Chrono Trigger – “Frog’s Theme” (Yasunori Mitsuda)November 23, 2010
One of my favorite characters from Chrono Trigger is Frog, a knight who, while on a quest to defeat the warlock Magus, was defeated in battle and transformed into a frog before the body of his comrade and the shattered sword of legend. Frog lives in exile, unable to show his face to the world of humans, but secretly continues his war against Magus. When Chrono and his friends are ambushed in Manoria Cathedral, Frog rushes in to their aid. However, after the princess is rescued, Frog returns to exile and will not return until the Masamune is forged anew. If, during your quest, you choose to fight Magus instead of take him on your team, Frog returns to his human from as Glenn, the green-haired knight. In Japan, Frog is known simply as ‘Kaeru’, which translates directly as ‘Frog’, but also could mean “to come home”, which is a wonderful play on Frog’s status as an exile. While a rather simple tune, it, along with the character, has become beloved to fans of the game through his humble confidence.
“Frog’s Theme” opens with a blaze of flute, trumpet, and drums, a nice medieval march. This short 15-second intro ends with a flurry of trumpets and a nicely-timed cymbal crash. The second segment is the main part of the song, a 30-second ballad played on a flute or tin whistle. The high pitch reflects Frog’s amphibious nature but also his pride and sorrow at his curse. The piece is still very comforting because it lets you know you have a close friend at hand. While the high notes would normally be hopeful and happy, they are played in a minor key, which communicates sadness and determination. This made the piece perfect for alignment with the Civil War song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again“, in an arrangement by Ailsean, which also used a minor key because it was based off the melody of an Irish antiwar song.
Note there are two versions of “Frog’s Theme”. The first was available on the Japanese soundtrack and contains a longer intro (shown above). The shorter one is only a 30-second loop with the main melody. This one was released on the Nintendo DS soundtrack. I remember when I first heard the version from the SNES soundtrack CD and thought, “This is not ‘Frog’s Theme’!” but now I actually like this version more, even though I feel the introduction is a little unfocused.
There are several excellent arrangements of this theme. When Chrono Trigger was re-released on the PS1, new animation sequences were made, illustrated by the game’s artist, Akira Toriyama of Dragonball fame, one of which was a scene illustrating Frog’s raising of the Masamune to split open the mountain blocking the path to Magus’ fortress. Using strings and flute, the piece moves from Frog’s humility to his confidence in the Masamune, his inner strength and determination.
Select Start is notable for their live performance, but beyond this, there is Ellywu2’s arrange for Chrono Symphonic, which if you haven’t checked out, you should do so NOW because a) it’s good and b) it’s free. The album approaches Chrono Trigger as if to make a movie score, and so “Frog’s Theme” plays twice, once in “Frog’s Intervention” and the second in “The Masamune”, first to illustrate Frog’s rescue of Chrono and his friends in Manoria Cathedral, the second for Frog’s splitting of the mountain (I prefer the second as it has a greater build-up). However, Ellywu2 also composed an extended version, “Frog’s Intervention,” on VGMix 2.0 that was later arranged for Chrono Symphonic. It’s kind of hard to find now, so I’ll upload it here. It’s basically an extended version of
On the Japanese side, EtlanZ does a straight-up arrange while PHOENIX Project has an outstanding heavy metal arrange that, while also fairly straightforward, with original material in the middle, really rocks the frog; it’s like Chrono Trigger meets Brutal Legend. Then there’s the oddball mix, “Kaero do Amuzu” by Piano Forte, which is the spaghetti western arrange. Awesome!