Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement
Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement
Square Enix Music
September 4, 2019
Buy at CDJapan
Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement is the first official orchestral album for the game, though there have been other official arrangement albums. It releases simultaneously with an equivalent album for Chrono Cross, and is available additionally as part of a box set, following the release pattern set by the NieR orchestral albums from the previous year. The arrangements are shorter form arrangements focusing on just one or two tracks, and even the coupled tracks keep the two halves very separate. The arrangements are thus kept very close to Yasunori Mitsuda’s originals, keeping what make the originals special but not bringing much new other than a sound upgrade.
The album begins with “Presentiment / Chrono Trigger“. From this first track, it is clear that the improvement in sound over the original is fairly significant, given the limitations of the SNES sound chip; it is a much more pronounced difference than with the Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement. The track doesn’t really have any surprises or new developments, as the instrumentation is kept fairly close to the original, even preserving the original clock ticking, but there are a few additional supporting lines added to fill out the sound of the track. The album continues in like fashion with “Morning Sunlight / Guardia Millennial Fair / Gato’s Song.” The first part reproduces the bird calls on strings for a neat atmospheric effect, and the solo melody sounds particularly nice here. It quickly gives away to the spritely “Guardia Millennial Fair” which is rendered rather beautifully, with the strings really bringing a nice texture to the track throughout. “Gato’s Song” also sounds quite good with its beefed up brass. Though its section is very short, it works as a closer to the tracks.
“Wind Scene / Frog’s Theme” is one of the more drastic improvements of the album, sticking to the original structures but really increasing the dynamic with added instruments that create a rousing climax in “Wind Scene”. It would have been lovely enough just sticking to the calm original’s mood, but the change here is very welcome. “Frog’s Theme” is more standard, though I felt there was perhaps an over-reliance on brass, and that the track would have benefitted from more dialogue between the different sections of the orchestra. I also felt that the tracks were a bit mismatched though, with the contrast between them being too strong. The same problem lies in “The Day the World Revived / Robo’s Theme”. The first half sticks closer to its minimal original, though the additional atmospheric textures of the orchestra are nice. The latter does a better job than “Frog’s Theme” did of filling out its arrangement and taking advantage of the full orchestra, even adding some countermelodies, but it is quite stark after the somber opening. Then there is “Brink of Time”, also reproducing its original but building up slightly in its second half. This change however isn’t quite sufficient to make the track feel like it’s actually going anywhere, and so it just fizzles out at the end.
The only enemy battle track of the album is “Magus’s Castle / Confusing Melody / Battle with Magus”. The first two portions of the track are merely atmospheric and quite sparse, so it doesn’t really mark a significant improvement over the originals. Given how empty they are, they go on for quite bit a longer than they need to before getting to “Battle with Magus” where things finally pick up. The battle sounds mostly fine, with minor additions to the arrangement to fill it out, but the main brass melody sounds awkward played basically staccato, and the repeated material could have used more to strengthen the climax.
The album shifts back to its subdued side with “Corridors of Time / Schala’s Theme”. Both halves lose their original percussion, making them feel even more melancholic, but this actually works quite well as the emotional aftermath of the battle that precedes it. Both tracks get a lovely blossoming of sound, but it’s a real shame there wasn’t more interplay between the two themes. The album ends with “Epilogue ~ To Good Friends,” though it’s a bit deceptive because it actually works in many other themes, resulting in what could easily work as a credits sequence, with key themes like “Frog’s Theme”, “Schala’s Theme”, and others making an appearance. Thankfully they at least are a bit different from their counterparts on the album; “Schala’s Theme” for example here recovers its percussion. There is even a bit of interaction between the different themes here, though it is rather short-lived. I’m ultimately a bit torn on how I feel about the track; the incorporation of these other important themes works well for the track and makes sense, yet given how short the album already is, I would have preferred to see other songs get arranged rather than retread over the prior arrangements.
In the end, the Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement album is a pleasant but unambitious rendering of the standout tracks of the original soundtrack. The upgrade in sound over the originals is quite drastic for most tracks, and the arrangements are so faithful to the originals that they have no risk of alienating fans. Given that the other arrangement albums for Chrono Trigger are much more daring and experimental, perhaps it is nice that this one plays it so straight, almost as if it were a soundtrack for a remake of the game. But I still would have preferred to hear some expansions on the materials, for which there was ample room on the album given how short it is, being just thirty-eight minutes long. The short length means that the price of the physical album is quite high for its contents, though the digital version is more reasonable.
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Posted on January 22, 2020 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on January 22, 2020.