Let’s Listen is a feature where we talk about games and their soundtracks instead of playing them!
Track: Wind Scene – Yasunoi Mitsuda
Game: Chrono Trigger (1995)
Consoles: SNES, Wii, DS, iOS, Android
Album by: Yasunoi Mitsuda featuring Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy regular) & Noriko Matsueda
Arguably one of the most prolific Soundtracks of all time from one of the most prolific RPGs of all time, Chrono Trigger’s OST is an amazing feat. Its ability to manipulate player’s emotions heightens its strength as a story telling device and given the technical limitations of the Super Famicon this was no small feat. It set the bar for what we’ve come to expect from Square’s fantastic catalogue of game soundtracks and revolutionized how music can influence story-telling through the gaming medium through its fantastic thematic content that resonates with the player well after they’ve heard it.
A Soundtrack as iconic as Chrono Trigger’s could not have come without some drama and the score to this iconic title had its fair share of issues before it saw the light of day. In fact, it almost never came to be; Yasunoi Mitsuda, the game’s primary composer almost left Square shortly before working on the project, on record as saying he was unhappy with his pay and the fact that he was not composing any music at the time. Final Fantasy developer Hironobu Sakaguchi and one of Chrono Trigger’s 3 main developers suggested that he would be great fit for the project, recognising how big a blow it would have been had Mitsuda left the company. Mitsuda poured everything into the music of Chrono Trigger and was known to at times sleep in his studio, attributing dreams he had through these nights to tracks such as “To Far Away Times“. Unfortunately much of Mitsuda’s early work would be for nothing, a hard-drive crash mid-development saw the loss of about 40 incomplete tracks. It’s possible that this was the reason Mitsuda developed complications with stomach ulcers around the same time and Final Fantasy mainstay Nobuo Uematsu was brought on to help finish the rest of the soundtrack after the wipe. It’s quite astonishing the final product turned out the way it did, as there was plenty getting in the way of Mitsuda and his vision.
The power of Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack comes through a series of leitmotifs; recurring melodic and harmonic content that resurface in a number of different ways across all the game’s tracks. It creates a sense of continuation through the score which paralleled the gameplay progression and helps stimulate a grander feeling to the adventure. An example is seen through the game’s main theme and the overworld theme for 1000AD ‘Memories of Green‘. The melodic content of the main theme is drawn upon and re-imagined for the more somber and mysterious setting of the later composition, a subtle but powerful way of creating progression. The soundtrack was massive, the commercial release spanned across 3 CDs, which at the time was completely unprecedented. The game won the ‘Best Music in a Cartridge-Based Game’ award in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1995 video game award, largely due to the “Boss Battle 1” theme composed by Matsueda and Uematsu.
The game’s music has been remixed and sampled countless times since its release. From arranged albums to orchestral interpretations, the composition ‘Schala’s Theme’ even found its way into a Wiz Khalifa song, ‘Never Been’. It’s truly a milestone in the genre, for its masterful use of the SNES’s technological limitations and the sheer genius of the content and is one of the reasons why the game is so highly regarded today. If you haven’t experienced Chrono Trigger yet, you should get on it ASAP.