Posts Tagged ‘Chrono Trigger’

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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.

Chrono Trigger – “Frog’s Theme” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

“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. Read the rest of this entry ?

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What Makes it Memorable? – Chrono Trigger – “Corridors of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

November 21, 2010

Chrono Trigger has one of the most memorable soundtracks in a game. Looking through all the arranges of Chrono Trigger music, it becomes clear that the most popular of these is “Corridors of Time” (also known as “Chrono Corridor”). With more dedicated mixes than any other on OCRemix (12 to “Schala’s Theme” which has 10) and a popular choice among doujin arrangers, “Corridors of Time” is a good fit for “most memorable piece from Chrono Trigger.” So how does Yasunori Mitsuda do it?

Chrono Trigger – “Corridors of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

First, he establishes an underlying melody using the mystic, ethereal bells playing four notes in a series of four bars, each beginning with a slightly higher note than the next (it is interesting to note that “Schala’s Theme” uses a similar set of notes – 8, to be exact – in a different melodic structure, so the two have a similar level of memorability). This pattern is repeated throughout the entire piece, and the tones selected are pleasing to the ears. There is also a nice echo to the bells, which becomes clearer in the DS version (above). The constant repetition creates a meditative feel (though I suppose alternatively it could make you go mad if repeated long enough!). Thankfully, more variation is added 10 seconds in with some groovy-cool bongoes and almost-liquid drums. Atop this is layered the main melody, beginning at 0:18, with a fine exotic transition. I’m not sure what instruments are used here, but this outlines another key factor to Mr. Mitsuda’s music (particularly this song) – exotic instruments that give the music a unique feel. Bells, bongoes, and hippy guitar – though perhaps it makes us want to ask whether the people of Zeal are meditating on the secrets of the universe or ‘meditating’ on hashish. At any rate, the unique sound of the instruments aids in memorization.

Next, the melodic structure. Here, the first half is comprised of easy notes that maintain a dominant key, returning often to the same two high and low notes with low range, creating two distinct bands of repeated notes that make the melody simple and easy to recognize – but also achieve a set tone that has a meditative quality. It is also important to note that the bottom note in the tonal key has longer notes that are repeated more often, creating emphasis. In the second half, the guitar is replaced with a female choral line. In juxtaposition with the first half, the choral line plays long, high notes, creating a nice contrast in both instrument, scale, and pacing. I also think these high female chorals are distinct and memorable.

Finally, “Chrono Corridor” establishes a tone and emotion that is also distinct and memorable. It is played in a minor chord that recalls something in the ancient past, an exotic location with warm skies where meditation is the primary pursuit. However, the people of Zeal have become so engrossed in their magic and studies up in their guru cloud they have forgotten the people on the snow-covered earth. So while the music seems to have its head in the clouds, there is a sadness here that is ignored – the loss of the earth, a loss of sense of reality.

There are a lot of mixes to “Chrono Corridor”, so it is very difficult to go through them all and find out what are worth the listen. One standout piece is “Corrupter of Time” by Jordin de Bruin and Tweak, a nice rock mix (it’s possible!) done in the style of Metallica. This is four minutes of rock-out with Schala and the Nu’s (I’m calling that their band).

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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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Chrono Trigger – “The Darkest Omen” (arr. mv)

August 14, 2010

I love Chrono Trigger music. There’s something magical about Yasunori Mitsuda’s first work, from the pure energy found in each song to its celebration of life and living. Though many of the melodies are a little simplistic compared with Mitsuda’s later work, they are full of the confidence of youth in the ability to do anything. So I really can’t get enough of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack, which is why I’ve posted another of my favorites, this time an arrangement of “The Black Omen” by mv called “The Darkest Omen.”

Chrono Trigger – “The Darkest Omen” (mv)

“The Darkest Omen” actually originally appeared on VGMix 2.0, but was later republished in the arrange album from OC ReMix, Chrono Symphonic – which if you haven’t downloaded it yet, you had best do so! Incidentally, a good deal of the music found in this album was not original to it and instead incorporated into its structure. In the game, the Black Omen is a giant floating spaceship – actually what was left of the Undersea Palace from the Ancient World – within which the evil queen Zeal reigns over the world. The Black Omen can only be assaulted later on in the game, and it serves as a main portal to the game’s primary ending.

mv took the original theme and orchestrated it with some incredible synths. He makes good use of piano and brass, which enhances the emotional impact of the original by providing greater depth, clarity, and impact to the music. The melody is full of terror and wonder at the mysteries of the place, but also the desperation of the fight. Actually, the synths remind me a little of  Castlevania: Curse of Darkness; they just have that same style, which sort of makes me think ‘this is how Michiru Yamane might have arranged it). The piano, is also amazing, a really fine touch that builds at the end of the first loop and provides a nice counter for the second loop beginning around 2:20. I think it’s the piano that really makes this remix memorable, even after all these years.

mv (aka Xavier Dang) is a professional composer (and mixer) from France. He has worked on multiple GBA and DS games.

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Chrono Trigger – “Jethro and Vash at the Fair” (djpretzel)

March 11, 2010

Following up on last night’s Daily, tonight’s is another remix of “Guardia’s Millennium Fair” by Yasunori Mitsuda, this time by djpretzel, the founder of OCRemix. I love the ehtnic style of this mix – guitar-driven. The song is a reference to Vash the Stampede from Trigun and the band Jethro Tull. djpretzel goes into a bit more detail on the background of this song on the OCR page, so I’ll just link there (needless to say, it was the last song he composed in his old house, so there’s a sense of fond farewellness to the tune). This is the last party, where all the friends are there, and whether it’s a guy with a guitar at the fair or a small acoustic band at the party, it’s a sense of intimacy that isn’t communicated through “Blue Skies Over Guardia” – yet still has that sweeping feel of space extending beyond the music.

Chrono Trigger – “Jethro and Vash at the Fair” (djpreztel)

Anyway, if you’re wondering why this is so short, it’s because I”m at GDC at the moment and spent the past six hours at the Gamma IV event listening to Baiyon unleash an explosion of sound and awesome which has reduced me to speechlessness. I’ll be giving coverage on this for Gametunes later this week.

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Chrono Symphonic – “Blue Skies Over Guardia” (Darkesword)

March 10, 2010

Chrono Symphonic (2006) was an interesting project begun to orchestrate the Chrono Trigger soundtrack as if it were a film. The authors produced a symphonic story based on remixers’ interpretations of the different themes. While it does not cover the entire Chrono Trigger narrative, it’s still a marvelous piece of work. While I like most of the album, Darkesword’s “Blue Skies Over Guardia” is one of my favorites. The whole soundtrack is available through the project’s homepage.

Chrono Symphonic – “Blue Skies Over Guardia” (Darkesword)

“Blue Skies Over Guardia”, though not originally a part of Chrono Symphonic, fits the soundtrack quite well, invoking images of blue skies, white clouds, and a warm breeze amidst the height of peaceful days. The music takes great bounding steps similar to the races at the fair and the joy of dashing about to find what all is in the faire. The theme also makes excellent use of church bells – bells of celebration and also in reference to the millennium bell. Some nice brass gives a mellow feel to the song, while the piano plays the role of tiny bells that dance and twinkle with joy. There’s also a bit of a fun ethnic feel through the bongo drums. “Blue Skies Over Guardia” is thus all about celebration and peace, a very calming meditation on the happiness of the folk during simpler days. It ends just as it begins – with a fading of bells. The final bell toll at the end symbolizes the millennium bell, which initiates a rise to action. The OCRemix page goes into a bit more detail.

Darkesword has composed many excellent tunes, and “Blue Skies Over Guardia” is one of my favorites. It is also one of two fun remixes of “Guardia’s Millennial Fair.” The other, “Jethro and Vash at the Fair” I think will be tomorrow’s Daily.

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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.

Chrono Trigger DS – “Outskirts of Time” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

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”. Read the rest of this entry ?