The Genesis – Persona 4

Listen to the end. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

This is such a fascinating song that I had to write an entire article about it. Maybe not a long article, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this song and why it’s personally one of my favorite tracks in the whole Persona 4 soundtrack. People talk about it being boring, and while they’re allowed to have their own opinions, I couldn’t agree less than I already do.

Maybe it’s because of this following fact. I’m not the biggest fan of Persona 4‘s soundtrack in general, at least, in comparison to the other games’ soundtracks. (My personal favorites are the soundtrack of P1, both the PSP and PS1 versions, P2: Eternal Punishment, P3, and P5.) People talk about it being too slow for the “true final battle” theme, and yes, it is a little slow, but it’s incredible. This track just stands out to me more than most songs in the P4 soundtrack do because of its intimidating and ominous nature. The true final boss is most certainly a formidable foe, and this song is probably the most fitting song Shoji Meguro could have composed for it.

In a game with music that gives off a pop/rock vibe, a song like this, with a classical orchestra feeling, really just provides that atmosphere change that really shows you you’re in the endgame now. Even The Mist, another one of my favorite tracks from P4, doesn’t scream “final boss” like this song does. At least to me, anyway. All of this is my own opinion, and I can absolutely see why people would disagree with me. But I’m coming from the perspective of a former choir/music theory major. In the years I performed in choir and have studied music theory, I learned to be able to feel what music was saying through the timbre of the instruments, the way the time signature is utilized, the cadence of the melody as it combines with the background harmonies, the list goes on.

My point is that just about every song out there tells a story, and it doesn’t need lyrics to tell that story. You can understand what it’s saying through close listening and truly immersing yourself in the song. This song gives off the perfect foreboding aura such an intimidating final boss deserves. It sort of reminds me of the song “Transient Butterfly” from the PS1 version of the first Persona game, at least in its structure and what sort of feeling it’s giving off. Except unlike that song, “The Genesis” has that bit of hope at the end of the game where it brings things back full circle with the melody of “Reach Out to the Truth”, another one of my favorite tracks from this game. That ending always gives me chills.

Long rant short, I personally think this song is absolutely incredible, and it’s the perfect track for the true final battle. Also, the instruments give off very heavy Strange Journey vibes. I know that both games’ soundtracks were composed by Shoji Meguro, but still. Strange Journey is one of my favorite games of all time, and I absolutely love that Meguro threw some of that game’s music style into a Persona game. Goes to show it’s true that every Persona game’s final battle theme has some Shin Megami Tensei inspiration.

Persona Q2 – First Impressions (No spoilers)

I cannot express my love for this game enough, guys. Just play it when it comes out.

Ever since Atlus announced that they’d be making a sequel to the original Persona Q, which remains one of my favorite 3DS titles to this day, I’ve been hyped from day one. To make a long story short, I got into the original PQ because of the franchise’s predecessor, Shin Megami Tensei. The fact that there existed a first person dungeon-crawler featuring the Persona characters I’ve come to know and love over the past few years made me happy.

(I know Persona 1 was a first persona dungeon-crawler, but I never saw them doing this again.)

And then this beautiful gem of a game was announced.

I watched every trailer, every character overview, and basked in the amazingness of the music. I was ready. Of course, it came out in Japan long before its release here in the US, which is pretty standard for Atlus titles, but then we received unfortunate news that the game didn’t sell all that well in Japan. If I recall correctly, anyway. I’m not necessarily the go-to source for info like this. I just heard about it before localization of the game happened. As a result of the game’s poor sales, they made the decision to just keep the game’s Japanese voice acting in, and, possibly, if enough people in the US show interest in the game, they may consider adding English voice acting later down the road as DLC, like the Japanese voice patch in Persona 5.

As is normal on the internet these days, people got all up in arms about it, but personally, I don’t see the point. Yes, I had come to know and love the English VAs over the years, but English voice acting or not, the game still got an English translation, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Backstory aside, I got my copy quite early. It just arrived yesterday, despite not actually being released to the public until June 4th, so I figured I’d give a little first impressions treatment to what is my new favorite title on the 3DS.

Honestly, all I can say is that this game is as amazing as I expected and then some. It’s not just another Etrian Odyssey game with the skin of a Persona game. (I’m over-simplifying things, but still.) It doesn’t feel like they just copied the assets from the first game and brought them to this one. Everything feels almost redone from the ground up, save for, perhaps, the engine itself, but that doesn’t matter.

The writing is incredibly solid, like in the rest of the Persona series. Every character remains faithful to their original selves from their respective games. The music, as is to be expected of a Persona game, is absolutely incredible, even more than I expected, to tell you the truth. Prior to the game coming out, I only heard the battle themes and the incredible intro theme, but after having gotten to start the game, it all sounds amazing and fits well. The animation and art style are both absolutely gorgeous. The chibi models look even better than they did in the original Persona Q.

And of course, there’s the gameplay. Honestly, when I was playing it, it gave off heavy old school Shin Megami Tensei vibes to me in the best way. It could also be because it reminds me of Strange Journey, another favorite title of mine on the 3DS, but still. I’m playing the game on Normal mode, and even the tutorial battle showed that, yes, you are playing an Atlus RPG, and yes, you will get your ass handed to you time and time again, and I absolutely love it.

To make a long rant short, I’m glad I pre-ordered this game back in February. It was worth every penny and then some. June 4th is its release date, so if you didn’t get the chance to pre-order it, I highly suggest purchasing it. Let’s show Atlus some love, and show them that the Persona series has a legit fanbase internationally. To end things off, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite songs from the game, so here we go.

Mother’s Day Nostalgia – EarthBound

This song alone stirs my nostalgia and I love it.

It’s certainly been a while since I posted an article here, and I most definitely apologize for that. Sometimes, life gets crazy. I do have more articles planned, I promise you that. I’m just waiting to get a little further in certain games, like Dragon Quest XI since I feel like I’m nearing the end of the game at around 100 hours now.

However, that’s not quite what I wanted to discuss. With it being Mother’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to write about a game I’ve been playing again during breaks at work, and that is one of my favorite games of all time — Mother 2/EarthBound.

At work, I’ve been trying to come up with various methods of keeping my head above water. It’s easy to fall to despair in my line of work and get bombarded and drained by the onslaught of verbal abuse from customers, so during breaks, I’ve been bringing my 3DS to work for the first time in years and playing this amazing game. I already had a file saved in Onett when I booted it up. It was just outside of Giant Step Cave, so I knew exactly what to do.

Playing EarthBound again for the first time in well over a year over the past week or so has brought back many pleasant memories. When I first discovered this gem of a game, I was fourteen years old. I saw a Let’s Play for it done by the YouTuber Chuggaaconroy from back in 2008 and fell in love with the game from that. After I started high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the magic of emulators and being able to play games I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

As soon as I got a Super Nintendo emulator, the first games I got were Final Fantasy VI and EarthBound, the two games I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I’ll never forget how difficult the game seemed at first. I was still technically new to RPGs, so I didn’t do much grinding and exploring to find secret items or pieces of equipment. I don’t think I made it past the Giant Step Cave for a long time. When I eventually did, I still found difficulties in the game for sure, but I think I eventually got stuck in Threed because the enemies kept completely destroying me.

It’s a cold little life here in Winters.

Fast forward to when I’m about sixteen years old or so. At that point, I’d gotten used to EarthBound and its mechanics for two reasons. The first is that I decided to try the game out using cheats, which I later regretted because it made the game crash as soon as Poo joined the party. But then I played it again naturally, and this time, I had found a PDF version of the old school player’s guide. You know, the super cool and creative one. I fell in love with that guide and decided I’d use it to finally try and beat the game myself.

I finally did, and what a masterpiece it was. Since then, I’ve played that game over and over again, and every time I do, I learn something new about the game. It’s incredible. Some of my favorite memories with the game are these days when my brother and I would be home alone a lot. Back then, he had worse anxiety problems than he does now, and he couldn’t sleep in a room alone for a long time, so I’d let him crash in my room while I played EarthBound. He always liked the sound effects and music and thought the general atmosphere was calming, even when I got to Moonside. The sounds would just make him fall asleep. We’re both adults and living our own lives now, but we recently reminisced about that and it reminded us both of how much we love this game.

This game helped me establish my identity as an author, a music composer, and now a game developer. While Persona did a lot of the work, this game helped me through some difficult times, and playing it again here in my new life is a bittersweet experience, but mostly sweet. It’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea though. All throughout high school, my co-author often hated on this game, but now that we’re older, he’s far more civil about it. We haven’t discussed it in years, but I reached out to him recently because I wanted to know what he didn’t like about it and why, and he had an interesting answer.

He hadn’t really thought about the details until then, but his judgement was that he felt the game was quirky in its general atmosphere, but not in a way that kept his attention, so he simply didn’t enjoy it. To be fair, he’s not the biggest fan of most turn-based RPGs, with some exceptions like Final Fantasy VII and the Pokémon series, so I can at least understand his point of view.

The song of sweet relief.

This is all to say that this was, still is, and will forever be one of my favorite games of all time, right up there among games like Final Fantasy XII, Xenoblade Chronicles, and any Persona game, including Persona 1, but I’ll get more into that game in another article later, because I have some words to say about that one. EarthBound holds a special place in my heart. The game, the music, the characters, it’s all just perfect. It doesn’t feel so much like a game as much as it does an experience, and I think that’s why it resonates with so many people. It’s an adventure, one that brings back a childlike sense of wonder and amazement. If you haven’t played it before, I highly suggest playing it, and if you have played it before, pick it back up again and just play it, even if it’s been forever. Perhaps you’ll find something new in it that you haven’t noticed before.

The Magic of Final Fantasy

Listen with headphones and enjoy WiiGuy‘s amazing job with this mix.

Final Fantasy was my introduction to the RPG genre, like many others, and I must say that to this day, the game that started it all is still one of my favorites. No joke; I’ve beaten this game so many times, and it never gets old to me. You know why? It’s not nostalgia, believe it or not. This wasn’t actually my first Final Fantasy game. There are two big reasons for this—the imagination aspect of feeling as though you and your friends are on this Dungeons & Dragons-like quest to save the world still makes me feel like a giddy little kid, and the godly soundtrack.

I could hear this game’s soundtrack over and over again and I never get tired of it. Nobuo Uematsu is a musical genius; I’m sure this is a fact everyone can get behind, but hearing where it all began is a beautiful experience. Using only three sound channels, he captured the magical essence of this wonderful game and turned it into an unforgettable experience. From the start of the game where you have nothing but the clothes on your back to the end where you travel 2,000 years into the past to stop the endless cycle created by Chaos, every step of the journey is one you’ll never forget.

Naturally, you’ll get annoyed at the encounter rate in some areas, and yes, there is definitely level grinding involved, but it’s not nearly as much as you’d expect. And if you play the game with an active imagination the way I do, it makes it that much greater of an experience. I like to play the game imagining that the characters are interacting throughout the journey and during battles. I mean, I am an author, after all. It’s my job to create stories. If I had more knowledge of D&D, I’d totally be a DM, but I still have much to learn, but that’s another story.

In any case, if you’re an RPG fanatic like I am, pick this game up. Maybe not the classic NES version unless you’re really into the classics like I am; I’d suggest either the PS1 or PSP versions, but just pick this game up, play it with an open mind and an expressive imagination. Trust me; you’ll have so much fun with it that way.

Less is More – Why I Love the Music of A Link to the Past

Not gonna lie; this is my favorite Legend of Zelda soundtrack, narrowly beating Link’s Awakening.

A Link to the Past versus Ocarina of Time — a classic tale of clashing fans and grumpy animators. People spend all this time arguing over which one is better, when ultimately, it comes down to preference. As for myself, I’m someone who loves and accepts both fondly. A Link to the Past was the first game in the series that I owned, but as funny as it may be, I actually beat Ocarina of Time long before I beat this one. (As a kid, I sucked at this series; it actually took a bet with my co-author for me to finally beat Ocarina of Time.)

I have a personal connection with A Link to the Past, and here’s why. That game impacted me in a massive way when I was a kid, in a way that still positively affects me even as an adult. That game was the reason why I wanted to become an author in the first place. I loved the magical majesty of the world of Hyrule, the narrative nature of the adventure, and the idea of a young protagonist saving the world. Naturally, considering I was six years old, I was drawn towards the idea of young protagonists saving the world, which was a major building block in what would eventually become my writing career.

Rants aside, the biggest thing that drew me to this incredible game was the soundtrack. Despite knowing the soundtrack consisted of midi instruments, it was magical, especially from the beginning. The music immediately draws you in, from the prologue theme into its shorter leitmotif that plays during the rain scene, and finally, the Hyrule Castle theme.

Still one of my favorite VG tracks of all time.

In my opinion, everything about this track is absolutely perfect. The instrumentation, the progression, and the incredible climax. This song is what defines A Link to the Past for me. As a kid, this song blew my mind. It really made me feel the severity of the situation of infiltrating a castle full of possessed guards. There are so many emotions packed into this song, which is perfect! You traverse this castle, face fearsome foes, and eventually rescue Princess Zelda from the dungeons of the castle, only to find out that your job is far from done.

Fear of the unknown, courage in the face of adversity, urgency in knowing what’s at stake, and triumph over the trials that stand in your way. Those are the emotions I feel from this song, yet when you really listen to it, there are only really five instruments, at least out of what I can hear: a strings section covering both the main melody, background harmonies, and our bass section, a brass section, a triumphant trumpet exchanging the melody with the strings, a trombone (or potentially something else; I wasn’t a band kid, so I’m not too great at identifying brass instruments) harmonizing with the trumpet’s melody in the latter part of the song, and a timpani to convey the heavy feelings all within this song.

Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but you know what? Even if I am, that’s just the way I like it. I love this game’s soundtrack. Every song perfectly conveys the emotions of each location or scene in the game, and even to this day, it still blows my mind. Feel free to let me know what your favorite Legend of Zelda soundtracks are in the comments! I’d love to discuss them, because frankly, I love all of them.