It was only a matter of time before Yasunori Mitsuda received his own Tribute. In the eyes of many, he is considered the greatest game music composer of all time. Not only does his work enhance and transcend the settings of the games, but reaches out and touches the hearts of those who behold it, taking on a life of its own. To me, no other composer deserves a tribute more, and I’d prayed that I’d one day be lucky enough to see it. Thankfully, my hopes and wishes did not go unanswered.
Although Time & Space did not come from Square proper, it sounds like it could have. This tribute features fan-made arrangements of Mitsuda’s earlier Squaresoft work (Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross & Xenogears), by *OneUp Studios*, the powerhouse behind Project Majestic Mix: SQUAREDANCE. However, don’t be scared away by the description “fan-made.” The music and performances here sound as close to professional as one can get, and really showcase the talent of the team.
Good compositions stand on their own, no matter the sound quality. But, when it comes to arrangements, the quality of the music and instrumentation makes a huge difference. As for the quality here, the music and samples are excellent. All guitars, pianos, saxophones, and flutes are real live instruments, and the synthesized orchestral samples are excellent, sounding even better than that of Project Majestic Mix. Added to the fact that the music was recorded live, Time & Space not only sounds wonderful, but does Mitsuda’s work much deserved justice; this is definitely one of the best sounding arranged albums out there.
Time & Space’s tracks are separated by sound interludes, aptly named “Time” and “Space.” “Time” is nothing more than a grandfather clock ticking and chiming away, representing the Chrono series’ tracks, while “Space,” the sound of a running engine, separates Xenogears from the rest.
Shortly following “Time’s” tick-tocking, the arrangements begin with a rendition of “Scars Left by Time” from Chrono Cross. I admit, I was a bit skeptical of how this would turn out; the original composition is a masterpiece in of itself, and it would take a skilled artist to recreate it without taking away the heart of the original. But here, it’s the guitar that makes all the difference. Leading the melody, it excellently captures the power and emotion of the original, while giving the arrangement its own distinct sound.
Speaking of guitars, the aspect that stood out the most for me on this album was the wonderful guitar work sprinkled throughout. “The Boy that Feared Time” has very funky yet unique riffs that invigorate the original composition, while “Terminacousta,” a homey, acoustic arrangement of Chrono Cross’ “Termina ~ Another,” demonstrates the versatility of the guitarists on the album. I again applaud the wonderful performances.
On the jazzier side, “Silvard: Wings that Cross Time” gets an addictive arrangement with “Wings of Time.” As the arranger mentions in the liner notes, he had imagined this piece to as a lost track from “Chrono Trigger: Brink of Time,” and it honestly sounds like it could have been. Like “Brink of Time’s” arrangements, it’s indeed experimental, but very enjoyable, not to mention I was always a fan of the saxophone, and this performance, along with the piano, is great!
“The Girl Forgotten by Time,” (“Sara’s Theme”) is one of those songs that grows on you without you ever realizing it. It has a very “new age-ish” sound to it, similar to something you’d hear from the “Ecco the Dolphin” games (another of my favorites). Here, the arranger’s choice of bells and bongos accentuates the mystical, tribal feel of the piece, adding a lot of character. Truly, this is a worthy arrangement to an already beautiful piece. “To Good Friends,” Chrono Trigger’s ending theme, appropriately ends the Chrono arrangements, and as the name indicates, does an excellent job of portraying and emphasizing the friendship between the characters of the game. And just when the CD feels like it’s come to an end, “Space” then eases it into the next set of arrangements
Yet, as good as all of the “Chrono” arrangements are, those from Xenogears were the real gems of the CD. “The Fighting Priest” (“Ship of Regret and Sleep”) was the surprise favorite for me. I was never very fond of the original, but this rendition, with the guitar wailing away through the melody, is just too cool, not to mention it brings out the “piratey” sound of the original. On the other hand, I found “Navigation is Key” (“Tamusu, Man of the Sea”) to be one of the most original, enjoyable, and humorous arrangements of the album. Using deep and resounding samples to personify the huge, steel mammoth that is the Thames as it slowly “trudges” through the open sea, it instills a lot of character into this already unique composition. I especially enjoyed the vocal samples used for the shipmates’ “heave ho’s.”
A tribute to Mitsuda would not be complete without a rendition of one of the most touching emotional pieces he’s ever written, “June Mermaid.” I cannot truly express in words how beautiful this arrangement is. Starting off with an emotive piano solo, the piece gradually segues into a full orchestral rendition of the main melody (something I’d been praying to hear for a long time), and ends with a violin carrying the final segment to its serene conclusion. In short, this arrangement is breathtaking. Ever since I’d heard Dale North’s work on Project Majestic Mix I was convinced he was one of the most talented arrangers on this side of the ocean, and his work here reaffirms that belief.
I could probably go on and on about each and every piece on this CD, but I’ve already rambled on far enough. The bottom line is that Time & Space is a great accomplishment for the OneUp Studios, and if you’re a fan of Yasunori Mitsuda’s work, you really can’t go without it. Personally, I’d love to see their band, the OneUp Mushrooms, live, but this CD is definitely a nice alternative. And fortunately, if you weren’t able to snag yourself a copy, or just didn’t know about it before now, Game Music Online has it available for only $18, which is a very good price considering it’s a fan-arranged album.