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Chrono Trigger – “Decisive Battle with Magus” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

October 26, 2010

Let me begin by saying this: Magus is a badass. He’s a warlock who fights with a scythe and black magic. He owns a gigantic castle in some prime swamp real-estate that’s garrisoned to the gills with all manner of imps, skeletons, and dark beasts. He turned his arch-nemesis (who’s also awesome) into a frog. And he’s out for revenge against the monster that sucked his sister into the tempest of time. Oh yeah, and he’s got an awesome cape. In short, the kind of guy you love to fight – and what’s even better, you even get to play as him!

Chrono Trigger – “Decisive Battle with Magus” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

The fighters face off as a dark wind blows through the flame-lit chamber, low strings menacing. A grim tin flute whistles through the night, samurai against the reaper. The main battle suddenly strikes with pounding drums, desperate clarinet, doomsday strings, shrill flute, and rattling tambourine keeping time in the chaos of battle before the trumpets overtake the field in a proud solo. In the ensuing route, Mitsuda mixes in evil laughter – the same evil laughter that plays in the previous track, “Strains of Insanity” that sets the tone for the final confrontation. At the end of the loop, the track begins once again with the dark, tense strings of the opening, signaling a lull in the battle, one that will not last long…

The entire piece has a deliberate melody overflowing with malice that smoothly moves from one note to the next, playing quick call and response – Yasunori Mitsuda has a clear talent for composition, even in his early works. This version is from the PlayStation version of the game, which featured a slightly remastered soundtrack. Interestingly, “Decisive Battle with Magus” seems to have been most recently translated as “Magus Confronted” in the Nintendo DS version of the soundtrack (which is not as good as the PS1 remaster. Actually, I like the soundtrack so much, I also have the soundtrack to both the SNES and DS sitting on my shelf!).

“Magus” has seen a flurry of arranges, popular guy that he is. They range from orchestral to rock to…gangsta? Given that Magus has somewhere in the range of 20 noted remixes, what are the best ones?

To start, “Magus” seems to work best with rock, and there are no shortages of excellent arranges. The best of these has to be “Atonement” by Michael “Darangen” Boyd, which is American rock to the core: meaty guitars and face-smashing action. The piece begins with heavily distorted guitar scratching that sounds just like Magus’ evil laughter, but the piece gains its stardom through the mighty drumwork which, when coupled with acoustic guitar and clarinet in the middle is absolute aural heaven. By the end of the song, the guitar has taken on a sawlike buzz that when layered with flute makes for a fine ending.

I have to say though I am a sucker for Jonathan Striker’s “Distortions from Dark Matter” that, while lacking in instrument polish, makes up for it in composition, which is a frantic, chaotic guitar smash through Magus’ castle, complete with various flavors of maniacal laughter. The track never caught on, even at VGMix 2.0, but remained a favorite of mine since day one.

You’ll also want to feast your ears on Star Salzman’s “Black Wind Rising“, the second-most amazing remix outside of “Atonement”. While the piece begins like a standard enough orchestral arrange, it quickly accelerates to an apocalyptic orchestra to synth rock, followed by a frantic electronica symphony that switches focus what seems like once every 30 seconds. With so many different genres in one song, it goes down as nothing short of epic and a must-listen.

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