Note: “Maou” was renamed “Magus” in the American release of the game. When you see “Maou” in the tracklist, know that it is synonymous with “Magus.”
Hey, it’s another version of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack! As if we needed another one.
Before we get to the music (which is, of course, completely awesome), let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why this soundtrack exists. Is the music any different because this is the soundtrack to the DS port of an SNES game? Nope, it’s the exact same. There are some bonus tracks tacked on that were arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito for the PlayStation version (and released on a one-disc print of the OST in 1999). So, yes, this is a more complete printing. But let’s get to the real reason why this soundtrack exists. That and, I suppose, to flaunt more video content on the bonus DVD. And to get those five previously-unreleased bonus tracks from Sekito out there (see end of disc three). So, okay, there may have been more than one reason. But the Square Enix ownership thing is, I would argue, still the primary reason.
The full, three disc “Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version” was printed by NTT Publishing in 1995. And NTT reprinted this same album, along with dozens of other Squaresoft soundtracks, a decade later (in the “NTTP” catalog series). NTT has their own version of the soundtrack, and they make money off of those sales. Square Enix, not so much. So let’s ask ourselves again: why does this print of the soundtrack exist? Yes, that’s right, as a way of saying “here’s the best, most complete version of the music, direct from Square Enix’s music publishing house.” That is, in my opinion, the one and only reason why this soundtrack exists.
Now that we have that statement out of the way, let’s reconfirm a simple fact for ourselves here and now. Is this soundtrack awesome? Yes, yes it is. A collaboration between two titans of VGM (Uematsu and Mitsuda), as a soundtrack for the “dream team” RPG of the 16-bit era, is something we must never forget. And it’s hard to forget, indeed, with so many memorable compositions packed into one soundtrack. Even quote-unquote “generic” dungeon themes like “Light of Silence” or “Secret of the Forest” will immediately flood your mind with memories of this classic RPG. And are they not powerful and positive memories? Of course they are. The music is fantastic, as is the game.
Some quick thoughts on tracks 20 through 24 of disc three (the previously unreleased tracks from Sekito). There are a lot of melodic themes that we find in the game’s official tracks that were also here. These tracks were all used in the bonus (Omake) menus, etc, for the PlayStation version. Among them, I’d argue that the best one is “Time to Rest – After the Battle.” It’s a bouncy, catchy track that you would not expect to hear from Sekito. The other unreleased tracks seem bland and half-thought-out. Nonetheless, They all have that Chrono Trigger feel, primarily because they use the same soundscape from the SNES FM-synth days, so it’s good that they were placed on this new soundtrack.
If you have never played Chrono Trigger, or if, somehow, you didn’t pay attention to it while playing the game, let me do my best to briefly explain what makes it so great. The chord progressions in most pieces, for starters, are fresh and interesting for an RPG. There’s a part of you that feels like this is par-for-the-course, easy-on-the-ears stuff; and yet, another part of you says “no one’s ever done it like this before, and no one ever will.” The synth manipulation on the SNES sound chip was simply fantastic. Ethnic instruments like shakuhachi flutes and Indian tabla drums come out sounding crisp and clean. Everything else, I can’t easily put to words (without it sounding like a fanboy rant, at any rate). You just have to hear it for yourself. It is truly a pinnacle achievement in game music.
I could easily go on and on about my favorite tracks. Of course I love every single track from ther 12,000 BC era. Of course Frog’s Theme is hands-down one of the best pieces of music from a game. And, of course, I appreciate Square Enix taking the time to make this soundtrack a more complete release than any that has come before it. And what it comes down to is this: do you really want to re-purchase this album? Because, if you’re the kind of person that reads soundtrack reviews, you really ought to have it in your collection already. In the strange, off chance that you don’t have it, here’s your latest chance to get in on the action! Otherwise, I’m not sure it’s worth owning twice over. But hey, maybe it is. This is Chrono Trigger we’re talking about here.