Why The Chrono Cross Soundtrack Is My Favourite

I think I know part of the reason Chrono Cross is less acknowledged than its predecessor, Chrono Trigger. It's because it's a sequel in spirit only, keeping some conceptual commonalities and a sparse few plot ones.

On the most basic level they're about the same thing: The deeply disorienting idea of a world exactly like your own, but where fundamental things have changed. Chrono Trigger explores how one's actions affect the flow of time, letting you see the world in far-flung pasts and in dystopian futures that can be altered by your adventures, while Chrono Cross explores a subtler idea: Parallel dimensions, and how different your present world is when just a few things change.

Chrono Trigger is also more popular because it has a stronger story. Chrono Cross is vast and often as directionless as the ocean that creates its key aesthetic theme. The sea is everywhere in that game, embracing incredibly detailed and lived-in towns of vibrant wood thatch and textiles that are built in confident marriage to its shores. It glitters marine and sighs quietly, and the game understands the quiet power in the ocean: some of my favourite sonic moments in Chrono Cross are the ones where the music falls silent entirely, letting the player be alone with the timeless sound of tides.

But through its key narrative device Chrono Cross creates a second world much like its first, except for a key difference: It's a world which the main character, Serge, doesn't exist, where his home village is much the same except his house is someone else's and none of his friends know him. Later, it creates a condition where Serge becomes someone else entirely.

This song, "Lost Pieces," plays when the player, by ocean boat, picks over the ruins of a particularly significant zone of the sea. To me, this sad and beautiful tone has captured the melancholy of being far adrift, of no longer belonging to a world that is otherwise completely familiar to you. As it employs a silent protagonist, Chrono Cross never tilts its hand to any of the emotions Serge might feel in response to such a tragic loss of self. But it's songs like this one, in the spaces where the game lets you alone to take it in, that create that emotion in the player.

It's why the Chrono Cross soundtrack is my favourite in gaming. Aside from its vivid and beautiful instrumentation, it's keyed to the precise feelings that the game's world wants to create, making it just fine — apt, even — for the characters to remain silent.


Comments

    This soundtrack is in my top 3 game OSTs ever. The music is still incredible all these years later and you owe it to yourself to buy it on ebay or something. My favorite is At The Shore Of Dreams ~ Another World. Yasunori Mitsuda did an outstanding job with this.

    Radical dreamers ftw. Listen to the xenogears ost

    Yasunori Mitsuda is my favourite video game composer. It's a shame Chrono Cross wasn't released in EU/Aus, the story and characters weren't very strong but the gameplay, music and graphics were spectacular.

    Because the background sound they using is in Lord of dance and whole steps in there make me so excited.

    We really need to get some of these games released on the AU PS Store.

    Speaking of which, I noticed there were a bunch of PS2 games released onto the store this week. But Odin Sphere not among them. Anybody got any idea what's going on there? Any idea when/if we'll get it?

    Chrono Cross suffers from too many playable characters and as such, short back-stories. I love the music as much as anyone, and in fact bought the OST before ever buying the game. But the gameplay in the end, just isn't as tightly knit as Trigger.
    Half the cast numbers, double everyone's quest length, and it would have been a worthy successor.

    I've never played Chrono Cross but if it gets remade and sold locally I will.

    Out of games I have played though, Secret of Mana has had the best music, the guitar in the start of this is quite reminiscent of the title music of SoM actually.

      I'm looking forward to PS1 games being playable on the Vita, then I'll be downloading this from the US marketplace. Finally get to see what it's like.

      +1 for SoM. That game has some awesome tunes.

    I just finished this game last night. Freaky that it'd appear on Kotaku the next morning. XD

    reasons:
    1) nostalgia.
    2) limited hearing of other (better) soundtracks.

      Such as? The only soundtracks I've heard to have ever come close to Chrono Cross are Nier and Eternal Sonata.
      Looking back on the game fondly and ignoring its flaws (while still being a great game) might be nostalgia, but the soundtrack isn't something you can apply that to, when you can easily go and listen to it whenever you feel like it.

    Great article, own the game but not the soundtrack

    775 Million people love the Chrono Cross sound track.

    sweet im playing Chrono Trigger on the DS atm, guess i should pull the old PS1 out when im done and play this too :)

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