I had been highly anticipating Blake Robinson’s third volume of Chrono Trigger Symphony for months. The first two volumes were great, but this was where some of my favorite tracks would be. While Robinson didn’t arrange every track from Chrono Trigger, he did follow the track list of the game’s original album, which meant the likes of Zeal Palace and Wings of Time are in Volume 3.
We start off on a high note with Singing Mountain, a track some people still don’t know exists. It wasn’t included in the game on SNES, even though it was on the original soundtrack. In fact, the song never surfaced in-game until the DS remake used it in the new Reptite fetch quest areas. Its obscure nature has always fascinated me, and the fact that it’s a hauntingly beautiful melody makes it a favorite of mine. The Synthetic Orchestra take on this song is heavy on the piano, and despite its different sound, retains the wistful mystique that made me love this song.
I won’t cover every single track, although I’m tempted. Instead, let’s skip to track 3, Depths of the Night, where things really take off with this album. A somber intro blends with a gorgeous choir, on par with Volume 1’s Cathedral.
Then we get to the musical backdrop of many peoples’ favorite portion of Chrono Trigger: Zeal and The Dark Ages. We hear the return of the choir as Corridor of Time bops along, accented with wind, string, and… other instruments I’m not qualified to identify. What this results in is a song as exotic as the locale it was meant for. Schala’s Theme continues this feel of a far-off land, brought to life with an airy feel that just fits Schala herself so perfectly.
Sealed Door — one of a handful of tracks composed by Final Fantasy veteran Nobuo Uematsu — is delightfully ominous and will make you want to open that door even more than you already do. Ocean Palace goes well with tracks 11 through 14, starting with the Black Omen and carrying through to the game’s final battle. Dramatic horns bring a weighty bass to Black Omen, and a sense of adventure to Determination, which is, like the original, a more powerful version of the Chrono Trigger main theme.
World Revolution and Final Battle are already some of my favorite boss themes, so while I feel that it would be hard to tarnish such solid melodies, I was still quite pleased with the results. As true to the original as these two tracks are, the instrumentation at play here really heightens the sense of adventure (and impending doom). And as with the earlier tracks, the vocals interwoven throughout these songs take both to a new level.
Like any good JRPG or epic space-based action movie, we end with a festival. Festival of Stars doesn’t seem to stray far from the original when you listen to it. There’s some instrumentation that’s clearly new, but when I heard it, I felt like it wasn’t very different from the actual in-game audio. I listened to the original to compare, and boy, was I wrong. It is, I think, the genius of these albums that some songs are so true to their source that you can forget you’re listening to a rendition that’s wholly different, thanks to the (synthetic) orchestration.
I don’t need to say much about Outskirts of Time. It’s one of my most beloved of ending themes, and the slow, melodious flow of this rendition makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And yes, the ticking clock sounds are intact.
Here’s the thing, especially for you who skipped to this paragraph (read the rest!): the Chrono Trigger Symphonic Orchestra albums don’t reinvent Yasunori Mitsuda’s iconic soundtrack. You won’t find any hard rock renditions of Frog’s Theme, or operatic vocal arrangements telling a story about Schala’s inner turmoil (though yes, both of those sound lovely and someone should make them). Instead, we have three volumes of highly polished orchestral-like arrangements that were clearly put together by someone who loved and respected the sound of Chrono Trigger. Blake Robinson clearly knows why each song worked so well in its setting, and despite all-new orchestration, he managed to retain the proper “feel” of every single song. It’s a new take on a classic, and a lovingly-crafted one, at that. If you’re a fan of Chrono Trigger’s music, it’s not to be missed.