snow Queen, composed by Idehito Aoki & Kenichi Tsuchiya, arranged by Shoji Meguro. This is the version that most Persona fans would be immediately aware of. The original comes from the original Persona, which I will include here also, for comparison's sake, which definitely has a more snowy flavour. I've discussed the Persona games in great detail before, so I will just give a brief overview. Take your favourite shonen, slice-of-life anime, slap it with Pokemon with an existential crisis, and you've got yourself every Persona game. The plot of Persona 3 revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids (surprise-surprise) who hit the books by day and hit the Shadows (daemons essentially) with their powers of Persona summoning by night. These are manifestations of one's inner self, which are essentially more mature 'Pokemon' based on real-life mythic deities. Persona 3 had an extended version (like the Pokemon games) do call Persona 3 FES, which didn't add in a whole, besides previously Japan-only DLC 'The Answer', an epilogue to the original story and additional music for the dungeon areas, known as Tartarus, a seemingly neverending tower that reaches the heavens by the end of the game. The remix of The Snow Queen was one of those included tunes, which is in A minor, not in the original's C minor and is an emotional dance track and not the whispery orchestral version found in the original Persona game. It's inclusion in FES is a very good one, as it works well as you make your ascent in Tartarus, especially when you reach the final few floors at the game's climax. Another altered version is also on 'Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight', which just adds to the emotional drive of the tune. The Snow Queen is a famous boss in the Persona universe and some gaming circles for two reasons. 1) She is a gruesomely difficult boss, as is her arc in the original game. It is not part of the main story, and players can only do that route of the main story route as if The Snow Queen was DLC or a story in an alternate universe. The reality is that both The Snow Queen and the main route happen at the same time, but with different members of the party, depending on one which ones you choose to explore with or what you decide at a certain point in the story. 2) The Snow Queen questline is not found in any version of the original Persona, outside of Japan and no one seems to know why (inform me if I am wrong about this!). I am presuming it is because of it being too difficult for western audiences, but I am not certain. Both versions of the cue have become iconic within the Persona fanbase, for good reason. They are both incredibly moving, delivering on the intended emotions and setting of each perspective game.
To carry on this musical #Spooktober, this weeks #TuneTuesday is the creepy cue 'Who's There?' from Persona 4, composed by Shoji Meguro. Persona 4, like the Persona games before and after it revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids who are granted magical powers by a man with large nose to defeat this impending evil that lurks in the shadows. These powers allow them to summon a Persona (the protagonist can summon multiple), which is a manifestation of their inner-self. It is essentially Pokemon with an existential crisis. There are two things that have made Persona 4 particularly famous: 1) How hard ATLUS has milked the franchise with a variety of spin-offs, including an extended version (Persona 4: GOLDEN) 2 fighting games, surprisingly good dancing game. In addition, there are also 2 animes and manga. 2) How happy-clappy much of the game is. If you are a fan of slice-of-life anime where everyone and everything is fine and enjoy the schoolfriends having fun and solving problems in their life, you will enjoy Persona 4, without a shadow of a doubt. You'll probably enjoy GOLDEN more because there are more in-game events where the characters have even more fun with each other. Such as them going to the beach, bringing it all the more closer to its slice-of-life anime counterpart. Now what I have avoided is the plot, because it is actually incredibly dark, the severity I feel is overlooked from time-to-time with fans within the Persona community. The plot revolves around a strange case of murders, where people are being wound up dead, strung up by TV aerials, the first two being young women, one of them a teenager. Besides this, what they also had in common is that they both appeared on TV, as would the other targets on The Midnight Channel, which is only on during midnight in the rain. The protagonist and friends become an Investigation Team to solve the case by entering the TV World and saving those who appear on The Midnight Channel. It is during the more sinister moments in the game where this creepy piano motif plays. Either when an antagonist threatens the party, horrible truths are discovered. The cue is at it's strongest when it plays just before the game's climax when the party has to make decisions that not only affect the outcome of the story but whether certain characters live or die by your direct hand. You can become a heartless murderer in this game if you wish. Similarly, there is a secret(ish) ending you can achieve in GOLDEN which is just as, if not more heartless as the previous one. You can work out that one for yourself... As for the cue itself, it's barely in F#minor, which can be worked out from the haunting tremolo strings and stabbing celli (plural for cello) and basses. It works so well in distilling horror to the players in the game, especially as one that is as upbeat and as jolly as this one. You can be having fun with your friends or working on that social link when BANG! The scary music returns and someone is dead or about to die with next to no chance of saving them. In an instant, your lives are in turmoil once more. This is one of the few cases where the music of a Persona game delivers horror brilliantly.
This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of the Persona games, the PSP remake of Persona 1! The cue is 'School Days' by Shoji Meguro, with vocals by Yumi Kawamura, a long time vocalist for many of the songs in the Persona games. The Persona games where the player controls a Japanese high school student who has the ability to summon 'Personas', the multiple selves within them (your friends gain the ability to summon a Persona during the course of the story). Think of it as Pokemon with an existential crisis What makes the more recent Persona games (3-5 & their various spin-offs) stand-out from everyone else is that you play out practically every single in-game day (the late afternoons anyway, when the school bell has run). You can meet up with friends (and make new ones outside of the classroom) and bond 'Social Links' with them, which has the gameplay mechanic of making Personas of a certain type stronger. You can go and have something to eat, study in the library, watch a film, go fishing, go practice some baseball, which are just things you can do in Persona 5 may I add (each activity increases a certain skill you have)! The music for these sections always reflect the carefree attitude one has spending your teenage years with nothing to worry about (such as a previous #TuneTuesday of mine, 'Tokyo Daylight' from Persona 5). Narratively, it's like you are playing your favourite slice-of-life anime before going all shonen mode as you beat up Shadows (essentially wild/bad Personas/Daemons (varies from game-to-game)), which is the game proper, but it is a much smaller portion of the games. The original Persona game (and it's PSP remake) does away with all this social stuff and have the players just fight with their friends, once they can wield their own Persona. There is one slight exception to this, which is right at the beginning of the game...sort of. When you begin the game, you are given the objective to visit a hospital to check up on a school friend. You don't have to do that straight away, as you can wander around St. Hermelin High School to talk to classmates and explore the fictional town of Mikage-cho, which does some pretty nice world-building before shit hits the fan. Whereas a lot of the soundtrack are redone/remastered versions of the PS1's original soundtrack, 'School Days' (that plays at the beginning sections of the game) is found only on the PSP version. Whilst Persona 1 is very different from the more popular Persona games, this bouncy little J-Pop song has a wonderful sense of nostalgia to it, which I am putting down to the use of the Major 7ths, a sound I have always associated with sunsets (or sunrises, depending on what mode I'm in). The inclusion of a song (a love song at that may I add) like this drags Persona into the same sonic sound as later games, thus bringing it into the same world as later games. As odd as this may sound, longterm Persona players will know what I mean. If your one of the 10 people who own a PS Vita, you can download Persona, as well as both instalments of Persona 2, usually at a very cheap price.