Chrono Trigger – “Outskirts of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)January 1, 2010
For the final track of 2009, I present “Outskirts of Time” from Chrono Trigger (1995), by Yasunori Mitsuda. “Outskirts of Time” is my favorite ending theme and one of my favorite vgm songs ever. Part of this might have to do with how much I love Chrono Trigger and the part of my life I was going through when I played the game, but once you take all that away, it’s still amazing. There are actually three different versions of this song. The first is from the Super Famicom version (1995), the second from the PlayStation version (1999), and the third from the Nintendo DS version (2009). I find the DS version is the best, so this is the one included. Incidentally, the Super Famicom version has a music box track playing at the end.
The instrument selection is fantastic, with maracas (or something similar) keeping the rhythm early on, a beautiful flute, harp, strings, and piano whose notes sound like water gently falling. The rhythm gives a sense of passing time and ticking clocks (at the end, a clock ticking away is actually used) with the main notes of the melody giving a sense of floating away over clouds of dream. In the end, Mitsuda integrates elements of “Peaceful Days”, the main map theme, with its lazy clouds, rolling hills, and majestic seagulls.
Yasunori Mitsuda cried when he first heard his song played back inside the game. He’d written it during a very difficult part of his life – it was his first major project, the first soundtrack he’d actually composed, and he had put an incredible amount of work into it. But he also overworked himself, getting sick with stomach ulcers and was hospitalized for a time (Nobuo Uematsu helped him complete the soundtrack, but the majority of the fantastic work on the masterpiece is Mitsuda’s own). He also reports that his hard drive had crashed and he’d lost half his music. So one night, he was having trouble composing and fell asleep at the computer. He woke up after hearing the song in a dream, and he wrote it down. It is certainly one of his best pieces, and my pick for best song in Chrono Trigger. There’s a nice interview about the DS album here.
On a important note: for the longest time, I’d thought the ending theme was titled “To Far Away Times”, but turns out it’s actually “Outskirts of Time”. This must have been a translation error the original time this was translated. So when you ask many people about this song, they may refer to it as “To Far Away Times”.
There are a few good remixes of this song. Chrono Trigger Resurrection has a lovely straight-up remix, though the strings, choir, and piano seem to have a bit too much reverb. JD Harding’s pretty straightforward remix, “To Far Away Times (revisited)” is one of the better ones, with a lovely instrument set and a slightly ethnic feel, though I feel it goes a bit long in its loop. Neil Benjamin’s “Far Away Memories” has some glorious bongo action with tambourine and guitar – it’s like you’re sitting on the beach in 60’s-ville. There have even been a couple rock mixes (Project Scytia did the best one, with some great percussion at the end), but ultimately the song is better using Mitsuda’s instrument selection (it’s possible a rock guitar can actually not automatically improve something!?). I don’t think the trance versions were very good. Lastly, the late pianist Reuben Kee (d. 2007) did a remix for Chrono Symphonic with singing by Pixietricks – the English lyrics aregood, but her Japanese accent feels flat.
The most unique version of this song is “To Faraway Dreams” by Flik (from VGMix 2.0), which beautifully integrates “Prelude” from Final Fantasy using sleigh bells to keep rhythm. Unfortunately, the piano is too midi – this piece could have used a better sound library. Now this song has two other renditions, and each has a different composer’s name, so I actually don’t know who created the original. The first and best version I heard was by a guy named ‘Squallstrife” and must have come off the OCR WIP forums (the ID3 tags also state 2003). The weird thing though is the tags also say it was mixed by J. Roque. I have yet another version that must have been a WIP from VGMix; the track seems to have slightly better synths but ultimately feels like it has too much reverb. If anyone knows more about it, please tell me!
Yasunori Mitsuda himself did an arrangement of this song on the jazzy Chrono Trigger Arranged Version: The Brink of Time (1995), which isn’t really my favorite album of his. It has some humming of the main melody. “Outskirts of Time” also saw a remix in the anime cutscene ending to the PlayStation and DS Chrono Trigger.