Persona 4’s Original Battle Theme Should Be The Headline Act

Persona 3 and 4’s recent launch onto Xbox Game Pass resurrected many of Atlus’s problematic missteps, though its always-excellent Shoji Meguro soundtracks isn’t one of them. That’s a relief for many of us, whose weeks spent with these games playing as teens trapped by supernatural extracurriculars are somehow still eclipsed by the time we’ve spent listening to their toe-tapping, genre-blurring soundtracks.

It was love at first listen when I heard Persona 4’s battle theme in 2009. Reach Out to the Truth may not have made TheGamer’s Top 10 Persona Battle Themes, but Shoji Meguro’s driving melodies, piercingly on-point chorus and memorable guitar solo remains the perfect soundtrack for hunting The Midnight Channel’s small-screen slayer.

A ‘00s rock anthem with unforgettable guitar riffs and powerful lyrics speaking to despair and desperate struggle against the odds, Reach Out For The Truth was the ‘00s JRPG answer to Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life. Just as suited to players uncovering Inaba’s mysteries as it was to victims facing down their psychological demons in CRT hell, the peppy J-rock number perfectly captured the game’s tense, hopeful journey to an unknown destination.

But that iconic anthem is not the first battle theme you hear in Persona 4 Golden. It only arrives for an occasional encore when players successfully ambush unsuspecting Shadows. The song you’ll hear most was added for the Playstation Vita version: Time to Make History.

Don’t get me wrong, Time to Make History could take pride of place on any game’s soundtrack. P4G brought in Benjamin Franklin (no, not that one) who knocked it out of the park with the game’s jaunty new intro. However, even if Time to Make History is a certified banger, its overconfidence hits a rare duff note. If history is written by the victors, it’s just too soon for its outro’s claim “it’s time to make history, yeah!”. The original’s tension and thematic resonance is gone, along with its ‘00s emo angst.

Before P4G’s release, it was unimaginable that Reach Out to the Truth could ever be challenged. In its heyday, it was the franchise’s ultimate crowd-pleaser, proving so popular the band played it twice in Tokyo at Persona Music Live 2012. The original was followed by a heavier rearrangement from fighting game spinoff Persona 4: Arena, giving the show an unforgettable closing number which united performers and audience as they passionately screamed the chorus and admired Shoji Meguro’s impressively casual Stratocaster solo.

Ten years after being replaced, it’s still up for debate which of the two is best. Even Atlus seem undecided, torn between Reach Out to the Truth in their Game Pass announcement and Time to Make History for the launch. Persona 5’s costume DLC let fans hear either song in battle, and modders even switched the Steam version’s playback order.

Ironically for a song about finding the truth, the reason behind Reach Out to the Truth’s demotion remains a mystery. Previously for Persona 3 Portable, Atlus gave their new female protagonist option her own battle theme but Mass Destruction stayed in place for her male counterpart.

Why was Persona 4’s popular theme replaced at all? Was bringing in an English speaking songwriter intended to attract an international audience? Did Atlus’s rhythm game plans demand new tracks for Persona 4: Dancing All Night? Maybe P4G’s director just couldn’t say no to Shoji Meguro when the musical genius brought them yet another set of irresistible bops.

It’s a testament to the quality of both songs that I doubt there’ll ever be a clear winner, although I expect the deciding factor is simply which track you heard first. Ever since I bought my PS2 copy of Persona 4 (along with a bundled soundtrack CD), its music has been part of my life. It provided a backing track of purpose and determination as I faced down essay deadlines, temperamental office systems and mountains of data-entry tasks. No matter how catchy, no song can replace the one that kept me going through those times.

Choosing between the two battle themes is like choosing between Inaba’s mega beef bowl or fried tofu fritters: You can’t go wrong, and either way you’re in for a memorable treat. If Persona Live ever goes on tour, I’ll be enthusiastically waving my glow-stick for both songs while I witness the increasingly lavish stage choreography Atlus brings to these shows. But until that day comes, you better believe I’m restoring Reach Out to the Truth to its rightful place as the main battle theme whenever I replay P4G.

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