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Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack

After a year of hiatus, Yasunori Mitsuda reappears as the crafter of yet another wonderful game soundtrack, one which I have come to enjoy a great deal. It’s not the greatest of game music wonder, but it certainly seems close. There are many reasons I have to recommend this. One may enjoy the reappearance of the main themes from the original Radical Dreamers, a game which I have never played, and Chrono Trigger, a soundtrack that, despite it’s rather fanatical fan following, I have never truly found altogether interesting or inspiring. Despite my own knowledge (or lack thereof) of the themes’ origins, I find them to be quite enchanting, especially in their new tear-jerking arrangements.

Unlike previous Mitsuda soundtracks, this one is dominated by relaxing and even lazy pieces as opposed to more oppressive and action-oriented ones. This can be a boon or a blemish, depending on how you look at it. It took me a while to get used to it, but I came to favor it in the end. Also, this new offering pulls us even further into the ethnic realm that the composer seems to be uncommonly fond of. The ethnic influences have certainly reared their heads before, but never to this extent. The Celtic influence in the first track can be heard immediately upon listening. Other tracks like “Another Termina” continue in a familiar tradition of ethnic festival music. These types of tracks can be heard in all of Mitsuda’s works, and I believe that a particular segment in James Horner’s score for the movie Willow (Willow’s return home) is what originally inspired them.

If there’s one wonderful aspect to this score, it’s the abundance of different themes. The thematic richness of Chrono Cross is of unequalled quality in video games, with the exception of Final Fantasy VI; one can’t help but hum the different melodies from time to time after hearing them. This is not limited to just the main themes, but most of the sub-themes as well, which are most notably carried by the town tracks, receiving a generous two arrangements each. Character themes have been cut down a bit, but there are a few. There is a large amount of ambient music as well, and to be quite honest, I don’t believe that any game music composer is as good at it as Yasunori. The best example that I can think of is “Jellyfish Sea”, a spectacular track whose aquatic-sounding nature left me awestruck. Another good ambient track is “Phantom Ship”, which interestingly enough reminds me of the “Ghost Ship” music composed for the game Grandia by Noriyuki Iwadare. With all of the great tracks though, they all pale in comparison to “Life – A Distant Promise”, a track I believe to be Mitsuda’s best yet. This *hugely* emotional version of the Radical Dreamers theme is infinitely gripping, and will surely go down in game music history as a classic.

Addressing the sound quality of Chrono Cross, the synthesis, put simply, is the *best* you’ll hear from Playstation. There is none better. Some of the synth is so good that you may have to pick your jaw up off the floor after hearing it. There are two instrumental tracks (the opening and closing pieces) that obviously top any synth that might have been used.

Like his previous soundtrack, and Nobuo Uematsu’s latest couple, Mitsuda finishes it off the with a vocal piece (another trend that I believe was inspired by James Horner, specifically by “My Heart Will Go On”). Based on the Radical Dreamers theme, it is actually a mixed bag. The Japanese lyrics are good and the vocals are heavenly, but I do honestly wish that the instrumentation had been beefed up a little. I appreciate simplicity in music sometimes, but it seems to me that a solo guitar just doesn’t cut it. The song is so simple that it seems a bit drab and lifeless to me.

Though this is one of the best game soundtracks that you will find, it isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, although this is just as good technically as Xenogears (perhaps even better), it is probably Yasunori’s most difficult to appreciate upon first hearing. If you can believe it, I did not even like this at first, as I was overly interested in hearing what exciting music the composer could turn out. After several listens though, I have come to regard it as my second-favorite Mitsuda score after Xenogears.

Once you’ve got the soundtrack in your head, it’s hard to get it out, and I would recommend it to any fan of game music, with the warning that you may not care much for it at first, due to the lazy atmosphere that seems to be its primary standing point. If you listen to it enough though, I’m almost sure that it will grow on you, especially if you are a fan of the soundtracks of Chrono Trigger or Xenogears. Yasunori’s latest soundtrack may be musically soft-spoken, but it has a loud and profound impact.

Disc 1:

1. Chrono Cross ~ Time's ScarThe opening track is undoubtedbly one of the best. It's a real instrumental complete with a string quartet. This has a very highly celtic influence. One section is an arrangement of the main theme from the prequel Chrono Trigger.5/5
2. The Brink of DeathThe very second track is used as the boss battle music in the game. The odd thing about this soundtrack is it's tendency to have weak battle themes. Some odd chanting vocals show up near the end.3.5/5
3. Home Village ArniA great first town theme. To make up for the dullness of the battle tracks, Mitsuda has created several wonderful town themes which are the true life source of this particular score. This has a great acoustic guitar. The power of the synth is made truly visible here as the guitar sounds incredibly real (it even has sound effects of fingers sliding on frets).4.5/5
4. Time's GrasslandsThis is a full arrangement of the main theme from Chrono Trigger. It is done wonderfully, but I find the sitar quite odd. This is used as the overworld theme in Home World in the game.4/5
5. Dancing the TokageThe first dungeon theme of sorts that has a jazzy feel using arabic instruments. Kinda weird... but I like it.3.5/5
6. ReminiscenceI lovely piano piece. This plays a couple times in the game, but not that much.4/5
7. Beach of DreamsAwesome! As I understand it, this is the main theme from the game radical dreamers. I've never played the game, but I love the melody. This is used as the overworld theme in another world in the game.5/5
8. Another Arni VillageThis is a new, softer arrangement of the Arni village theme for Another World in the game as opposed to the Home World piece.4/5
9. He Sang of FeelingA slow emotional piece with an electric piano. This would sound better if the piano was replaced by better instruments.2.5/5
10. Lost FragmentsThe theme from the opening track is revisited. This is much slower than the intro though. The guitar and violin combination works quite well.4/5
11. Drowning ValleyThis is used in occupied Termina in Home World. It's rather ambient, and sounds quite aquatic.3.5/5
12. Another TerminaThere's always a festival song somewhere in Yasunori's soundtracks. This great tune of course plays in Termina in Another World. I still like "My Village is Number One" from Xenogears better though. Still a great track.5/5
13. Leaving the BodyThe title of this track is very closesly related to the nature of the game. This is another soft track carried mostly by strings.3.5/5
14. Shadow ForestThe background music heard in Shadow Forest. This actually gets rather annoying as it rolls on.2.5/5
15. Snake Bone RoomThis is played when you're sneaking around General Viper's mansion. The pizzicato strings add a slight tension to the music.3/5
16. Victory - Spring's GiftThis is going to go down in history like the Final Fantasy victory fanfare. I actually like it better.5/5
17. Lost Child of TimeThis track could put you to sleep. Not that I don't like it, it's just a little dull on it's own. Interesting string sound effects are added to the background.2.5/5
18. Another GuldoveIf you haven't guessed, this is plays in Guldove in Another World. It seems to me that the acoustic guitar is used too much in this soundtrack. It's really not my favorite instrument. Oh well...3/5
19. Hydra's SwampHydra's swamp is a rather odd spot in the game. This track takes a pop approach. Decent, but nothing special.3/5
20. Dream's CreationThe incredible new "Radical Dreamers" theme is introduced. It's only played by a music box, but that doesn't effect the tear jerking melody one bit. I personally feel that this is Mitsuda's best theme thus far.5/5
21. Voyage - Home WorldThe sailing music from Another World. This is nice, but I like the Home World version much better.4/5
22. Phantom ShipSneaking pizzicato strings induce nervousness as soon as you hear this. Additional music is added to the background as the track progresses.3.5/5
23. Death VolcanoThis fits it's scene well, but suffers from a dull melody.2/5
24. Ancient Dragon's FortThis starts off ominously, but soon changes turns odd. The organ in the second half adds to it, but it never really seems to go anywhere.3/5
25. GriefA quick little track "sung" by a synth children's choir.4/5

Disc 2:

1. Start of the DreamA short and slow atmospheric track.3/5
2. Cleft of DimensionA nice and somber little acoustic guitar solo.4/5
3. Home TerminaThe second arrangement of the Termina theme is a little odd. It still has the light feel of the "another" variation, but this is a bit slower and sounds very scottish.4/5
4. DragonriderThe pace picks up a bit with this exciting track. This features very driving percussion with a variation of the Chrono Trigger theme showing up near the end.4.5/5
5. Voyage - Home WorldThis is one of my favorites. This is a new arrangement of the sailing theme featuring a wonderful electric guitar on top of strings.5/5
6. Home GuldoveNot bad, but I think it would be better if it strayed a little more from the Another version.3.5/5
7. Home MarbuleThis is the town theme that gets heard the most and it's almost entirely on disc 2. It sounds a lot like "Another Termina" but it is toned down quite a bit and not so like festival music.3/5
8. SergeI really don't understand the title of this track because the music has nothing to do with the main character. This music plays on the S.S. Zelbess in home world. It's jumpy and very ethnically flavored.3/5
9. Mysterious Sleight-of-fateThis one actually has a longer title, but I didn't feel it necessary. The track is rather unimportant, but you'll definitely notice it when you hear a voice yell "Crazy!" out loud in the background.2.5/5
10. NapShort sleep track. 'Nuff said.4/5
11. Chrono Main ThemeThe same as the main theme from "Chrono Trigger." This serves little purpose more than adding nostalgia, but I'm glad it's included for that reason.5/5
12. PredicamentThe bass really sticks out in this one. This is heard a lot in the game, but I don't really care much for it.2/5
13. OptimismHave you ever heard Henry Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk? If you have then you will basically understand what this sounds like. This track also highlights the great sound system. The bells sound *incredibly* real.5/5
14. Ghost's IslandA lot like "Death Volcano," but very reminiscent of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.3/5
15. Death SeaThis sounds very much like "Sealed Door" from Chrono Trigger.2.5/5
16. People Trapped by FATEThis track suffers from "James Horner Syndrome" (a great emotional device in the game, but does little on it's own). It's does world phenomenaly well in the context of the game which is a reason I suggest that you play it.5/5
17. Previously Lost LampThis melancholy guitar solo plays when your party is defeated.4/5
18. Earth Dragon's IslandNot the best background music for an underground cavern. This get very tedious after a while.2/5
19. World's NavelA nice and exciting little piece, but it doesn't have a very strong sound.3.5/5
20. GaleThis is just regular old battle music. As mentioned earlier, the battle themes a quite weak in this game (except for the final battle of course). The printers seem to have screwed up because this track doesn't fade away. It just cuts off suddenly.2/5
21. Victory - Summer's CryA much more enthusiastic version of the victory fanfare.5/5
22. Another MarbuleAll that's played for the rest of the disc is variations of the Marbule theme. The remaining tracks underscore a very important part of the game involving Nikki.3.5/5
23. Faeries Make Way for MagicA synth female vocal with acoustic backgroundN/A
24. Etude 1Same as the last track only played by an electric guitar.N/A
25. Etude 2Same only beefed up a littleN/A
26. Magical Dreamers - Wind, Stars, and SeaThe Marbule theme comes full circle with this ethnic rock arrangement.4.5/5

Disc 3:

1. Garden of the GodsThis is an odd track with a children's choir.3/5
2. ChronopolisA lot of people like this track, but I'm not really sure why. It's probably because the piano arpeggios sound like they came right out of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack. I actually think that this is pretty boring.2/5
3. Fates - Gods of DestinyThis sounds a lot like "predicament," but it's a little more fun.4/5
4. Jellyfish SeaI love this track! This sounds so aquatic that it could put you to sleep (complement not insult). Yasunori should have more like this.5/5
5. Orphan of FlameThis music plays when a 'certain person you may remember's house is burning down. This has some interesting operatic tenor vocals.4.5/5
6. The Girl Who Stole the StarsThis is basically used as Kid's theme. It plays at a very important part of the game involving her.4/5
7. The Dream That Dreams DreamsThis wonderful track puts both the main themes from Radical Dreamers and Chrono Trigger and meshes them into one piece. This is not heard in the game, but just during intro.5/5
8. Dragon's PrayerThe music really starts to get dark at this point. This plays near the end of the game.3.5
9. Tower of StarsThis plays in the tower at the end of the game. It's very similar to the previous track, but it includes some eerie female vocals.3.5
10. Frozen FlameA soft variation of Chrono Trigger's main theme is played.3/5
11. Dragon GodWhoa! This incredible track plays for the next to final boss. The composer had to write it as if it was the final battle music because the true final battle had no music, but just sound effects to accompany.5/5
12. Into a Time of DarknessThose sound effects that I told you about.N/A
13. Life - Distant PromiseThe best track out of the whole damn thing. This begins with sound effects from the game which leads into a version of the new Radical Dreamers theme. The sound produced is one of Biblical proportions.5/5
14. Reminiscense - Thoughts not ExtinguishedRead: Disc 1 Track 6.N/A
15. Radical Dreamers ~Unstolen Jewel~The new Radical Dreamers theme is a good one to choose for the end credit vocal piece, but this is bogged down by weak instrumentation (backed up only by acoustic guitar). This is especially unfortunate because the vocals by Noriko Mitose are quite lovely, even if the are a bit childish in nature. I know that a lot of people like this song and I am a little worried about getting flamed for the score I'm giving this...1.5/5
16. Dream's CreationRead: Disc 1 Track 20.N/A

A brilliant soundtrack unfortunately hampered by a few bad tracks here and there. In the end, however, if you want a really wonderful game soundtrack, you couldn't do much better than to pick up Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack.

Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack copyright 1999 Digicube. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect to opinions of Tripod.