An enhanced version of the third Shin Megami Tensei title was released in Japan in 2004, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniacs. The Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Maniacs Soundtrack Extra Version features the additional music for the title and a few extras. A second print was ordered shortly after the first to remove some controversial copy protection. Shoji Meguro, Kenichi Tsukasa, and Toshiko Tasaki took an equal role on the production resulting in quite a bit of diversity. Although the soundtrack is only 40 minutes long, it's jam-packed with highlights. Let's take a closer look at what is on offer...
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. 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 Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Maniacs Soundtrack Extra Version is an entertaining 40 minute listen. It contains some of Meguro's most magical compositions for the series to date and a good number of Gothic, rock, and electronic tracks otherwise. However, it is still supplementary to the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Original Soundtrack and many won't consider it worthwhile for the amount of music. Also take note that the bonus soundtrack with the American release contains the entire Maniacs soundtrack and a selection of the better Nocturne themes. This is still a worthwhile item for hardcore Meguro fans who don't own that release...