Okay, so this week I wanted to start something a bit new. I’ve done something like this in the past (back in ancient times when I was on this podcast like five people listened to), but I wanted to start it up again with some more depth, since it’s something I’m fairly passionate about.
I love soundtracks. Particularly videogame soundtracks. Movie soundtracks are great (and I have several that I love), but videogames, both in their diversity and scope, tend to offer a wider range of musical experiences than most movies. Whether on my phone, my car, my dang-old iPod – that might-or-might-not still have a charge after so many years, no clue – have typically always been full of videogame music. And there are no limits to the genre or era either. I have videogame soundtracks for games I’ve never played, and likely never will play. I’ve heard pieces from last levels of RPGs when I was still grinding out the middle of the game. I was listening to endgame music for Tales of Symphonia before I ever reached the Tower of Salvation. Side Note: Tales of Symphonia was also the first game that I purchased a soundtrack for and imported over from Japan (so good).
Game soundtracks, when done well, can define a game more than the aesthetics, the mechanics, hell even more than the story. You can sometimes encapsulate parts of a game, or hell even the whole game, in a single theme (sometimes it’s even the main theme – hint-hint for next week). But sometimes, the opposite happens – which is why this week I want to start with Schala’s Theme, from Chrono Trigger.
Chrono Trigger, for those uninitiated, is a game that originally came out on the SNES back in the ol’ 90’s in the sometimes-called “Golden Age” of 2D RPGs. This was the same era that gave us Final Fantasy VI (or originally III in the US), Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, Secret of Evermore, and EarthBound. Chrono Trigger is one of the better-known RPGs from the time, blending fantastic pixel art with a wonderful science-fantasy story about time-travel, robots, cave-women, nerds, and the possible/inevitable end of the world.
Chrono Trigger tells a story of Chrono and his buddies basically hopping (at first accidentally, but later intentionally) through time to hopefully prevent the eventual end of the world at the hands of Lavos, an intergalactic entity that crashlanded on the planet back in prehistoric times and has been gathering strength beneath the surface of the world for millenia. But what really made the story of Chrono Trigger so great was the focus on the relationships and fates of specific characters, either that you met or played as within the events of the game. And none of these was more gutwrenching than the inescapable fate of Schala, sister of Janus (Magus, the supposed first enemy of the game). She is bound to the doomed magic city of Zeal and also to the fate of Lavos (even moreso if you take into account the extra content from the DS version of the game and the relationships to its “sequels”, Radical Dreamers and Chrono Cross). And this forlorn fate is exemplified within her theme in Chrono Trigger, which somewhat resembles the general Zeal theme while retaining its own identity, highlighting the mournful nature of Schala’s significant, largely unwilling, place in events that go far beyond the scope of her life and time. Take a listen.
Maybe you can hear what I hear, maybe not. But enjoy. And I’ll be back next week for another.