I know that I’m about three months late in saying this, but I gotta say it anyway: Persona 5 is excellent! I’d never played a Persona game before this one, so I went into it not really knowing what to expect. What I got was a game with a familiar-yet-new combat system, characters that I genuinely enjoyed getting to know, and an engrossing story that I’m still captivated by even after clocking-in over 80 hours. Still, what me the most was the soundtrack. Not only is it of very high quality, but it’s also used to great effect. Persona 5 does its best to use its soundtrack in service to its themes and story and the song “Rivers in the Desert” represents its apex.
It would be difficult to explain what makes “Rivers in the Desert” a special case in the Persona 5 soundtrack without first talking about what’s so special about the soundtrack itself. It doesn’t feature that many more songs than any other game, and just like most other games, it only has as many themes as it needs. Where Persona 5’s soundtrack actually sets itself apart is in its usage. Where most games only use their music to emphasize what’s happening in the moment, Persona 5 uses it to emphasize several things. Instead of just playing up a particular moment, it will do that while also trying to reinforce the major theme and story beat of that moment. When characters awaken to their powers for example, they are accompanied by a song called “Will Power”.
(Video by YouTube channel: OST)
It fits rather well don’t you think? It the kind of song one would expect to hear during a moment in which the tables are defiantly turned over in order to defeat a once insurmountable foe. It’s absolutely a song of rebellion, something which just so happens to be one of the game’s major themes. Overcoming injustice, delving into the depths of the psyche, and even the passage of time are all major themes served in the music accompanying boss battles, dungeon crawling, or going out at night. It all goes towards keeping this monster of a game all tied together and helps the player better appreciate what’s going on moment by moment. It’s because of this that an already excellent song like “Rivers in the Desert” is able to handily outshine the rest of the soundtrack.
(Video by YouTube channel: Futaba Magica)
“Rivers in the Desert” is the song that shows up during Persona 5’s point of crisis. It combines many of the games major themes, but does so in support of the moment it’s being used to help describe. This is the point the entire game has been leading up to. It’s the culmination of everything you’ve been working for and the consequence of everything that has happened so far. Fail and it’s not just over for you, but also for everything you’ve been struggling for. Your rebellion will die with you, your friends will meet a terrible end, and the world you were trying to change will continue along its original path to destruction. It’s a situation that’s personal in feel, but grand in scope. The Phantom Thieves didn’t set out to save the world, and even at the end it could be argued that it still isn’t what they were after, but their (your) victory would still mean salvation for world as well as yourself. This scenario is exactly what the song is about: one chance to pull-off a miracle and become the rebellious hero you were always meant to be.
“Rivers in the Desert” exemplifies what makes Persona 5’s soundtrack special. It’s used at the moment when it can best serve the game’s story and overarching themes. It perfectly describes the situation the Phantom Thieves find themselves in at the time. Oh yeah, and it just plain sounds awesome to boot! Can’t forget that.
What do you think of “Rivers in the Desert” and the Persona 5 soundtrack overall? Can you think of any other games or songs that do something similar?