Be astounded or not, Chrono Trigger has never been on my "Top 5 Favorite RPGs". Many reasons led to this, as some would call, fairly unusual fact, one of them lying in the soundtrack. I'm unable to put the finger right on what's still preventing me from enjoying completely the musical aspect of the game... But nah, I'm not going to comment on each song separately and in details as it would result in an endless boring rant. Therefore, like the original person that I am, I've decided to give a general review of each CD including the best and worst titles, in my opinion (yep, that's what I call originality :P).
The first CD obviously covers the Present and partly Middle Ages eras themes. Most of the songs are average, or to be more precise, I felt no particular enjoyment by listening to them. Let's begin with my less favorite themes... The title track, "Chrono Trigger", shows promising introduction notes, but it gets repetitive and un-beaty as the lead instrument, a highly synthesized muted trumpet, comes in. Fake-sounding trumpets are always over exploited in games songs, sadly. While "Memories of Green" isn't totally a song I dislike, I've always thought it was too slow and sad for a map theme. The piano is charged with an inexplicable sadness and it doesn't fit the real purpose of this track. In fact, it made me hit the mute button a few times. The Guardia Millennial Fair song would have been a lot better if the harmonica (well, I think that's the instrument...) had been replaced by a flute and the voices, eliminated. I have a low tolerance for anything that sounds like a computer-generated harmonica. "A Strange Happening" depicts an odd situation indeed, but the lack of variation in the main melody provides no "it keeps getting stranger and stranger" feeling. Therefore, it doesn't even give the impression that the situation is going somewhere. To conclude this myriad of negative comments...castles must have glorious themes, right? It seems that "Courage and Pride" only satisfies this requirement when the violins make themselves a bit less shy. The whole first part with the trumpet would have been awful if the percussions hadn't done their great work. As a second conclusion, I must point out that the drums in the battle themes (regular and boss ones) and "A Shot of Crisis" really sound like the virtual drummer is actually hitting on cans or cardboard boxes and it gets unbearable after more than two minutes.
In the Middle Ages era, the happy staccato-ed "Wind Scene" accomplishes its mission as a map theme until the sloooow violins appear. I like the staccato-ed part enough to write it down on my "Best titles list" though. One of the only songs to which I've been caught whistling is "Frog's Theme". It's a delightful and heroic medieval melody that describes perfectly the character. I do admit that it's a typical medieval song, but it doesn't take away its qualities. "Kingdom Trial" is another great song, succeeding in giving an impression of mockery and seriousness all at once. The use of the subtle crescendo with violins leads to a climax that is more than appropriate for the situation in the game. My last comment goes to "Silent Light", for which the smooth bass and piano create quite the atmosphere and transform what could've been an average track into an enjoyable musical experience.
The second CD covers the Future, the last part of the Middle Ages and some of the Prehistoric eras themes. As I don't particularly like or dislike any of the tracks on the second CD, its review won't be long. There are some I still don't like though, such as the following: "Ruined World", "Lab 16's Ruin", "People Who Threw Away the Will to Live" and "Remains of the Factory". While the objective of these tracks is probably to show how ruined, yet technologically advanced, the future really is, the quasi-absence of instruments, melody and beat only made my boredom grows stronger... Believe it or not, that's all for the negative comments.
"Robo's Theme" could use more elaborate instruments, but the main melody makes it sound like a happy 80's song and that's what's so captivating about it. I can't define exactly what catches my attention in "Underground Sewer", but the harpsichord-like instrument certainly offers much help. It gives a Renaissance feel that is truly interesting. The Prehistoric era themes "Primitive Mountain", "Rhythm of Wind, Sky and Earth" and "Burn! Bobonga!" are very percussions-oriented. Fortunately, I like all sorts of percussions, excluding the fake-sounding drums as previously stated. Even though most of these songs are repetitive, they sure are beaty and diverting. Now, it would be a crime to not throw in a word or two about Magus' theme, "Battle With Magus". This song is simply fantastic. Slowly beginning and inspiring fear, it quickly breaks into a wild melody (with great trumpet!) that even includes not so ridiculous moaning voices. Well, these voices could have sounded extremely ridiculous, but not in this case.
The last CD is my favourite. All of the tracks aren't exceptional, though. I've always preferred fast paced songs, when the situation in the game requires it of course. Consequently, the outrageously slow tempo in "Tyran Castle" is unacceptable for a dungeon theme. It's perhaps used to reflect the slow evolution of lizards and their species, but it doesn't satisfy most of my dungeon theme criteria (don't ask, I will not enumerate them here). "Far Off Promise", which is supposed to be Crono's theme, is probably the worst song in the game. On second thought, it IS the worst song. It may be "cute" and sad, but it's a jewels box song. A jewels box! Not a hero's theme! "Wings That Cross Time" has one of these muted trumpets as the main instrument and I can't find the words to express how horrible it sounds. Moreover, this track is perfect for elevators or shopping malls.
Let's continue with a more positive review. I did say it was my favourite CD, after all. Once in a while, I appreciate listening to calm and peaceful songs, such as "At the Bottom of Night". This touching track almost brings a tear to my eye every time I listen to it. Ahem... On another subject, the Dark Ages themes are fairly representative of the magical era. "Corridors of Time" and "Schala's Theme" are both focused on interesting instruments, almost mystical and oriental in some way, which makes them easy to listen for a surprisingly long period of time. Incredible but true, same thing happens with the song "Sealed Door" which conducts a profound, yet addictive, loneliness feeling like a... superconductor. As more serious tracks, "Zeal Palace", "Undersea Palace" and "Black Dream" amazingly accomplish their task. While the first one has a similar introduction to "Battle With Magus", wonderfully nourishing uneasiness, the other two evoke an certain emotion that could be summed up in the following sentence: "Oooh, we are surrounded by high technology." The pre-final battle theme, "World Revolution", is another great one. The trumpet sounds nice, the tempo is fast; it's a widely entertaining song, to say the least. The next track, "Last Battle" never really caught my ear. It's a good final-battle-with-aliens song, but nothing more. On a last note, the ending and epilogue themes, "First Festival", "To Far Away Times" (excluding the Present era map theme part) and "Epilogue - To Good Friends" play their role like real professionals. Let's rejoice, because the latter is an exceptionally better version of Crono's Theme.
There. I mentioned 20 best titles over a total of 64 titles which means that the Chrono Trigger soundtrack satisfies my musical thirst to only 31.25%. Therefore, it failed. Seriously, overall, it's an average soundtrack, but I'm not angry at the composers. :P Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu may have pulled the trigger, but I never felt the blow (word play...get it?). That's all.