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Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne Original Soundtrack (US) :: Review by Chris

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne Original Soundtrack (US) Album Title: Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne Original Soundtrack (US)
Record Label: Atlus
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: October 12, 2004
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The first Megami Tensei game to be released in the United States, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne had a lot to offer. Atlus realized that Shoji Meguro's moody yet modern score was one of these and chose to release a bonus soundtrack with the Director's Cut version of the game. It features the entire Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Maniacs Soundtrack Extra Version, which was an additional score for the Japanese release, and a selection from the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Original Soundtrack. Given this album attempts to compile three discs of music on to a single disc, can it possibly satisfy?


After a short pipe organ introduction, there is a convincing transition into Shoji Meguro's incredible scene-setter "The Depths of Amara". Just like the main soundtrack, the composer really raises the bar here and asserts his unique musical identity. He knows exactly how many times to repeat the central arpeggiated motif, when is most effective to introduce the badass drum beat, and what sort of electronic effects can really build up the haunting atmosphere. The effect is just incredible in and out of context. He embellishes the area with a battle theme that smoothly transitions in and out during gameplay. Like most of his battle tracks, it is built mainly from hard rock riffs and electronic overtones, which together create some interesting timbres and rhythms. It's clearly intended for transient action, so it declares most of what it has in the first moments and doesn't have the same arch as the predecessor. However, there is enough variety to still keep the tension brewing in and out of context.

Even with the new approach to Shin Megami Tensei, the Gothic influence remains very strong throughout the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Maniacs Soundtrack Extra Version. Some are clichéd yet very effective, such as Toshiko Tasaki's awe-inspiring pipe organ solos "Showtime!!", "Since We Last Met", and "Joint Struggle" or Kenichi Tsuchiya's mediocre chorale "Law". Others are more individualistic, such as Meguro's blend of romantic piano, Baroque harpsichord, and martial percussion on "Lord of the Netherworld". "Mission" is a little less appealing due to its slow-building development, but eventually creates a stunning timbre by blending minimalist piano figures, epic organ work, and more militaristic percussion. With its blend of organ cues and rock riffs, "Dante Battle" ironically sounds very similar to Devil May Cry's battle themes. Although the similarities are uncanny, Tasaki has still done a great job hybridising these two core stylistic elements of the score into an entertaining action theme.

Once again, the electronica elements of the score are quite strong too. Kenichi Tsuchiya's pounding industrial bass lines on "Talk" and "Demons" really give Akira Yamaoka a run for his money, since they're so haunting yet compelling at the same time. He doesn't hesitate to bring in some hardcore and trance elements to the mix either in tracks such as "Warp Field" and "Beelzebub"; the latter is especially memorable in context, especially with the entrance of the pipe organ chords. Bringing the score to a close, "Power of Darkness" is the closest the score comes to a full-blown orchestral piece. "Final Battle" is a little unexpected, since the core electronic component has a bouncy feel, yet the eventual electric guitar work brings some much-needed aggression. Given it is an additional score, it doesn't quite resolve with a peaceful ending theme, but rather with a short piano and electronica theme, "Emperor of the Dark". It's wonderfully perplexing and ominous.

The second part of the album includes an eleven piece selection from the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Original Soundtrack. Overall, it's a pretty good reflection on the score. "Title Loop 1" maintains a dark mood on the album before "Title Loop 2" briefly provides comfort with its electric guitar work. "The Conception" opens with a simple yet intimate piano rendition of the main theme, but gradually intensifies into an awe-inspiring organ theme. Two of the "Cathedral of Shadows" themes, known as "Heretic Mansion" in the import release, also made it. "Cathedral of Shadows -Cursed-" once again reflects Tsuchiya's ability to elegantly blend multiple elements, such as chants, strings, and electronic beats, into one amazing scene-setter. "Cathedral of Shadows -Bright-" returns to the cliché of an organ-based theme, but is actually probably the finest solo in the entire series. It sounds like Tsuchiya has complete command over the instrument and the counterpoint is very well done this time.

Naturally, a few battle themes were also taken over for the release. "Battle" initially seems like a straightforward rock theme for Meguro, yet it surpasses expectations thanks to the creative ghostly chanting and a passionate electric guitar solo prior to the loop. "Forced Battle" uses the bizarre vocals more as a focal point while Tsuchiya's "Battle -Amala Network-" takes a more retro approach with its rock organ melody and driving rhythm guitars. Moving towards the end of the soundtrack, "Reason Boss Battle" proves to be one of the most comprehensively developed contributions to the score, blending both Gothic passages with Meguro's distinctive rock. It leads nicely into the motivating guitar-led anthem "World Map -Last Area-", though unfortunately neither of the actual final battle themes made the cut. Fortunately, Meguro's magnum opus in the form of the "Staff Roll" theme did and leads the soundtrack out on an reflective note.


The Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne Original Soundtrack is undoubtedly a disc of excellent music. It really demonstrates how well Meguro and co. have adapted to creating fitting music for the series that is simultaneously appealing to modern audiences. Despite this, it is probably not the definitive version of the game's score. Although the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Maniacs Soundtrack Extra Version is an entertaining 40 minutes of music, it was always intended to be an additional score, so probably shouldn't have headlined the release. This leaves relatively little room for tracks from the more important Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Original Soundtrack although the most important ones still made it. This soundtrack is still a great bonus, though people might prefer to consider the full import release first.

Overall Score: 8/10