In 1995, Squaresoft released what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest soundtracks of all time – Chrono Trigger. This enchanting score by Yasunori Mitsuda (with just a dash of Final Fantasy’s own Nobuo Uematsu) has captivated gamers and music fans by the millions. Its themes and anthems have been replayed and remixed over and over to this day, but never with as much care and skill as the five disc tribute remix album, Chronicles of Time. In production for the last two years, the collection ranges from rock to synth to jazz, celebrating the incredible score that started it all over 20 years ago in the classic Super Nintendo RPG.
Which I have never once played.
Yeah. I’m actually not kidding.
Now wrap your head around this. When Chrono Trigger was released, I was not only an avid Super Nintendo player with a hard-on for RPGs, but its character design was done by none other than Dragon Ball Z’s Akira Toriyama. At the time, Dragon Ball Z was still impossible to find, and as someone who may have been a teensy obsessed (why did I write that in past tense), anything remotely related to it was the most precious of jewels for me. I should have been all over this game like Oolong on underwear (someone reading this got that). Even more ridiculous is that I not only played, but ADORED the game’s sequel, Chrono Cross. In fact, I’ve beaten it at least three times now. The idea that I’ve never even touched the game that started it all is ridiculous.
But though I’m unfamiliar with the source material, this album was one of the most important soundtracks in my life. Not as a gamer, but as a writer.
For a long time, I’ve used video game music as my writing soundtrack. Its lack of lyrics and repetitive quality, meant to fade into the background of a game, is perfect for piercing through the fog of ADD and connecting the ideas that form a story. Chrono Trigger was one of the first game albums that gave me a beat for my drum, followed by Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy, Guilty Gear, and hundreds of others since then.
But this new album, Chronicles of Time, has an even deeper significance to me. During my teens and early twenties, the soundtrack of me and my friends came from places like Dwelling of the Duels and OCRemix. Game covers and remixes by artists like Norg and CarbohydroM blasted through the windows of our cars as we cruised suburban Long Island. It was our music, celebrating everything we were. It was the theme to that moment in life when you promise yourself you’ll never give up on the things you care about. It was the soundtrack to our dreams.
Maybe one day, I’ll play Chrono Trigger. It’s available on iOS now for $10 (discounted from $80 in its SNES heyday). Or maybe I won’t. Soundtrack notwithstanding, I truly have no ties to the game. My ties are to the music of Mitsuda and Uematsu, which stands on its own, and stands even taller when coupled with the creative energies of other talented musicians like the ones featured on Chronicles of Time.
It’s rare to get such a level of fulfillment from a remix album, but somehow, Chronicles of Time feels fresh and new, like a surprise release from an artist I thought to be long gone. If you liked the original music of Chrono Trigger, and enjoy high quality, creative remixes, do yourself a favor (and a favor to Doctors Without Borders, since all profits are donated to them) and buy Chronicles of Time. You’ll hear a lot of familiar tracks multiple times, but each variation is an artist’s retelling of a moment or beat that means something different and significant to them.
You may think I’m reading too much into it, but that’s the depth feeling this album has given me. Through writing, cooking, cleaning, and just plain living. And for it to speak to me on such a level…