Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack
Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
December 18, 2000; June 29, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
Most people who buy Chrono Cross do it in expectation of it being another Chrono Trigger. They’re right, in the fact that both are masterpieces. However, Yasunori Mitsuda achieves it this time in a way that is rather unexpected, especially to those who love his particular brand of music. Set up along three CDs, the soundtrack, like the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version, seems to be set in roughly the same chronological order as the game; listening to the three CDs in order would be like listening to the game story itself.
The thing that first strikes the listener upon listening isn’t so much as the music itself, but rather the sheer quality of the instrumentation. I really did not believe at first that this kind of music could come out of a PlayStation. This is especially true when the first track happens to be “Chrono Cross ~Time’s Scar~,” one of the most dynamic tracks in the entire CD, if not the most. This is largely the results of synthesizer operator Ryo Yamazaki’s work.
Despite appearances, the first track does not set the mood for the rest of the CD; this dynamic and fast-paced piece belies the tone the rest of the Original Soundtrack takes, with very few exceptions. Unlike his previous work, Xenogears, Mitsuda chose to take a very laid-back approach; most of the tracks, rather than being intense, convey a sense of brightness or even cheerfulness, in some cases. To be more accurate, the music reflects the palette that is used in this game — colorful, bright, unrealistic, sometimes seemingly out-of-place, but almost always oddly appropriate, never clashing. Mitsuda definitely has improved upon his skills as a composer; the music no longer goes to extremes in order to convey a mood as it did in his previous works. The result is a soundtrack that is eminently listenable; with a relaxed and almost sweet tone to the music, it never jars on the consciousness and can be listened for hours on end.
That said, Mitsuda goes out of his way to say how much of a sequel Chrono Cross is; many of his tracks revert to the peculiar, whimsical style that he used in Chrono Trigger (dressed up appropriately according to technological advances and increasing leanings towards Celtic/Irish music). While there are few outright deliberate cut-and-paste Chrono Trigger themes, hints of melodies here and there say it aloud more than anything else. The music to Chrono Cross definitely stands apart in quality and in composition from that of Chrono Trigger, but it never forgets its roots. Stylistically, the music is similar enough to bring a happy tear to Chrono Trigger fans; many of the tracks, while new and beautifully composed, will still bring the listeners to search their memories for a particular “matching” track from Chrono Trigger. And for one or two tracks, there simply isn’t a need to search — some are deliberate remakes, dressed up to the nines, such as “Victory ~ Gift of Spring”, a jazzed-up version of the victory fanfare from Chrono Trigger.
Instrument-wise, this is the first time Mitsuda uses electric guitar at all; in his previous works I’ve never heard it used, or if it was, never as a major instrument. Also new is his use of piano, another instrument he never used often in his previous works; however, it adds to the very laid-back and relaxed approach to the music and is very appropriate. Vocals take a backstep from Xenogears; the lack of choral pieces notwithstanding, the usage of vocals is far more sparse and far less tedious. As in Xenogears, vocals show up in the battle songs to enhance the mood; in fact, all the battle songs in the Original Soundtrack display vocals, from chanting to eerie wailing. Outside of that, vocals are used to add a peculiar ambience to certain non-battle tracks. The melody, combined with the voice used, is most often eerie and always haunting.
There is, of course, the sentimental vocal song for the end of the game, “Radical Dreamers ~Unstolen Jewel~.” As usual, Mitsuda does not disappoint with this gorgeous song. While the song is entirely in Japanese — unlike Xenogears — it doesn’t detract from its beauty even for those who can’t understand the lyrics. The singer produces a childishly sweet voice, heard clearly against the guitar accompaniment. The utter simplicity of the song belies its beauty; it evokes a wistful and almost sad mood that words simply cannot describe. One might be inclined to think that the song “Radical Dreamers,” despite its lack of hype and vicious price tag, is far more beautiful than Faye Wong’s “Eyes on Me.”
Battle tracks might be the one area that Mitsuda disappoints. Battle themes are sparse and unmemorable compared to the rest of the tracks in the game, a rather unusual turnabout since battle tracks tend to be the most memorable. This is not to say that they are badly composed, they are merely eclipsed by other tracks, which may or may not be a bad thing. One particular exception, however, is “Dragon God.” Similar to the track “Awakening” in Xenogears both stylistically and instrumentally, it is a powerful track and one of the highlights of the third CD, only eclipsed by “Radical Dreamers ~Unstolen Jewel~.” The vocal chants throughout the theme adds to the drama and tenseness of it, causing it to linger in the mind.
Overall, the Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack is definitely worth buying, especially if you are a Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version fan. Some may be turned off with the laid-back feel the soundtrack, but the majority should welcome this with open arms.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Sharon Sung. Last modified on January 19, 2016.