Chrono Trigger has been revered as one of the best RPGs of all time and rightfully so. First off, Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball and savior of my generation’s after school routine) did the art for this game. Secondly, this game has one of the best stories in gaming history and the plot twist was crazy (no spoilers here folks). Let’s get to the real reason why we’re here…the music is fire.
If you’re heavier on the gaming side, you’re already hip to the greatness of Chrono Trigger but for the musicians, trust me on this. As ignorant as this may sound, the Japanese body us Americans in terms of composing especially in the video game department. If you don’t believe me, look at Sonic CD. No one likes the US version of the soundtrack but that’s a whole other article in itself. Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack is ridiculous to say the least.
Two names to remember here: Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu. In the 90’s SquareSoft (now Square Enix) had RPGs on lock and the two killers making music on the Super Nintendo’s soundchip for most of their games were these two. Uematsu is best known now for his work on Final Fantasy and Mitsuda got his start with this game. Let me put this in perspective, sound design back then was a process and you just can’t play music and slap it onto a cartridge because games then were no bigger than MP3 files are now. So they had to design the sounds they were looking for, or heavily compress any audio recorded outside of the soundchip. Doesn’t sound like a lot but when you have to fit a game on the cartridge AND the music, you’re going to face some hardships. To overcome these challenges and still make arguably one of the best soundtracks of all time is amazing, even more so that it was a team of two people.
The music does a great job of moving the story along while making every area you reach an event. The intro sequence alone could make my point. You get the sense that something crazy is going to go down just by how the music transitions in this one song. You get a wide range of feelings and locations just listening to it, the opening cutscene only adds to it. This song has a couple parts that could be sampled if that’s your thing. The game has a heavy emphasis on time (which resonates with me especially, see: Time Crisis and TC2: Reloaded) and the sounds chosen for the game do well to communicate that. Choirs, harps, strings and even sounds of a grandfather clock not only help fulfill the Chrono name but also shows the importance of time in the overall plot. This is pretty prevalent in the song Brink of Time, which I just so happened to sample…
The most common music you’re going to hear are the battle themes and these don’t disappoint. RPGs are known for hitting you with the same music for common fights constantly and if the songs are trash it can ruin the experience. With two main battle themes and a couple for boss battles, the variety for battle music isn’t there but the longevity is. The first battle theme does a good job of making minor battles feel important and the tune is catchy enough to hold you until the second theme kicks in a good ways into the game. Boss battles in gaming in general are treated as a special occasion (unless it’s Shadow of Colossus or Cuphead) and this is no exception. The boss music for Chrono Trigger is worth the time spent getting to the battles themselves. Boss Theme 2 is a great example of this and probably one of the most sample-able (coining that asap) tracks in the soundtrack. I even put Funkmaster Flex’s rant over it, makes the rant that much harder.
I could go on for days about how dope this soundtrack is but I’ll leave you with this: Chrono Trigger is peak golden age gaming. The soundtrack to this game has had numerous arrangement albums, remixes and re-releases on top of the game being released again for multiple consoles. Hell, even Wiz Khalifa sampled Chromo Trigger. If you haven’t played this game, do it. The game is even on mobile phones, there’s no excuse. The mobile version is based on the Nintendo DS port which has some changes to the game and soundtrack but it’s still worth experiencing.
For producers reading this, don’t be a cornball and just listen to the soundtrack to sample it. Play the game and understand thematically where the songs are going, then sample. Nothing worst than someone sampling music they know nothing about just because it’s dope. Don’t appropriate game culture for a quick hit, know what you’re sampling. Besides, myself and anyone else hip to video game sampling already beat you to the punch.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Get at me dog @luxurytakz worldwide.