For me, Yasunori Mitsuda is easily one of my favourite game music composers and Chrono Cross is among his best work. 20 years since its original soundtrack, Square Enix Music returns to the collection to give a beautiful orchestral rendition of some of the classic tracks. It is a golden treat.
Four arrangers were given the opportunity to arrange various tracks from the game. Mariam Aboussnar gives a rousing rendition of ‘Scars of Time’ which never feels long enough no matter how many arrangements I’ve heard. Mariam also returns for the sumptuous and elegant version of ‘The Girl Who Stole the Stars / Dreams of the Ages’ which mash up seamlessly as a mini-suite of its own. Instead of the Celtic tones of the MIDI’s, or the unrivalled CREID arrangements, here harps and bells play the melodies and woodwind, trumpets and timpanis blast out the main melodies. The strings are always there but often as part of a dual purpose for the other lead instruments. It feels so full, alive and triumphant – I love it.
Daisuke Shinoda gives a lush and cute rendition of ‘Arni / Shore of Dreams’. There is a sense of purpose and sadness in the arrangement despite feeling warm and glowing. The rich instrumentation is a little hidden here but transforms Kosuke Yamashita’s version of ‘Radical Dreamers’. The vocal ballad is now a gorgeous harp, woodwind and string arrangement. It keeps the same pace but has a rich and still stands out as one of the best themes ever committed to game music history. This emotional operatic instrumental rendition fills the big shoes with ease.
Tomomichi Takeoda arranges the other four tracks on the album. The scowling drama of ‘Whirlwind / The Brink of Death’ is huge in scale. The intricate string and brass sections really pound everything out the score with large percussion sections rumbling underneath shakes your bones. Along with the angst latter half of ‘The Frozen Flame / Dragon God’ – this is where all the large scale orchestration really pays dividends with its scale. The opening half of this track though is sublime with its flowing trickle of strings and harps. The arrangement feels like it has extra layers added in as it sounds so complex. Rousing is what the arrangement of ‘Bound By Fate’ can be described as. It was epic as a MIDI file and now realised in its full glory orchestrally, this delivers the goods. Taneoka’s final track is a trilogy. ‘The Darkness of Time / Life -A Distant Promise- / Reminisce Enduring Thoughts’ is a narrative suite that works perfectly by building up the themes from abstract noise to gentle melody to end credit love story symphony. It tells a mini tale all of its own and for that, you need to give credit to the arranger.
Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangements is everything I wanted in an orchestral arrangement album. It sticks to the originals but adds power, depth and emotion whilst offering new variations when transitioning between pieces. At only 35 minutes, my only sadness is that it isn’t longer but what is here is game music gold. The easiest 10/10 I’ve given to game music since Tetris Effect.
Recommended track: Radical Dreamers
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