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Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack - Soundtrack Review

Another Dimension of Music

Track Listing
Disc 1
1.Chrono Cross ~Time's Scar~
2.Brink of Death
3.Home Arni
4.Plains of Time - Home World
5.Dancing the Lizard
6.Reminiscence ~Thoughts not Extinguished~
7.Dream of The Shore Bordering Another World
8.Another Arni
9.Song of Feeling
10.Lost Fragments
11.Drowning Valley
12.Another Termina
13.Leaving The Body
14.Shadow's End Forest
15.Viper Manor
16.Triumph ~Gift of Spring~
17.Lost Child of Time
18.Another Guldove
19.Hydra Swamp
20.Dream Fragments
21.Voyage -Another World
22.Ghost Ship
23.Death Volcano
24.Ancient Fort Dragonia
25.Overcoming One's Grief
Disc 2
1.Beginning of a Dream
2.Dimension Breach
3.Home Termina
4.Dragon Knight
5.Voyage - Home World
6.Home Guldove
7.Home Marbule
8.Zelbess
9.The Big Splendid Astonishing
10.Doze
11.Chronomantique
12.Dilemma
13.Optimism
14.Isle of the Dead
15.Dead Sea - Ruined Tower
16.People Imprisoned by Destiny
17.Lost Before, Light
18.Earth Dragon's Island
19.Gaea's Navel
20.Hurricane
21.Victory ~Call of Summer~
22.Another Marbule
23.Fairies Yield Magic
24.Etude 1
25.Etude 2
26.Magical Dreamers ~The Wind, the Stars, and the Sea~
Disc 3
1.Garden of God
2.Chronopolis
3.FATES ~God's Destiny~
4.Jellyfish Sea
5.Orphanage of Time
6.Star-Stealing Girl
7.Dreamwatch of Time
8.Dragon's Wish
9.Star Tower
10.Frozen Flame
11.Dragon God
12.In the Time of Disorder
13.Life ~Faraway Promise~
14.Reminiscence ~Thoughts not Extinguished~
15.Radical Dreamers ~Unstolen Jewel~
16.Dream Fragments
Total Playtime: 181:32
Composer(s)
Yasunori Mitsuda
Arranger
Yasunori Mitsuda
Publisher
DigiCube

   Though Mr. Yasunori Mitsuda had worked on several video game soundtracks prior to this one, the Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack is only his sophomore solo compilation as a composer. Fortunately for RPG music fans, this album sounds more like a senior effort by a master of the game music art form. With a broad range of sounds and styles, Mitsuda fends away boring redundancy, and with a solid main theme to bring everything together, he saves the music from forgetful incoherence.

   From the collection's blood-pumping introduction to its emotional finality, Mitsuda takes the listener to exotic otherworldly places and brings them back home again. Many of the acoustic guitar-heavy tracks, such as Home Arni, land the listener on a tropical paradise far from the tiring bustle of civilization. Other tracks like the stealthy Viper Manor put listeners into a setting of heightened senses and tensions. There are several tracks with flavors reminiscent of regions such as East Asia, India, and South America. Though this music does have a very global feel, it's not without the occasional western rock influence to make it approachable by any audience.

   All of the tracks do share a sense of familiarity with one another, which keeps the listener within the boundaries of this world that Mitsuda has carved out of the air. At times, however, some of the more similar tracks can sound a bit too much like one another and the soundtrack risks dipping into a repetitious feel. In one instance, for example, there are two nearly identical pieces with the only difference between them being a change in the main instrument. Thankfully, though, this flaw isn't terribly overbearing. Other than that, the project does have a few black sheep in the mix that could turn off some listeners. These tend to contain some sounds that may be considered annoying -- such as the repetitive high-pitched strings that play throughout "Gale."

   Including numerous cultural influences in a soundtrack doesn't guarantee great music, however. Technical skill, virtuosity, and emotion are required to bring together the different sounds and, through them, breathe life into a video game. Fortunately, Mr. Mitsuda was taking notes that day in class. What sets Mitsuda apart from other musicians is his understanding of music and how he treats it when he manipulates the sound to his will. It may sound odd, but it's true. The composer once said that he didn't learn how to compose at music school; he learned to see music as a living, breathing thing. Mr. Mitsuda, with this soundtrack, delves into the listener's mind and forces out whatever raw emotions he wants him or her to experience at the time, mostly without fail. It's this ability that brings the music for this game together under one roof and gives it life. It humanizes the sounds and the game and forces them to apply to the listener where applicable.

   Mitsuda also has an uncanny ability to adapt to the styles of the world regions he is replicating in his music. It is apparent that he studies up on the musical and playing techniques indigenous to the regions so as to make his music sound authentic. And this practice pays off. From the pattern of percussive hits on a steel drum to the trills of a pan flute, Mitsuda nails the music and makes it worthy of the different parts of the world he is borrowing from. The effort in detail put forth in the musicianship for this project is impressive )aside from some of the questionable pieces and "clone" tracks), especially considering that this is merely a video game soundtrack composed primarily using synthesizers and samplers.

   Because of the heavy use of synthesizers, however, the sound quality could always be better. Nothing beats live recordings. That considered, the Chrono Cross soundtrack is still one of the most realistic-sounding albums from the PlayStation era. It easily surpasses nearly every other PlayStation game in terms of sound, and it is so good that the soundtrack itself can stand alone without the game. Unfortunately, this isn't a review for the music within a game, but for a stand alone compilation of music. Considering this, there is indeed room for improvement. The opening track, Scars of Time, on the other hand, was composed with live instruments and players. Although it sounds better than the rest of the soundtrack, an average listener would be hard-pressed to notice too much of a difference in quality.

   Considering the the effort and quality that went into the project, the production values are clearly very high. Chrono Cross is one of the only PlayStation games in recent memory to utilize live instrument recordings in its soundtrack. So in many ways, Chrono Cross was a major breakthrough in video game sound. It was a pioneer for music of the following generation. Since this game was released, it has become commonplace to use live recordings in games. The soundtrack includes an insert with liner notes from composer Yasunori Mitsuda, and some very interesting aquatic cover art.

   It's harder to find something to dislike about the Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack than it is to lift a pick-up truck. Though the entire compilation isn't perfect, it ranks far above most soundtracks that have preceded it. On an individual song-by-song basis, each track is brilliantly mastered by Yasunori Mitsuda, excluding a few "acquired tastes." With the range of emotions and cultures this soundtrack takes the listener through, they shouldn't be surprised if they come away feeling at all well-traveled. The music is all brought together so well, however, that after the long journey, it goes comfortably back to home, sweet home.



Musicianship
Sound Quality
Production Value
OVERALL
4.5/5
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