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Shin Megami Tensei Sound Collection :: Review by Chris

Shin Megami Tensei Sound Collection Album Title: Shin Megami Tensei Sound Collection
Record Label: SME Visual Works
Catalog No.: SVWC-7175/6
Release Date: March 5, 2003
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


During the development of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Atlus revived their Shin Megami Tensei subseries with several products. In the space of a couple of years, they released PlayStation remakes of the first two games, the high school spinoff Shin Megami Tensei if..., and the Xbox spinoff Shin Megami Tensei: NINE. For these projects, Masaki Kurokawa and Kenichi Tsuchiya offered a mixture of new compositions and classic arrangements while maintaining the characteristic flavour of the series. The Shin Megami Tensei Sound Collection compiles material from all four games into one two disc album release. Although the compilation itself is clearly impressive, not all the material featured within is as worthy as might be expected from a major series...


The PlayStation score for Shin Megami Tensei features arrangements of the entire score from the Super Nintendo version. The score originally helped to define the dark yet contemporary feel of the series' music after the stylistically derivative approach to Megami Tensei I & II. It features a mixture of haunting yet inaccessible mood-setters (e.g. "Demo", "Dream", "Shibuya"), rock-flavoured action themes (e.g. "Ginza", "Battle", "Embassy"), and pseudo-Gothic setting themes (e.g. "Heretic Mansion", "Palace of the Four Heavenly Kings", "Law"), as well as the odd more intimate or light-hearted theme. Although arrangers are credited, the PlayStation version is more or a resynthing than anything extravagant. The pieces tend to be mixed in a smoother manner and some of the lead instruments, such as the flute in "Palace of the Four Heavenly Kings", pipe organ in "Heretic Mansion", and electric guitars in the battle themes. However, the upgrade isn't a major one, especially when compared to the likes of Shin Megami Tensei: NINE, and occasionally detrimental as in the silly vocals of "Shop".

While just eight tracks long, the Shin Megami Tensei if... selection at the end of the first disc is more accomplished. It includes rocking arrangements of four of the Shin Megami Tensei action themes, "Battle", "Level Up", "Boss", and "Old Enemy", of around the quality one might have hoped from the PlayStation remake. However, there are also some new compositions too, such as the brooding "Title Demo", nostalgic "Ending", and elating "Staff Roll". Two new compositions were also added to the remake of Shin Megami Tensei. "Pascal" is a light-hearted and zany tune with surprisingly deep woodwind work. "Evil People" is probably the best of the original compositions on the set with its blend of string crisis motifs, martial electronic beats, and ambient features. Although "Kosaka Senior High School Song" at the end of the disc is initially just a childish fanfare, after several minutes of silence, it transitions into a high quality version of the Majin Tensei classic "Deja Vu". It'll be a nice surprise for hardcore fans of the series.

The Shin Megami Tensei II remake also features a resynthed score of the Super Nintendo original. Whereas the Shin Megami Tensei score was just about sufficient for 1992, the Shin Megami Tensei II score was never acceptable for its time. It was an incredibly rushed score based on the endless repetition of a few uninspired figures. While the types of themes were similar to Shin Megami Tensei, most were so unrefined and underdeveloped that they had little emotional effect. The ambient themes felt boring rather than chilling, the battle themes all relied on especially generic chord sequences, and the happier themes felt superficial and out-of-place. Even the organ and choral themes had their problems. Yet with the enhanced synth, the composition of the score no way suffices at the end of the PlayStation era in 2002. Ambitious arrangements wouldn't have been able to salvage the score, since the original material was so vacant, and an entire new score with occasional classic references would have been best. At least there's one new composition, the bonus action theme "Alice", that shines above the rest with its extensive development and blistering temperament.

The album ends with five arrangements of the series' pieces made for the Xbox title Shin Megami Tensei: NINE. "Boss Battle System" really gets the pace going with its rocking riffs and distorted electric guitar parts, but suffers from the barren source material of the Shin Megami Tensei "Boss" theme. "Shibuya" and "Kichijoji" are particularly interesting since they are more atmospheric and imaginative arrangements of their Shin Megami Tensei counterparts, the latter having strong funk influences. The "Last Boss Battle" is wonderfully haunting and uses the Xbox to produce atmospheric soundscapes built from chorus and percussion use. Although a solid reflection on the score, there is much more on offer on the Shin Megami Tensei NINE Premium Soundtrack. This serves more as a sampler than a complete sound collection unlike the three other entries on the album so shouldn't really be a major consideration.


The soundtracks for the Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II remakes are technically more accomplished than their originals. However, they are not significant musical improvements and hence fall somewhat behind in the times, especially the latter. The material from Shin Megami Tensei if... and Shin Megami Tensei: NINE sounds good, but is more bonus material. It's worthwhile hearing the music from Shin Megami Tensei, but not its sequel, though the compilation may still be a good method to do so since it is easily available and contains other material too. However, the Shin Megami Tensei Law & Chaos album may be better suited for those who only care about the original game, since it features an amazing arranged disc, most of the same compositions, and decent enough synth for its time. All in all, the Shin Megami Tensei Sound Collection is a good collector's item, but be aware that little is offered by most of the second disc.

Overall Score: 6/10