MusiCube | Chrono Trigger Symphony: Volume 1 Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 26.08.2013 2

Regarded as one of the best RPGs of all time by many fans of the genre, Chrono Trigger established many of the gaming conventions of today: an elegant and rewarding battle system,  a highly memorable cast and of course, a sublime and cohesive soundtrack.

The renowned score, originally composed by Yasunori Mitsuda with help from Noriko Matsueda and Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, invited players into vast, open spaces, eerie caverns and melodies scattered through times. For the seasoned player who grabbed hold of a SNES controller back in 1995 or a newcomer who is only experiencing a classic buried within contemporary RPGs, the game's sound is considered by many to be as timeless as Chrono Trigger itself.

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Fans have attempted to recapture the feeling from the game with a stream of YouTube covers, remixes and attempts at orchestration, but a majority of these perhaps deviated too far from the source material and tempo. Enter Blake Robinson, who, with a repertoire of past orchestral albums, has started to tackle Squaresoft's beloved RPG - no mean feat indeed. You can find out more about Robinson's approach to the project and video game music in our interview.

The first volume, which tallies 23 songs from the opening moments of the game, has been deliciously re-orchestrated by Blake Robinson's Synthetic Orchestra - a collection of tools and samples, giving a rich orchestrated feel that arguably sounds less artificial than some of the other digital processes.

Without further ado, a breakdown of each of Volume 1's individual tracks:

A Premonition
A soft, delicate introduction to the world of Chrono Trigger that weaves itself from a calm state into a roaring sense of beginning - the curtains are drawn and we're in full adventuring swing. The delicate piano keys and the taping of the clock set the scene.

The Chrono Trigger Symphony
Potentially the most difficult song to get right, The Chrono Trigger Symphony is the theme of Chrono Trigger that's played during key moments of the game and in the opening movie. For most who have experienced any aspect of this particular RPG before, this theme will be something that will be incredibly familiar. It sets the tone of the entire landscape of the game - stepping into the wide open fields through the blazing horn section and looping snare, winding down into a more soothing bridge; a triumphant finish. It's make or break for Robinson at this crucial stage and fortunately the pace and tone have been captured to a tee.

Morning Glow
Quite literal, this piece, as players encounter a sluggish Crono for the first time. Fresh out of bed and planning a rather casual day at the local town fair, our protagonist is blissfully unaware of what's to come and this is reflected in a short and effortlessly gentle composition that melds nicely with the original.

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Peaceful Days
Cheerful, delicate and as the title suggests, rather serene in its approach, Peaceful Days is a track that moulds well with the original composition, plucking strings and resonates a sense of discovery and light-hearted ambition.

Green Memories
The actual overworld of Chrono Trigger is quite barren, spacious, with mountains and forests as far as the eye can see. This landscape song captures that essence perfectly, with a nimble piano loop in the background, sweeping string sections and an equaliser that gives off that sensation of distance, staying true to the original but wrapping it nicely within the large overworld.

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Guardia's Millennial Fair
Chirpy, cheerful and vibrant, the Millennial Fair is Crono's first steps into the bigger world, a whimsical tour with the locales until something goes rather wrong. Again sticking close the original, there are more pronounced bass notes and the very recognisable accordion fending off the flute for the prime time musical spotlight.

Gato's Song
An unnerving, eerie start to the introduction of this quirky character - the first steps into learning how to battle in Chrono Trigger. Seemingly a happy-go-lucky chap, there's something not quite right about Gato and Robinson describes this character with a roaring chorus backline and a soaring wind section. A critical hit, indeed.

Strange Occurrences
Just as players thought Chrono Trigger was a game where you roam around a carnival and engage with fellow townsfolk, a portal into the unknown engulfs our soon-to-be heroes into brave new worlds. A very short, looping piece originally, Robinson builds on the notes by adding a bold, deep and far more sinister middle section that invokes feelings of classic black-and-white thrillers. Will players step inside?

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Yearnings of the Wind
Another delicate and wistful piano driven melody that's perfectly in tune with the original - slightly foggy, light and airy, exactly as those moments of the past suggest. A difficult piece to improve on and Robinson attempts this by bringing the piano closer to the ear with a warm touch.

Good Night
Another one of those short, five-second compositions that needed to be extended into a more fully-fleshed piece - not within the game itself, but for the sake of fitting within an album. Initially a short jingle as players head off to bed, Robinson plays on this by creating a soft prelude into a world full of dreams of Lavos and company.

Secret of the Forest
Secret of the Forest is one of the key pieces within Chrono Trigger, especially for a place that isn't visited all too often, remembered by fans as a standout track. A dangerous, almost spellbinding place that's seeped full of mystery; Robinson starts the journey well, pacing the original track to a tee, climaxing by whirling into battle with strange creatures, soaring into an waltzing dance number that's submerged into the unknowing night. One of the stand-out tracks on Volume 1 for sure.

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Battle
Battle is a difficult piece to transcribe into the orchestral movement because of the original piece's high reliance on the deep bass. It's a worthy attempt to position the song into this collection of instruments; but doesn't quite deliver compared to the rest of the tracks in this volume as the string sections and choral elements are perhaps a little too soft for a recurring fighting theme.

Guardia Castle - Pride and Glory
Perhaps the perfect candidate for orchestral treatment - marching snares, rich string sections and proud trumpets form the ideal recipe for a palace of royalty and this particular track is painted well. A sense of ambition, intrigue and those foreboding moments before something, again, goes wrong within the game's many twists and turns.

Huh
Another jingle fleshed out into a full track - a menacing precursor to Chrono Trigger's first challenge for players. Huh is a difficult piece to truly pad out without stepping into remix or improvisation territory, so Robinson does well in keeping it short and sweet.

The Cathedral
Angelic chorus sections, subtle piano work and a shuddering feeling of cold, almost deadly equalisation bring together The Cathedral in an exceptional way. It has a slightly apprehensive feeling about it, sinking into a chorus and organ lead finish. The three notes are played and our protagonists venture inside the deeper dungeon.

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A Prayer for the Wayfarer
The eerie first steps into Chrono Triggers first dungeon of sorts, a short set of notes stretched into something more significant.

Light of Silence
A darker side of whimsical, Light of Silence offers a plodding, medieval feel, a secret cavern blitzed in magic and history, packed to the brim with flesh-hungry beasts willing to tear our party apart. This is another stand-out piece in the collection; taking the original piece and cementing the feeling with delicate layers of mystery.

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Boss Battle 1
Pitched better than the battle theme, the Boss battle brings back those heart-wrenching moments where nothing is quite working against these vicious final foes.  A galloping, pace that swerves into that critical moment; but all isn't over as the fight continues into its second phase. However, much like the battle theme, it doesn't quite work given the original's high dependence on the bass notes.

Frog's Theme
Sword-wielding, noble and sincere, Frog is the embodiment of your classic hero from folklore. A respected chap that's had a turn of bad luck; and this piece reflects the mood perfectly - enhanced with a choral backline and a solid balance of instruments across the board. A tricky one to fully embody in a re-orchestration, but done exceptionally well.

Fanfare 1
The cries of success, sweating victory that originally started as small jingle but fleshed out into an adrenaline fuelled comedown.

The Trial
Plodding, slightly awkward and with a twinge of comedy, The Trial is one of those memorable moments in the game that bridges the opening sections and truly mixes up the feeling of the game - this isn't your standard RPG fare; but one that takes players in all sorts of directions. A soaring crescendo rises above the quirkiness and swoops back down into the outcome - another track that retains the original notation but capitalises on the setting.

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The Hidden Truth
A Sweeping sense of relief bathed with a guilty party who won't stop at getting their way. The Hidden Truth invites a dark sense of mischief that would certainly bring back a bucket load of memories for players; something that's rarely been played out in a game this well.

Critical Moment
As the title suggests, Critical Moment is a very frantic, desperate plea for escape and survival. Will our protagonists make it out alive? A marching sense of confrontation played well through the aggressive snare work and rich reverb that lures players back into the forest and into whatever lurks beyond.


 

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Chrono Trigger Symphony: Volume 1 is a superb retelling of the first part of the classic Chrono Trigger RPG, inviting memories of the past; new extensions to classic jingles and layering well-loved compositions with a renewed feeling of elegance. There are a handful of tracks that are commendable in their approach, but perhaps don't gel as well as the others in their execution. Still, the first volume certainly sets the bar high for the remainder of the collection.

The album can be purchased on Loudr or iTunes.

Box art for Chrono Trigger
Developer

Squaresoft

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (10 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Comments

Absolutely fantastic album/volume - lots of great touches, intricate layering and sounds brilliant. Pace and timing is pretty spot-on!

I really don't like it when people try to cover these songs and simply play the notes with no sense of rhythm - too fast and choppy. But Blake does this justice, a tricky one!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I had to go to the post depot this morning, so I had chance to listen to Glass to the Wall's 7am repeat...and it sounded so good listening to it in the car! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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