Review by Katelyn Isaacson
Edited by Sam Hughes
Composer: Shoji Meguro
Lead Sound Designer: Kenichi Tsuchiya
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
The Persona series has somehow consistently managed to merge dating sim elements, a turn-based battle system involving collecting creatures à la Pokemon, and a long and arching RPG plot line while still delivering a unified and polished game. Since the stylistic left turn that Persona 3 took from the two earlier titles in the series, the Persona games by Japanese developer Atlus have become known for their trendy and hip aesthetics. This can be seen particularly strongly in Persona 5, where the player is dropped into a stylized version of Tokyo. Visually, we see locations almost perfectly modeled off of their real-life counterparts in Japan, granted with a more gritty, washed out, and fanciful color scheme to match the fantasy of the plot. The music, sound design, and voice acting for the game fits right into this game-wide aesthetic; Persona 5‘s audio is oozing with a young modernity fit for a plot that takes place with modern day teenagers in high school.
Persona 5’s music, composed by Shoji Meguro, is a huge standout in the game. We start with a disco-esque song, bringing us right into the world of the suave ‘Phantom Thieves’ and their mission to change the hearts of evil adults everywhere. The music of Persona 5, much like the gameplay itself, is an amalgamation of attributes smashed together that might be unsettling in any other context. There are aspects of genres ranging from rock to EDM to even some gospel-type organ. However, everything fits together in a cohesive vision of a game that is quite fun to play. The soundtrack is heavy on synths, danceable percussion, and driving guitar lines. As a singer myself, I greatly appreciate Persona’s use of vocal music via Japanese singer Lyn Inaizumi. Inaizumi brings an aspect of jazz and soul to the soundtrack with her warm, rich timbre, and masterful performance. The amount of music in this game is massive; the soundtrack can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon, and includes a whopping 110 tracks. Considering the game itself can easily be played for over a hundred hours, this is certainly a good thing. While only a modest 27 hours through at this point, I haven’t yet felt annoyed by any of music.
However, I do have one main gripe with the musical choices made in Persona 5. The music used in the ‘Velvet Room’ has remained the same for the past few iterations of the series. While I appreciate this continuity and enjoy the piece of music, there are intonation issues from the vocal line that are really quite grating. The soaring, almost operatic soprano line is marred by the fact that long notes more often than not sink flat compared to the rest of the arrangement. I found myself wanting to get out of the ‘Velvet Room’ as quickly as possible to avoid hearing another iteration of notes almost a quarter tone flat.
Just like its music, Persona 5‘s sound design is trendy and modern. Lead sound designer Kenichi Tsuchiya bases his design around the following quote: “if it moves, it’ll make a sound”, including the passage of time and emotions as sorts of movement. This philosophy can be seen very clearly in the UI sound design; even places as static as menu screens have a sense of motion to them, with whooshes upon changing your cursor position. The sound effects add an excitement to the game, pushing the plot forward and helping with the mystery of what will happen next.
Sound effects mesh perfectly with visuals and character actions. For example, when defeating enemies with an all-out attack, the audio builds with a high-pitched screech as the character gets into position, and explodes during their signature pose.
The sound effects are crisp and not at all repetitive. They accentuate the edgy and contemporary vibe given off by the visuals and setting of the game.
Persona 5 is a very, very long game, with a plot that twists and turns. As such, there is quite a bit of dialogue, and much of it has been recorded by voice actors. I’m all around a big fan of the VO. Part of the immersion in the story is felt from overhearing people whispering to each other as you walk by, lending hints and giving you a perspective on what NPC’s are feeling about the events going on in their world. As of the point I’ve currently reached in gameplay, the main characters are believable and play well off of each other. In terms of the content of the dialogue, there are times where sentences seem a bit awkward and stilted, but the actors take them in their stride and still bring emotion to their characters.
I have a few quips with the dialogue, however, content notwithstanding. In battle sequences, characters will comment on their teammates’ performances. This is all well and good, but when the same character says the exact same thing three moves in a row, it starts to get a bit repetitive. Considering the variety that the game offers in other aspects of its sound, I found this less than ideal. My only other major gripe was the choice of voice actor for Igor. Igor is a character that has appeared in the other Persona games, in the same location where the ‘Velvet Room’ music also stays consistent. However, instead of making his voice that of a higher-pitched mystical type of crone, in Persona 5 it is a deep and resonant bass. This is a complete departure from previous iterations in the series and, in my opinion, doesn’t fit the character.
I am hugely addicted to Persona 5. More than once in a hyper-focused binge of playing, I’ve managed to stay up way past midnight, annoying both the next morning me and my bird (who absolutely needs his beauty rest). Atlus delivers a very strong title that captivates players with an edgy and modern aesthetic. The audio in the game lends itself perfectly to this magical version of Tokyo populated by justice-seeking fighters of shadows. Although it may take over your life, I highly recommend jumping into this title and roaming around with the ‘Phantom Thieves’!
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The Sound Architect