The year was 1995. In November of this year, the year of our Lord, the Sony PlayStation would be released in North America and for 11 years would capture the bank ($100mil+) and hearts of video game players spread around this country and around the World, but this isn't about the PlayStation, its about something just as groundbreaking but viewed on a much smaller scale since being a video game's soundtrack is rightfully on a smaller scale than a console. Of course while that is an accurate means of comparison in terms of size, it doesn't measure up to how the original soundtrack of Chrono Trigger, a video game for Super Nintendo who's existence far predates that of the PlayStation, made a name for itself along with the game firstly by spanning 3 Cd's and also having the variety and quality that made it one of the top soundtracks to a Super Nintendo game, or any game.
If thought is put into it, what makes this such a great piece is not the amount of tracks put up for it, or the length in which they last; its the variety of emotions that are captured that are being able to be picked up by first time listeners, and said emotions added with memories of playing the game for those who are experienced with Chrono Trigger. The music presented on here can take you to grassy knolls on an autumn day ("Wind Scene
"), a futuristic castle in the 17th century ("[i]Zeal Palace[/i"), and it can also send you back in time to dance with dinosaurs, if you're into that sort of thing ("Burn! Bobonga!
"). While some are, not all of these tunes are area themes. Some of the pieces on here are sound effects that are good for people who have played the game, but might play the "filler" role for those not used to them. Either way it wouldn't be a very true soundtrack if it were not to feature significant blips of sound that are in the game and that are on occasional remembered.
The main player on this soundtrack is Yasunori Mitsuda, who is a Japanese composer and who on this soundtrack, would create his first of 17+ video game audio accompaniments. Similar being to the rest of his sound creating career, Mitsuda was not without outside assistance on this one. The crew who also composed songs for this soundtrack consists of video game virtuoso (who would soon rise to fame for his work on the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack) Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda. While Uematsu and Matsueda combine to contribute 10 of the album's 63 tracks, the majority of the work falls into Mitsuda's hands. Making 53 individual noises and themes can be a daunting task especially considering how much has to be jam packed into the game and its relatively short length. Working a majority of the time from a keyboard setup, (hence making the tracks sound even more like midis) the tracks can sometimes gain the feel of being electronic (especially the ones meant to sound electronic) but the way he works the synthesizer and adds synthetic drums and bass lines to the mix makes it feel human still. Getting this is necessary considering the music put on here is working with a game with humans (and a robot, and a frog). There are 3 individual sprawling Cd's which makeup the entire piece, and to give this review completeness, each CD will be sectioned off for review.
The first installment of this three part series sets its goals as introducing the piece, and laying down some themes and sounds that will ring throughout the game and soundtrack. It leads off just as how the game does from the beginning Press Start screen with A Presentiment
. The chiming and haunting (OK so I'm being dramatic, so what) ticks of a pendulum are how this is begun, soon to be taken over by a looping piano and synth. Musically it is not much or long (:34) but it makes for good start up screen sounds and beats the hell out of some pure midi looping tune. Taking the unconventional method of not being followed by the game's beginning scene theme; Chrono Trigger
steps in and is one of the track's first character themes. highlighted by the use of drums and the changing midway from synthesized piano opening to a synthesized horn melody and main theme. The song doesn't resort to looping itself and is instead a 2+ minute well orchestrated theme, ending on an exciting combination of the drums, piano, and horn coming together and ending the scene. Putting action, adventure, and opening themes to the side, the first but not last more tender song is next. At the Bottom of the Night
even sounds from the title like a slower more melodic song, and indeed it is. Entering commencement with a couple very melancholy sounding synthesized piano notes, the atmosphere is established as both slow moving and depressing as artificial violin sounds carry the track along while adding lushness. This is a looping track which doesn't work against it, but might give some people who do not know that it loops purposely the wrong idea, and this idea could turn into negative thoughts against the soundtrack and assign it the misrepresenting label of "nice, but repetitive".
The fourth track finally plays into the game, now that the two dominant moods have been established and noted as able to be put in at anytime. Morning Sunlight
begins innocently with birds chirping, bodies of water washing over with waves, and balloons popping. In this time, the feeling of morning setting in, as Chrono's mother wakes him to go to the Fair to a non looping track of light sounding keyboard and morning goodness. The waking up is a short track but it leads to bigger things, namely Peaceful Days
. Here the theme of morning and brightness is continued, lightly playing through and providing music to the world map. The slow soloing on here is performed by a light sounding member of the horn section which guides it along and since the user accesses this screen so much, comes in handy and would need to be a good tune to help the game be what it was, and indeed it did.
Alright so now that map songs and introductions are all set aside, this leaves the areas to be musically narrated. The narration begins with Memories of Green
which sets in upon entrance to certain grassy areas; and is effective in existence for the driving and progressive brass instrument (various) that plays on top of the keyboards backing loop. Proving to be an ongoing theme but not a problem, the instrument's solo loops but the way it sounds on here gives the sound the idea of it coming full circle, and not being repetitive or overly self indulgent. By the later description of that I mean that it plays not because it wants you to hear it again, but the quality and feeling of it makes you want to hear it again, and it is more than happy to satisfy that request. In contrast, the next area specific song is only playable in one area, so it would have to fit the bill to be memorable to that one specific spot. In comes Guardia's Millenial Fair
, where the name is pretty self explanatory as far as where the diapason originates, but the actual music is far different from everything played up to this point. A wealthy piano introduction and eventual rhythm section greets you with the occasional grunting of "huh!", clapping is soon thrown in on the second verse and this is played again.
One of the highlights
of this disc and the track that was also composed by Uematsu is Silent Light
which breaks the trend of horn on piano melodies and allows the piano to accompany itself throughout most of it. Also, what this track keeps to itself is the multiple sections of melodies and solos that are short on time but all contribute to the song. Uematsu uses many effects to create a backdrop for the music to play on, and the backdrop along with the music provides a landscape for a character to play on, not only enhancing the game but giving it life. While this song is used for boss battle exclusively, Boss Battle 1
lets itself be a track you can play anywhere which has given itself highlight
status. A ferociously played and held rhythm section of consistent beats and a frantic quick keyboard provide the base of this song; while the moderately tuned horn plays the melody that just inspires battle, and makes for the perfect backing to host this action. The melody being played over such an abundant rhythm section makes you want to hear it more and more, like a cannon.
Sound effects on this CD: Good Night
, A Prayer to the Road that Leads
While the purpose and mission of the first disc was to serve the beginning of the game while providing it with melodies on maps, beginnings, and giving off a feel of hope; this hope is vanquished and done away with in the second one. The music progresses to the climax and realizations that come in the middle as they do with most stories, this is also the point in time where Uematsu comes through the most, assisting to landscape some of the darkest points.
Our introduction to this section comes with Ruined World
whose name really explains it all and gives a good intro to the ongoing theme that is coming up. The sound shifts with the mood here, transcending from melodies that are stacked with many synthesizers pounding away and repeating, to more of a focus on atmosphere. This atmospheric sharpening is seen in the first half of the track containing no melodies, but a progressing white noise which soon will turn gray as does the song. Slow roaming atmosphere where no life or melodies exist take over now, and then time has changed and so had the tide. What was once such a peaceful and hopeful time has turned into despair and the music has changed with it. The fast coming sweeping noises and harsh winds sound like they are taking your life and soul with them. Once the situation is somewhat taken a hold of and the area explored, the activeness of the music comes back, but still will not be the same. There are monsters everywhere and they are out for you in Dome 16's Ruin
, a title which describes the area and the condition of it. For this low song to go on and be played there would have to be a changed instrument to capture the low-down and dirty feel of the surroundings. Enter the bass, which plays a repeating and hypnotic line over the quickly corresponding drum set. With the pumping bass line plays a rhythm synth that paints the area bleak.
Of course for some signs of doom, Mitsuda would have to reach into his bag of tricks and pull out something that is similar but different to what we have heard so far in order to make a distinguishable villain track and theme. The high pitched organ and malicious sounding pipes that play with it set the foundation for one of the disc's highlight's, Lavo's Theme
to pull through. It really is the end of the world now, the feeling of no going back and eventual doom is so well played out here. Another element that makes this a special song is its refusal to stay in static, and Mitsuda letting this marquee theme branch out and progress as it does, not only in specific harmonies played, but in entire sections of instrumental usage, evil to tender, tender to evil and so forth. Lavo's Theme
is the second longest song on here (clocking in at 5:04) and rightfully so as the emotion and willing progression makes it one of the best.
As exemplified in the tracks to follow, the second installment of this three parted plan isn't all doom and gloom. Near the end of it and middle there are various tune ups that restore the thought of hope and life. Take for instance the life and theme of the robot, Robo's Theme
has an industrial introduction, taking the sounds of clanging machines and adding a dabbing of light sounding keys to the original dark and electronic machine, thus representing his coming into life and light.
Sound effects on this CD: Mystery of the Past
, Fanfare 2
, Fanfare 3
The end is near and its quickly approaching self is made clear with this last collection of 17 songs which take from the climax and deliver an ending. How fitting is in that in a game based on the idea of time travel and skipping around time, the tracks played on the final installment borrow from the periods before and after the current times that have been played, meaning we go into the past and
the future to hear the present (trippy isn't it?). Yes the complex but simple structure which this game is built on and the very same quality that has fetched it the praise it has received and deserves comes out and shows through on the soundtrack as well. Beginning with Singing Mountain
where the beginning sounds act as a reprise to Ruined World
but then is cast off into silence until harmonious piano melodies flood the streets of this song. I realize my over usage of the terms "piano melodies/harmonies" may be being read as tedious but there is no way my words can describe what is happening in this soundtrack. Singing Mountain
acts as the unplaced (re: it was not used in the game) introduction to the beginning of the end, the mixture of hope and defeat played out in a light way which could be the signs of hope overcoming evil.
The new time era begins with the third track on this disc, Corridors of Time
. A brand new sounding piano vibe fills the air, as this new time is met with a tuned down horn, playing low notes but not being a trombone. Notes from this instrument are headed off with the takeover of the keyboard playing the melody. This establishes the tune being played, but what will become of the once focused on atmosphere? Look no further than the next song, Zeal Palace
; a growing and building musical experience, building off the last song while introducing the concepts of mood mixing with melodies and being able to display both.
The main theme of the last disc is "revelation", what had remained as unfinished business and things that were in the air are now finished and grounded here. Even the titled that dictate the music spell out the end. For example, World Revolution
doesn't sound like a title that just sits around and lets things hand around. It comes into its own in the first half minute, horn being played slowly and cymbals quick like lightning clacking together, and then, a reprise. It is the main section of Lavo's Theme
, but sounding like an unraveling instead of a reintroduction. Indeed this character that is "Lavos" seems to have been run into again, but this time what is different? If you were to know from this review I would have played the role of spoiler and that is something I do not want to do.
Overall, the lengthy soundtrack to one of the SNES's biggest games (and my personal favorite of all time) is the perfect partner to the video game. Emotions, melodies, atmospheres, revelations and sound effects are all given the time to grow and flourish and indeed they do. This album is the perfect debut for Mitsuda and would be one that gives him great credit to refer to throughout his musical career, weather it be composing or playing. I cannot help but recommend this to you, if you enjoy music that plays with emotions and also gives a great backdrop to these emotions.
Played the Game - 5/5
Not Played the Game - 4/5