Chrono Trigger at 25: Music to time travel to

Eric Abent - Aug 20, 2020, 4:22 pm CDT
0
Chrono Trigger at 25: Music to time travel to

So far this week, we’ve talked about how Chrono Trigger’s story and characters make it one of the best games ever made, but today we’re talking about what might just be my favorite aspect of the game: the soundtrack. I’ve long felt that video game music often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but in the realm of RPGs, that doesn’t seem to be true. It’s never hard to find an RPG fan who will tell you precisely why the soundtrack in their favorite game is so good, and today, I get to be that fan.

Note: There are heavy spoilers for Chrono Trigger ahead. This article series assumes readers have completed the game, so if you haven’t yet, stop reading here.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view of things), I’m still very much a novice when it comes to music, so I can’t talk about what makes Chrono Trigger’s music good from a technical standpoint; I can’t really look through the lens of composition and say “this is what makes this soundtrack brilliant.”

All I can say is that this is the article I’ve been looking forward to writing the most this week, because Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack is perhaps my favorite in gaming. I have a hard time coming up with a song that’s bad or even just okay. Just as well, I’d have issues picking a favorite song because all of them are so good.

Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack was largely composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, though he didn’t do everything by himself. Mitsuda had some help from Noriko Matsueda and famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, who composed a handful of tracks for the game. Interestingly enough, Uematsu is the one who is always counted as one of Square’s “Dream Team,” despite his relatively small contribution to the score – at least when compared to the sheer number of songs Mitsuda composed. Still, it seems Uematsu gets the Dream Team status because by the time he worked on Chrono Trigger, he’d already established himself as a master of his craft.

We’re in a bit of a tough spot because I want to embed several songs from the soundtrack in this article, but there isn’t really a way for me to do that both legally and easily when it comes to the original compositions we heard on the SNES. Square Enix hasn’t uploaded the Chrono Trigger original soundtrack to YouTube, which does complicate things, but we’re not entirely out of options. In lieu of the original compositions, I’ll embed officially-licensed covers created by Malcolm Robinson, a composer who spent a large portion of the 2010s creating and releasing two albums’ worth of Chrono Trigger orchestral compositions.

There’s no shortage of remixes and covers of Chrono Trigger music, but as far as I’ve heard, no one gets as close to the source material as Robinson does with his compositions. If Square Enix were to give Mitsuda himself an orchestra and tell him to take it on the road playing Chrono Trigger concerts, I would expect the songs they play to sound very similar to what Robinson produced for his two albums.

In any case, I think the one of the most recognizable songs is the one embedded above: Wind Scene. We first hear the song early in the game, when Crono and Lucca travel to the Middle Ages to rescue Marle, and it plays as Crono and Lucca are exploring this new era for the first time. It only ever plays on the overworld map, so if you’re going straight from point A to point B, you aren’t likely to hear much of it.

It’s worth pausing on that map and just listening though, because while Wind Scene is a fairly simple song, there’s a lot of emotion to it. To me, it always had this feeling of nostalgia that we associate with simpler times, though that’s probably helped by the fact that this song, more than any, immediately transports me back to being a kid and playing Chrono Trigger for the very first time.

Going hand-in-hand with Wind Scene is another piece called Secret of the Forest. Players will likely hear these songs back-to-back, because Secret of the Forest plays during the Middle Ages as they explore the forests surrounding Guardia Castle. Secret of the Forest keeps the chill vibes of “Wind Scene” going, but this composition definitely has more tension to it. While the arrangement has a certain serene quality, there’s also the indication of danger. There’s also a very awesome bass line that plays throughout, and Robinson definitely does it justice with his cover.

There’s no lack of chill and relaxing music in Chrono Trigger, and while a lot of it is found in the first half of the game, players will first hear “Corridors of Time” closer to the end. Corridors of Time is right up there with Wind Scene as one of Chrono Trigger’s most famous tracks, and there’s good reason for that. Corridors of Time is the theme to the Kingdom of Zeal, a magical kingdom that floats above the clouds in the Age of Antiquity. The track does a really good job of capturing the wonder of exploring a floating city, and it gives no indication of the insanity that awaits players inside of Zeal Palace.

So far, the songs we covered were composed entirely by Mitsuda, but what about the music Nobuo Uematsu had a hand in creating? A lot of the songs and jingles Uematsu penned are absent from Robinson’s albums, but there is one song that made the cut: Silent Light, a song that players will hear a few times throughout the game as they explore various dungeons. It’s hard to explain what I mean when I say this, but Silent Light certainly feels like it has the Uematsu touch in that it sounds like a song that could slot into a Final Fantasy game just fine.

Of course, not all of the music in Chrono Trigger is relaxing. This is a video game about preventing the apocalypse, after all, and stakes that high necessitate some high-energy music. One of my favorite pieces from Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack of course has to be Frog’s Theme. Pretty much every time the focus is on Frog, we hear this song play, but it’s most impactful when he wields the Masamune for the first time to cut through a mountain that’s blocking the path to Magus’s castle. Talk about heroic.

Following that empowering scene where Frog quite literally moves a mountain, we get to Magus’s lair and confront the Fiendlord himself. At this point, we’re already multiple hours into the game, and the entire time, Magus has been positioned as the one responsible for waking Lavos and sparking the apocalypse. The song that plays during the battle with Magus – titled (you guessed it) “Battle with Magus” – is nothing short of epic, and it really drives home how much of a threat Magus is to our party of adventurers (or, at least, how much of a threat they perceive him to be).

Then we have World Revolution, which players won’t hear until the very end of the game. The song plays during the multi-stage battle with Lavos, and it is unquestionably one of the best battle themes I’ve ever heard. I’ll let this one speak for itself.

The last song from Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack, To Far Away Times, is also one of the strongest songs from the game. It’s very much an epilogue piece in the sense that it contains references to many of the themes we hear throughout the game, but it’s also a very hopeful song that’s just a pleasure to listen to. I think it captures the beauty of Chrono Trigger perfectly.

Even though I’ve shared a lot of songs in this article, the selection I have here really just scratches the surface when it comes to the overall quality of Chrono Trigger‘s soundtrack. If you’ve never played the game, I truly believe that the soundtrack is reason enough to play it, but of course, it helps that the rest of the game is fantastic as well.

If you want to listen to Chrono Trigger‘s soundtrack, you have a few different options. If you like Malcolm Robinson’s orchestral arrangements and you want to hear more of them, you can listen to the full collection in Chrono Trigger Orchestral Selections Volume 1 and Volume 2, which are both up on YouTube Music, Apple Music, and Spotify. If, on the other hand, you’d want to hear the original compositions from the game, you can find the Chrono Trigger Original Soundtrack on Spotify and Apple Music.

Throughout this week, SlashGear is publishing a series of articles commemorating the 25th anniversary of Chrono Trigger. There’s one final article to come on Friday, but for now, you can get caught up on the series so far by checking out the links below.

Chrono Trigger at 25: The best game I’ve ever played
Chrono Trigger at 25: A story for the ages
Chrono Trigger at 25: The enemy of my enemy


Must Read Bits & Bytes