Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version
Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version
PSCN-5021/3 (1st Edition); NTCP-5021/3 (2nd Edition)
March 25, 1995; October 1, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Chrono Trigger was a unique RPG for Square at the time of its release. Relying heavily on its Final Fantasy series as its cornerstone, Squaresoft always took a risk when it released games outside of its main strengths, but in the SNES era, these risks always produced fruitful outcomes. Masato Kato, the man behind the Chrono series, created a beautiful game that took the player through various time periods in order to stop a being called Lavos from destroying the world in 1999 A.D. To accompany such a riveting story, new composer and former sound programmer Yasunori Mitsuda was given the chance to compose for the majority of this game, while Nobuo Uematsu completed the remainder.
Nobuo Uematsu, the man behind the music of Final Fantasy, offers only nine tracks and served as an arranger on another. How do his compositions fare on this soundtrack? Overall, it’s a mixed bag. There are obvious gems, but at the same time, there is also utter trash. Of the favorable tracks, the tracks that deserve the most attention are “Silent Light,” “Underground Sewer,” and “Sealed Door.” The former two are both area themes and serve their purpose quite well. The utilization of the various instruments caters well to the surrounding environments. For example, in “Silent Light,” the use of organ and piano create something befitting for the cathedral in which you are exploring, while the mysterious nature of this track helps to create some tension and atmosphere. As for “Underground Sewer”, the same mysterious nature of former track is highlighted in this piece, but does so with the use of running water, a flute, and some plucked string additions. The latter of the three tracks is probably Uematsu’s best contribution on the soundtrack. Mysterious and foreboding, “Sealed Door” is a gripping composition that takes the listener into a world of magic. The use of piano and strings is an effective combination in this regard.
Unfortunately, Uematsu also produces some utterly vile compositions as well. To start, “Bike Chase” is probably one of Uematsu’s least inspiring pieces. Essentially a 26 second piece that is quite repetitive to begin with, is brought to an even higher degree of repetition, and thus utter boredom, when the listener discovers the length to 90 seconds long! The lesser of two evils, the prehistoric compositions, aren’t too much better. Both pieces, “Primitive Mountain” and “Burn! Bobonga!”, are extremely repetitive. While the former has some interesting instrumentation, it suffers from a fairly static bass line and melody. The latter adopts a tribal atmosphere, but again, suffers from a fairly static melody and bass line. Uematsu’s arrangement of Noriko Matsueda’s “Boss Battle 1” composition is probably middle ground for Uematsu’s contribution. It definitely has his signature flair for battle themes, but as is the case with his less than stellar performance on half the soundtrack, it suffers from some repetition, despite being a fairly solid arrangement.
Yasunori Mitsuda, the man in charge of the rest of the compositions, offers a very diverse array of compositions, with each section of said compositions defining the picturesque world in which they are depicted. Before moving onto the era pieces, let’s start with Mitsuda’s character themes for the game. Of the character themes, the most famous has to be “Frog’s Theme.” Militaristic in style, optimistic in composition, the use of percussion, brass, and piccolo create a unique harmony and melody. Following “Frog’s Theme,” in popularity, most likely belongs to “Magus’ Theme (or “Battle with Magus” to be correct). While this is definitely an interesting composition, over time, it’s lost its flair. The contrast between the fast and slow sections is nice; however, the transition between them is usually abrupt. “Chrono Trigger,” the theme of the main character, is grandiose in terms of scope and offers a very unique and motivating melody. The strong percussion, coupled with the constrasting sections of brass and string, offer a stunning color to the entire soundtrack.</>
Moving on to slightly less spectacular character themes, Lucca’s theme, otherwise known as “Fanfare 1” is an extremely colorful piece. It offers a nice contrast to some of the more serious character themes mentioned above, however it suffers from extreme repetition. The industrial sound, paired with a jovial melody, heard in “Robo’s Theme” also offers a nice contrast to the serious character theme. Unfortunately, “Ayla’s Theme” is probably the weakest of the themes. It seems uninspired, clichéd in terms of instrumentation, and only serves to accentuate the overall mediocrity that is 65,000,000 B.C. Of course, there are also character themes for certain NPCs in the game, however, most aren’t worthy of mention, despite the unique flavor that add to the soundtrack. The exception to this is “Schala’s Theme.” This piece is the epitome of the magical nature seen in 12,000 B.C., the era of Zeal. The use of bells, woodwinds, and soft percussion create a mesmerizing character theme that can hold its own against the aforementioned pieces.
While the character strengths may be a strong point on this album, the same cannot be said for the battle themes in this game. As always, here lies Mitsuda’s biggest weakness in his early days. “Battle 1” is a nice composition with some interesting instrumentation, and is probably the strongest of the battle tracks, in my opinion. The unique use of the xylophone is something not oft seen in battle theme compositions. “Boss Battle 2” is certainly epic in terms of composition, but the melody is lackluster. It never truly develops and the static bass line really doesn’t help matters much. The two final boss tracks, “World Revolution” and “Last Battle,” are probably polar opposites in terms of composition. “World Revolution” intermingles some “Lavos’ Theme” and “Chrono Trigger” into the mixture creating a melody that ties together the two opposing forces, but in the end, it’s a track that you’ll either love or hate. “Last Battle” is a more electronic-based track, which is definitely a nice contrast on the album, but suffers from repetition and another lackluster melody.
This finally brings us to the largest strengths of the album, the tracks that correspond with the various time periods the main character visits.
1000 A.D. is the time period in which the main character, Crono, lives. Introduced here within are compositions of the quaint nature. “Morning Sunlight,” “Peaceful Days,” “Memories of Green,” “Guardia Millennial Fair,” and “Gato’s Song” are the main players in this era. “Morning Sunlight” is a nice introduction into the game with the sounds of fireworks, seagulls, and a pleasant flute melody. This works quite well in introducing the player into the world of Chrono Trigger. “Peaceful Days” utilizes some a nice woodwind and string composition to create an extremely relaxing composition and is one of my personal favorites. “Memories of Green” is a very mysterious piano and woodwind composition that serves as this era’s overworld theme. While fairly repetitive, and probably the weakest of the 1000 A.D. pieces, there is a certain charm in this track. “Guardia Millennial Fair” is a nice jolly track with tons of contrast. From interesting rhythms and a multitude of instruments, this track is definitely a winner in my book. To round off this time period, we end with a track that definitely has received a cult following. I’m talking about “Gato’s Song,” of course. While nothing spectacular, it still has a nice melody. The reason for its success, in my opinion, is how well the English lyrics go along with the melody.
600 A.D. is the time period in which a fair portion of the early story takes place. Within this era, the compositions displayed are mainly of the mysterious nature. These tracks include “Wind Scene,” “Secret of the Forest,” and “Manoria Cathedral.” The overworld theme for this era, “Wind Scene” creates a very mysterious world theme, like its 1000 A.D. counterpart, but does so utilizing piano and strings. The effect is definitely a compelling result and probably the best overworld theme in the game, in my opinion. “Manoria Cathedral” is a short composition that utilizes organ and piano to create a very haunting atmosphere, but suffers from repetition and a lack of development.
2100 A.D. is the time period in which the effects of Lavos can be witnessed. Within this era, given the context, the listener can expect to hear fairly atmospheric pieces and sad pieces, however the area themes tend to take on more of a jazzy nature. “Ruined World” is probably one of the weakest tracks on the album on a standalone basis. Used as the overworld theme for this area, very little instrumentation is actually utilized. The melody created is very depressing in nature and the use of wind effects demonstrates a barren land. “The Day the World Revived” is a fairly sad piece as well. The melody is very basic and the instrumentation simple, but it manages to pierce the heart and, at the same time, offer some hope. The two jazzier pieces, “Dome 16’s Ruin” and “Remains of Factory” are similar in structure. A jazzy bass line dominates both tracks but the melodic counterparts differ greatly. The former is mainly synth sounds while the latter uses xylophone.
65,000,000 B.C. is the time period in which Lavos arrives on this world. Primitive in nature, as such, the compositions featured portray this quality quite nicely. Fortunately, Mitsuda only offers a few tracks to one of the weaker sections in the game in terms of compositional quality, one being the aforementioned character theme and the other being “Rhythm of Wind, Sky, and Earth.” Unfortunately this track suffers from a total lack of development. Essentially only percussion, the entire piece is just monotonous and boring, but, in its defense, fits the time period quite nicely.
12,000 B.C. is the time period where magic flourished. In this era, Mitsuda creates some very magical pieces as well as some very dark pieces. Another favorite of mine, “Corridors of Time,” offers a very nice calypso style. The steel drums, coupled with the zither, make a wonderful pair and harmonize quite nicely. “Zeal Palace,” on the other hand, is a much more gloomy composition. The instrumentation featured in this piece mesh well together to create a very dark piece. Ranging from piano and strings and ominous percussion, the true nature behind Queen Zeal can be seen within this composition. “Ocean Palace” is a very dark area theme that utilizes the same instrumentation seen in “Zeal Palace” and makes another fine addition to the soundtrack. “Black Omen,” while not really part of any time period, surfaces first within this time period. Since the “Black Omen” is able to transcend time and appear in any time period, the composition reflects this. The mysterious nature seen in 600 A.D., hints of tribal flair from the prehistoric era, the atmospheric nature observed in 2100 A.D., and the magic of 12,000 B.C. are all seen within this composition, making it a nice piece to tie together the entire game.
Chrono Trigger was Yasunori Mitsuda’s first venture into composing for video games. As such, the overall outcome is amateurish in nature, something Mitsuda even admits to himself. The tracks are fantastic in context, but suffer while taken out of context. While some may differ with the opinions expressed above, I stick by my opinion. I will agree that, on the whole, for a first attempt at one of the more crucial aspects of any RPG, he does a fantastic job at matching the context of the game quite well, despite some shortcomings if the tracks are listened to on a standalone basis.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 19, 2016.