Chrono Trigger DS Original Soundtrack
Chrono Trigger DS Original Soundtrack
July 29, 2009
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. The Chrono Trigger DS Original Soundtrack is largely a reprint of the original score, but features a few changes. One major change in the soundtrack presentation is that the transitions between discs aren’t accompanied by warped sounds, but rather cutscene arranged tracks. Furthermore, there are four exclusive compositions at the end of the soundtrack and a DVD featuring orchestral recordings and an interview. Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer, new and old…
Yasunori Mitsuda was in charge of the DS score rather than the Square Enix in-house team. That’s a good thing given we all know what happened with the Nintendo DS score for Final Fantasy IV. That said, he kept it as close to the original SNES sound source as he could rather than completely rearrange it. I think he did a great job in retaining that classic sound. So now, onto the music!
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.
Back when the game was released in November 2008, it featured a bonus promotional item featuring two arrangements. One was for the main theme, “Chrono Trigger,” while the other was a medley of a variety of themes. These pieces are also featured on this release, but on the bonus DVD that also contains the interview with Mitsuda. In order to really get into the feel of Chrono Trigger, one must always consider the main theme. Very cinematic and epic in approach, the orchestration highlights the strengths of the original. The strings carry the melody excellently, while the lush brass and percussion helps to fortify it even further. Overall, it’s a very nice translation of the original. It doesn’t really push any new ground and is rather short, but it definitely brings a lot more color to the original music.
The other piece on this small promotional album is a medley featuring a variety of popular themes from the original soundtrack. Starting off with “Premonition,” the listener is greeted to a mysterious sounding piece that is full of flute flourishes and some brass. The piece that follows is “Guardia Millenial Fair” and is another piece that retains the high spirits of the original, mainly due to the exquisite woodwind work. Continuing on with a woodwind focus, “Wind Scene” follows after a harp gliss with a nice focus on flute and strings. It definitely adds to the mystery heard in the 600 A.D. piece. Following that is my favorite piece, “Frog’s Theme”. Unfortunately, it is way too short. The dramatic nature is retained, but it barely even gets going before it transitions to “Battle with Magus”. This is another dramatic piece, and once again, it barely gets going. The focus on brass fits, but I really do wish these two pieces were fleshed out a bit more.
After such a dramatic few tracks, the peaceful string-led “Epilogue ~To Good Times~” greets the listener and retains the simplistic beauty heard in the original. As one would expect, the medley ends with “To Far Away Times,” a brass led piece with some string accents. Personally, I think the brass takes a bit too much away from the delicacy of the original. My one huge gripe with this entire medley comes in the form of the transitions. Many of them are nonexistent with abrupt changes in tone and pace. Furthermore, the lack of development on some of the most popular themes on the medley is rather discouraging. When featuring seven themes, the running time of 4:11 is rather short. If it was longer, many of the pieces could have had a longer run time, while at the same time, allowing people to enjoy the more popular themes.
Speaking of arrangements, the Sekito arrangements from the Chrono Trigger Original Soundtrack release are also featured on this release. Like I said in my earlier review, unfortunately, some of the arrangements have multiple parts, such as “Chrono Trigger” and “Crono and Marle ~ Far Off Promise” and are essentially the same thing just arranged differently. Sadly, some of these arrangements are less than a minute in length. Aside from the original “Chrono Trigger” arrangement, the others are around 40 seconds long so that they fit the FMVs for the game. Unfortunately, the original arrangement isn’t too spectacular. It essentially adds some instrumentation here, such as a strong brass section, which only serves to accentuate what seems like original material. Sadly, many of these arrangements follow the same style. “Ayla’s Theme” is another culprit of shoddy arranging, but still manages to be enjoyable.
On the other hand, Sekito also manages to suck the life out of some rather stellar original tracks with some of his arrangements. “Schala’s Theme” takes out all the magic and creativity out of the original. It loses that nice and necessary rhythmic percussion line and only opts for the xylophone section, which even seems a bit toned down. There is some dramatic percussion towards the end, but it’s rather pointless. “Frog’s Theme,” on the other hand, tries to succeed by changing instrumentation a bit, but ultimately fails in the end. The beginning is a mixture of flute with occasional acoustic guitar accompaniment, while the meat of the arrangement relies heavily on the same bombastic brass. Unfortunately, rather than keep with a woodwind track, which in my opinion made “Frog’s Theme” so wonderful, Sekito replaces it with a string section. Compared to the original, it just lacks that bite I loved so much.
Fortunately, there is one arrangement on this album that is at least original in execution, and that is “Ending ~ Burn! Bobonga!~ To Far Away Times”. While it may be a bit disjointed, I rather like the medley effect. Starting off with a bombastic arrangement of “Epilogue ~ To Good Friends,” the track immediately catches the attention of the listener. While the next portion, the arrangement of “Burn! Bobonga!” is the weakest of the medley; however, I enjoy the nice drum usage. Moving on to “Frog’s Theme,” we are treated to a nice string arrangement with some woodwind usage in the end. I rather like this one a bit more, because the string accompaniment is quite motivating, rather than the brass. To end, we are given a fantastic piano melody of “To Far Away Times”. It has motivation and ends the track quite nicely. Unfortunately, it also ends a bit abruptly.
Lastly, there are four extra compositions exclusively on this album. There were all composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito originally for the PlayStation release and were featured as bonus dungeon music and whatnot. This makes the album the most complete version of the soundtrack. I wasn’t particularly a big fan of these. Sekito tries to emulate the Chrono sound, but ends up falling short, in my opinion. “A Meeting with Destiny” definitely features a more electronic soundscape with some orchestral melody lines, but it’s far from memorable. “One Sunny Day When We Met” gives off a very calypso and tropical vibe. The problem with this, of course, is that it’d fit more within the Chrono Cross game. The melody is pretty good, but I think it’s out of place in this game. “Scattering Blossoms” is reminiscent of the Chrono Trigger universe, with its subtle piano and strings work, but while pleasing, the melody does leave a bit to be desired. “Time to Rest ~ After the Battle” starts off with the signature clock sound effects that open up the original. This leads into a music box and orchestral theme. It is the best one of the four extra tracks, boasting a fabulous melody, and manages to fit pretty well in the universe of Chrono Trigger.
While Chrono Trigger is far from my favorite Yasunori Mitsuda soundtrack, it does hold a special place in my heart for being an extremely effective tool while playing the game. 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. There are a few bonuses for those who already own the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version, but they’re not great ones. The orchestral arrangements are hardly ground-breaking, the cutscene arrangements are short and sloppy, and the exclusive compositions don’t quite capture Mitsuda’s goodness. The reprint is the one to go for if you’re a completist or a new fan to the series, though the original version is still the most consistent and, in some ways, wholesome.
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.