The Caligula Effect 2 Soundtrack, Various, 2021
Expectations were running high for 2016’s The Caligula Effect – no surprise, given its pedigree. With the involvement of writer Tadashi Satomi and composer Tsukasa Masuko, who had worked on several Persona and Megami Tensei games, the connections to that beloved franchise were strong. Unfortunately, critics’ reaction to The Caligula Effect was tepid. Still, the game made enough money to warrant an improved remake in 2018 and finally a sequel in 2021, developed by Historia. With limited information on that game available at the time of writing, its plot seems like an almost straight reprise of that found in the first Caligula Effect. An almighty virtuadoll has created a utopian virtual reality (a high school setting) that offers refugee for wounded souls looking to flee reality. A group of students is trying to escape this simulation after one of them has his memories of the real world restored by another virtuadoll.
Discussing who was involved in creating the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack and how it came about shows up the limitations of relying on English-language online resources. At the time of writing, there are three album releases for the game, but they are frustratingly redundant. Two of the releases present the same, short 35 minutes of material – the only difference is that the songs are performed by one of the two seiyuu voicing the respective virtuadoll. The third album is simply a compilation of those other two releases. Unfortunately, the albums only present about one-third of the songs recorded for the game – and that’s not to mention the game score itself, which is not represented on any of the album releases. Then again, that might not be such a bad thing – the underscore written for the game is a bland affair that never matches the songs’ ambition and creativity.
The album releases list artists like Machina, Doctor and Kranke as the creators of their cues – which doesn’t help much when conducting online research to find out more about these composers. And of course, there is absolutely no information whatsoever to be found – again, at the time of writing – on who composed the material that the album releases didn’t include. At least, Japanese DJ TeddyLoid is created for the remixes of the boss battle tracks – they will be the foundation of this review. For the time being, we just have to assume that an unspecified group of composers wrote the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack. We also need to live with the fact that some of the songs included in the playlist below carry their cryptic names derived from the game rip.
Thankfully, all of these complications matter little once you listen to the music. Whoever was responsible for this kaleidoscopic creation did a fantastic job. The songs on the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack hit listeners with the force of a freight train at full speed, each one a maximalist manifesto that piles truckloads of textures, hooks and rhythms on top of each other. There is so much going on in these songs, and the music possesses such sweep that you might well describe it as a techno-pop opera that almost constantly plays at full intensity. What’s impressive is how the score gets away with this assault on the senses, thanks to two things: the outstanding songwriting that smoothly connects the myriad ideas running through the music – and the composers’ knack for catchy vocal melodies that hold everything together.
Those vocals also pack a punky energy that sharpens the contours of these songs and makes sure the compositions register as visceral rather than overblown. All songs come in two versions, one for each seiyuu – Mayu Mineda and Arisa Kori. There are few – if any – variations between the arrangements used for the two vocalists. Since both artists deliver sterling work, it’s really down to personal preference whether one opts for Mineda’s lighter, girlish vocals or Kori’s deeper alto delivery. What both artists have in common is their impressive ability to hold their own against the full-throttle arrangements. Mineda and Kori are capable of spectacularly twisting their voices in nervy, agitated fashion while adding subtle emotional shades at the same time. Take “Miss Conductor”, where the vocalists’ borderline-manic performances ride the crest of a tsunami wave of frantic, head-spinning breakbeats leading into a euphoric chorus.
Thankfully, the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack finds several ways to tackle its wall-of-sound vision, keeping monotony at bay. Jazz plays a significant role in the score’s vast palette of styles. Take the drumming on “Alter Garden”, merging jazz and metal influences, or the jumpy piano lines on “Designed Desires”, which turns into lavishly arranged jazz-pop that also incorporates gritty guitars. The nervous energy of these jazz rhythms translates well into the lighter, playful environment of “SINGI”, with its layers of tinkling metal percussion and spaced-out synths. Other tracks like “SW” and “xxxx/xx/xx” hew closer to highly technical heavy metal stylings. The latter shows the composers don’t just indiscriminately throw everything and the kitchen sink at their compositions and instead always maintain an ear for details. Listen to that cyclical guitar riff mixed into the background, finally making its full, enormous impact once combined with a dissonant, claustrophobic synth progression.
Other cues like “DOC”, “KDN”, “KUR”, and “PDR” present whirlwind mixes of various genres of electronica, cycling through multiple sections full of extremely detailed instrumentations – before diving head-first into massive EDM choruses. This is music that gets high on its own inventiveness, bursting into enthusiastic club bangers. Once more, Mineda and Kori astonish with their performances. “KDN” sees particularly Kori going through a tour de force as she covers the entire spectrum from deep-throated swagger to childish innocence in one coherent performance. Another way the soundtrack reaches maximum altitude is by adding orchestral elements. Given the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack’s unrelenting nature, it’s not surprising to hear strings and a choir topping off the soaring chorus on “Eternal Silver”. “MKN” is more intriguing still, building its mid-tempo beats around an almost Baroque-sounding woodwind ostinato, before using elegant string orchestrations to add a touch of classiness.
And then there are those compositions that opt for all-out warfare. “BUR” opens the hunting season with gargantuan synth pulses and vocals that might well be doubling as air raid sirens, before the cue crashes into hardcore techno stylings that back barely controlled vocals. Hardcore techno again raises its abrasive head on “WIC” – supported by wiry, gnawing guitars – and on “Suicide Prototype”, whose chorus sounds like suns exploding. “Distorted Happiness” and its mix of discordant electronics, metal guitars and catchy pop melodies recalls some of metal wizard Devin Townsend’s works. “Q – Love – Señorita” presents a similar mix of sweet singalong qualities and punishing metal sounds, while adding in a wild, disorienting piano solo before the cue accelerates into a blazing finale. It’s a beautiful encapsulation of the The Caligula Effect 2 soundtrack – a brazen work that ceaselessly demands attention, but rewards such efforts with an absolutely exhilarating experience.
- 01 - Alter Garden Various 3:31
- 02 - BUR Various 3:49
- 03 - Designed Desires Various 4:53
- 04 - Distorted Happiness Various 4:19
- 05 - DOC Various 4:37
- 06 - Eternal Silver Various 4:11
- 07 - I'm Just Praying Various 3:42
- 08 - KDN Various 4:01
- 09 - KUR Various 3:12
- 10 - Miss Conductor Various 3:25
- 11 - MKN Various 4:29
- 12 - Orbit Various 2:49
- 13 - PDR Various 3:41
- 14 - Q - Love - Señorita Various 3:38
- 15 - SINGI Various 4:19
- 16 - Suicide Prototype Various 3:52
- 17 - SW Various 2:36
- 18 - WIC Various 2:56
- 19 - xxxx/xx/xx Various 3:55