The original Persona 3 Original Soundtrack got a lot of flak from hardcore Persona fans because the introduction of Shoji Meguro as the sole composer and the stylistic change of the series meant a new direction. While the music fared better in-game than it did on the album, it was still an impressive work and launched Meguro to stardom. In 2009, the game was adapted for the PSP and featured the option of playing as a female protagonist. Shoji Meguro composed some new instrumental and vocal music to accompany he new scenario. How does the fourth album for Persona 3 fare?
The album opens with "Soul Phrase", which is the counterpart of "Burn My Dread" in Persona 3 Portable. "Soul Phrase" sets a much more angsty atmosphere than the opening song of the original title, and it features soft male vocals instead of the powerful female voice of Yumi Kawamura. The percussion and guitar work is more in line with the battle themes from King Abaddon, but the feminine vocals of Shusei Kita add a distinctive Persona-esque flair.
"A Way of Life" plays when you walk around the school building. The song is the first on the album to feature vocals by Mayumi Fujita, and offers a nice change from Kawamura. The laid-back vocals and RnB beats lead the whole song, but there are short and jazzy guitar improvisations to be found. That said, "Time" is the shining star here, and easily Meguro's best offering this year. The piano and drums work in combination, till the angelic vocals take over from the piano and continue the mellow tone established in the beginning. This doesn't last for long, as soon a faster beat kicks in and the sad voice gets injected with a dose of optimism. It doesn't break any new ground per se — it's simply a refinement of the soundscape of the original Persona 3 — but that's superb in my book.
"Wiping All Out" takes the place of "Mass Destruction" on this album, and it's definitely much more pleasant. The rapping isn't on the forefront anymore, as the pulsating male rhymes are supported by sexy female vocals, and when the chorus arrives, the cool vocals of Fujita dominate the track. The good balance between both artists is the reason why it makes a bigger impression than "Mass Destruction". "Sun" is a lot like "Changing Seasons", as they both employ sort of disco style of the past. The nonsensical looping of a woman and a man spurting random lines like it's party time feels funny at first, but the high brass and sweet synth solo make it both fun and sweet.
Moving on to the instrumental tracks, "After School" is rather short but sweet rendition of "Soul Phrase" in poppy brass, reminiscent of "Joy" and "Afternoon Break" of Persosa 3. Warm Feeling" meanwhile is a minimalistic piano arrangement of "Time". Thanks to the focus on the piano it manages to pluck the strings of listener's heart. Another instrumental rendition, "Danger Zone" is "Soul Phrase" without the vocals. That's not to say it's just the original song with the vocals missing, though. The suspenseful strings and more elaboration on the guitar front can perfectly lead the track itself.
In the end of the album there are two extra tracks. The longer version of "Soul Phrase" doesn't really add anything new to the mix except for guitar improvisations after the male chorus. Finally, "A Way of Life -Deep inside my mind Remix-" is definitely an improvement over the original. It gives Meguro time to jam, and that's why the climax is much more emotional.
You can feel that Meguro is much more comfortable in the Persona 3 Portable groove than he was with Persona's PSP remake, where pressure to keep both old and new resulted in a confusing, but enjoyable soundscape. Yes, the Persona 3 Portable soundtrack is really short with just 10 tracks and a 5 minute playtime. In addition, the fact that there are a few reprises and two longer version make it look lazy. However, actually it's extraordinarily sweet and enjoyable nostalgic trip back to Persona 3 nonetheless. Yes, nostalgic is the perfect word, as it somehow evokes the feeling of revisiting the past that is Persona 3 again in a slightly modified and feminised environment. And if that's what Meguro intended, then he has succeeded.