Those of us who came of age during the 16-bit era of JRPGs fondly remember Chrono Trigger as a perennial favorite. One of the most enduring components of Chrono Trigger is its sublime soundtrack. Even with the SNES’s limited sound capabilities, the entrancing music sounded majestic and just plain epic to our ears. So it comes as no surprise that the mere thought of Chrono Trigger’s music played by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra would send fans into paroxysms of delight. And after listening to this, the reality comes within reach of matching that internal hype.
This disc only features eight tracks, but those tracks contain the songs that matter most to Chrono Trigger fans in all their orchestral glory. Hearing the trumpets blaring in the beginning of the iconic Chrono Trigger title melody set the mood for this soundtrack and had me grinning like a blithering idiot. It’s easy to lament the favorite pieces that are not there (e.g. Undersea Palace), but songs such as Guardia Millennial Fair, Frog’s Theme, Battle with Magus, and more are there for fans to enjoy in all their splendor. An added treat was the enhanced version of Gato’s Song, which made an already good piece of music even better. My personal favorite of the lot was Robo’s Theme. Robo was always a very hopeful character and the Tokyo Philharmonic’s performance of his uplifting theme made it even more emotionally stirring.
No Chrono Trigger soundtrack would be complete without the song Corridors of Time. After all, that is among the most beloved and iconic pieces of music in the game. Sadly, I did not like this soundtrack’s arrangement of Corridors of Time at all. It was ethereal sounding, sure, but there was nothing beyond that. The complexity of the original was nowhere to be found, and this arrangement felt completely one-note. Compared to the original Corridors of Time, this version’s tempo was detrimentally slower, lacked the vital percussive elements (i.e. the tabla drums), and the instrumentation was too legato. The buoyancy, syncopation, feeling of motion/movement, and head-bobbing “bounce” of the original were completely missing, and I was left with an arrangement that sounded tedious, lackadaisical, and totally “blah” for lack of a better term. Had Corridors of Time’s arrangement and performance adhered as closely to the original composition as all the other tracks did to their respective originals, then I’d be singing a different tune.
My final thought on this soundtrack is that it’s like the student who did well throughout the school year but flopped on the final exam. Virtually everything in this soundtrack was arrangement par excellence, but the most iconic and beloved piece, Corridors of Time, was a grave disappointment. Everything that made the original song so good was missing here, which left me feeling cold. Oh well, at least I have Robo’s Theme, Gato’s Song, and all the other good stuff.