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A Detailed Look at the Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arranged Album

Chrono Trigger Chrono Cross Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arranged Album Yasunori Mitsuda

You’ve no doubt come across books, television shows, video games, movies or music that you can honestly say have had a profound influence on your life. Two such examples, for me, are Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Without meandering for too long as to their significance to me: I wear a necklace of Chrono Trigger’s Gate Key with me everywhere I go (pictured), and I have a variation of the clock from the logo tattooed on my back. I’ve researched and analyzed the games to death, too.

Part of why this series carries so much significance to me is its music. I recognize its composer’s style, even in games I’m not altogether familiar with. He even helped me to better understand Soma Bringer, a game I imported and played entirely in Japanese (I know nothing of the language, unfortunately). I could write volumes about what led Yasunori Mitsuda’s Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arranged Album to my door. But instead, I’ll just tell you about it:

Similar to Yoko Shimomura’s memoria, Mitsuda and friends created this album to celebrate twenty years of his career. Rather than create an album that honors his work from a plethora of games, they stuck with just the Chrono series, in order to create a more cohesive compilation. Ten tracks from both Chrono games create forty-three minutes of music that mostly carries similar themes and emotions throughout.

I imported the physical version of the album via Amazon JP. The artwork on the case is very stylized. One of the case’s flaps hides the album itself, the other contains a folded up page with lyrics for all the vocalized parts of each arrangement, in both Japanese and English.

Six of the ten tracks on the album have vocals. If hearing voices in orchestral music isn’t your thing, that may be a slight turnoff. But before I go into the specifics of each song -- if I could judge the vocal talents holistically, I’d say they’re absolutely worth it. Among vocalists contributing to the album is Sarah Àlainn, known for her performance of "Beyond the Sky" from Xenoblade Chronicles.

The writers and performers on this album heavily researched the source materials. Their lyrics are meaningful and help to make powerful arrangements even better. My two favorites are "RADICAL DREAMERS" (with English lyrics written by Àlainn) and "On The Other Side" (written and performed by Laura Shigihara). Mitsuda himself is credited with two arrangements on the album, while overseeing all of them. Noteworthy arrangers include Sachiko Miyano (who lent her talents to Ni No Kuni’s music, among other things) and Natsumi Kameoka (The Last Remnant, Inazuma Eleven). Doing just a little bit of research, it seems almost all ladies helped Mitsuda put this album together. It’s certainly refreshing to see!

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The album starts with "Time’s Scar", a song that’s been arranged by everyone from Video Games Live to Symphonic Fantasies. There are two things that make the arrangement on this album unique (besides the lyrics, anyway). One is its prominent use of electric guitar, and the other is how the harmony of the vocalists is used in such a way that they’re almost an instrument themselves.

Next up is "RADICAL DREAMERS", where Sarah Àlainn conveys the message that the end of Chrono Cross spells out with lyrics plus instrumentals provided by Sachiko Miyano. While the song is great on its own, I feel like anyone who got to the end of Chrono Cross on the PlayStation will definitely have a deeper appreciation for this one. "Wind Scene", the 600 AD world map theme from Chrono Trigger, comes after that. This is one of those songs I feel Mitsuda picked because of its popularity with fans. The soft piano is a great way to start, and it eventually leads to a powerful crescendo with a full orchestra that will give even folks who’ve never heard the song before chills.

"Schala’s Theme" from Chrono Trigger has Japanese lyrics that intertwine themes present in both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross -- since she plays a central role in both games. The thing that strikes me the most about this arrangement is how the melody from Chrono Cross’s “The Girl Who Stole the Stars” can be consistently heard, just barely in the background (it’s more noticeable towards the middle of the song), carrying the subtle hint of how Kid from Chrono Cross is connected to Schala in some way.

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Next up is "Frozen Flame" -- by far my favorite arrangement in the album. The original song itself is admittedly a simple one, but you can feel the weight each note carries. Just listening to the preview on the official Japanese site for the album is enough to show you Natsumi Kameoka means business, even if this is your first time hearing the melody. After that comes "Marbule", the only song on the album Mitsuda arranged entirely himself.

While I enjoy what he put together -- in an album that pays homage to how each song fits in either Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross, he made some choices I don’t necessarily agree with. "Magical Dreamers" is a significant song in Chrono Cross where Nikki, a rock star character, puts together a sort of rock opera whose melody (the Marbule song) helps Serge and his companions to save the island from what’s plaguing it. Despite using the electric guitar in “Time’s Scar” -- Mitsuda chose to ignore a perfect opportunity to put together something like “Magical Dreamers” to honor Marbule in favor of just arranging the more folky version of the island’s theme. There’s nothing wrong with Mitsuda’s choice here -- I just definitely would have picked Magical Dreamers over the island’s simpler theme.

After "Marbule" comes “The Bend of Time” or "Dimension Break." Funny thing to note about this song is that it was actually featured before in Play for Japan!, so it’s not my first time hearing it. "Corridors of Time" is another song with English lyrics, this time written by Laura Shigihara. While I like the foreboding nature of this song, I much prefer the sentimentality carried in "On The Other Side". Hearing Chrono Trigger’s most sentimental melody with lyrics that honor friendship turned my heart into a pool of jello.

"To Far Away Times" is the final song of the album, with lyrics courtesy of Sarah Àlainn. She does her best to sing about the significance of time, often alluding to moments that made Chrono Trigger special.


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With "Wind Scene" and "Marbule" being two exceptions, I’d honestly call this album "The Story of Schala." Her roles in both games definitely carry a vast majority of the album’s musical significance. It’s perfectly fitting: she’s the character responsible for Chrono Cross’s more nihilistic mentality, and the one loose end to be tied at the end of both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Ultimately, I’d say the arranged album is some of Mitsuda’s best work. But I can’t help feeling it’s sometimes outclassed by the sixteen minute medley found in Symphonic Fantasies, which covers a wide variety of more popular songs that don’t necessarily tell a complete story, but that carries power all by itself.

The Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arranged Album will be available here in the west soon via the Square-Enix store, but if you can’t wait a moment longer, it’s available both physically and digitally (via iTunes) in Japan.


4 Comments

Great write-up! I'm going back and forth on whether I should buy this, but I think I may actually do so now. Hopefully it'll be less than $20 when it comes over here, though?

 

Regardless, it sounds like a solid set of tracks. I don't think I've ever heard Marbule done outside of the game, so that should be an interesting one to listen to. Not sure how I feel about singing in the album, but I guess I'll find out!

The full album is going for $29.99 MSRP via the Square-Enix store. It's a bit more expensive than you'd think, but worth every penny IMO.

TIL Jonathan has a tattoo. Anyways great writing. I don't mind vocals in orchestral music, but I find them a great addition and makes the music more awesome. I don't own any gaming soundtracks, but definitely would love to buy one of these especially any with Final Fantasy or Square Games. JRPG provides the best music in gaming in my opinion. It's not just music, but the flow and rhythmn that fits the scenes and moments in these games. It's powerful and emotional. My only negative is I never played either Chrono Cross or Trigger (I know GP has bashed me, but do have them on my PS3. I'll get around to them!).

I think I'm going to buy this for my best friend for his birthday.

 

 

 

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