Review: To Far Away Times: Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arrangement Album

This album has been a long time in the making. Over the years I’ve talked to Yasunori Mitsuda about his progress, and it always seemed to be right around the corner. It attained something of a myth-like status, as fans started thinking it’d never see the light of day, but it’s finally here.

It’s hard to live up to nearly ten years (or more?) of hype, but I think Chrono fans will be pleased not only with the music, but also the presentation and Mitsuda’s attempt to tie together Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross musically. The offerings are actually somewhat eclectic in presentation with a heavy emphasis on orchestral arrangement and vocals throughout, which may initially put some people off, but I can promise you that all the performances are top notch.

Plants vs. Zombies composer Laura Shigihara, who I imagine was invited to participate because her brilliant and beautiful arrangement of “Corridors of Time” on YouTube (which is recorded with glorious orchestra and live instruments on this album), is also featured on “Schala’s Theme,” for which she sings in a made up language that fits the vibe of the piece perfectly, and “On the Other Side,” a heartwarming take on the “Crono & Marle” theme. In contrast to Shigihara’s sweet and lighthearted voice, vocalist Sarah Alainn offers a heavier ballad-based style with both “Raidcal Dreamers” and “To Far Away Times,” the latter of which reminds me a bit of the Xenogears vocal theme, “SMALL OF TWO PIECES.”

Other tracks include a rather ambient Celtic take on “Marbule,” a lush and gorgeous “Wind Scene” (easily my favorite track on the album), a warm and lovely “The Bend of Time” (which has been released elsewhere in the past), a melancholy strings version of “The Frozen Flame,” and a surprising performance of “Time’s Scar” that gets an ascending guitar riff that sounds a lot like the iconic “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. This is certainly my favorite version of “Time’s Scar.”

The music is fantastic and encompasses a lot of different ideas and styles, and the artwork and presentation in a slim cardboard case is all spot on. Any and all Chrono music fans will appreciate this album.

Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100

Wow, I can’t believe Distant Worlds has hit 100! I caught one of the first few shows, and I’ve never been disappointed with a performance since. Their album recordings have also been fantastic, and in recent years, they’ve ventured into video. It’s great that they’ve made available their 100th show on Blu-ray for long-time fans and attendees like myself and those who haven’t been able to make it out to a show.

Arnie Roth conducts and hosts the show, recorded in front of a Japanese crowd. They play many of the classics, including the iconic “One-Winged Angel,” a lovely healing rendition of “The Prelude,” the rousing “Final Fantasy” theme, and the wondrous “Main Theme from Final Fantasy VII.” Some new arrangements come courtesy of Piano Opera Final Fantasy pianist Hiroyuki Nakayama, and are a real treat. “Balance is Restored” from Final Fantasy VI stands out in particular, visiting several of the game’s key themes, along with Susan Calloway’s rendition of Final Fantasy XII’s vocal theme, “Kiss Me Good-Bye,” “Roses of May” from Final Fantasy IX, an explosive “Torn from the Heavens” from Final Fantasy XIV (with Masayoshi Soken in attendance), singer Emiko Shiratori reprising her role as vocalist on Final Fantasy IX’s “Melodies of Life,” and an amazing battle medley covering Final Fantasy I – XIV which picks some often-missed tracks, including the final battle theme from Final Fantasy V and a jazzy rendition of the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme. The orchestra reacting to the fan reaction to “Swing de Chocobo” was cute, too, as well as the upright bass player really getting into the piece. Finally, the encore “J-E-N-O-V-A Complete” was also fantastic, really pushing the orchestra to adopt an aggressive battle sound.

My only criticism would be that the MP3s are not hosted on this Blu-ray disc! Still, I enjoyed watching it from start to finish. Given the recent Distant Worlds III album release didn’t feature many of these new arrangements, I’m hoping we’ll see yet another Distant Worlds CD release in the future with these new arrangements on them so I can listen on the go.

The Blu-ray is definitely worth your time. The booklet is stuffed full of comments from the creators, all in English as well as Japanese. Grab it from CD Japan if you’re interested.


It’s that time of year again. Square Enix put out their annual sampler from Tokyo Game Show featuring goodies from their upcoming albums. They usually use these samplers as a vehicle to announce new albums and show off impending ones, but this year’s sampler features mainly material that we’ve known is coming. Also of note is the fact that the samples are all full-length tracks instead of the snippets that we’ve sometimes received in the past.

The disc opens with the ten-minute-long “Thunder Falls” from the Final Fantasy XIV: Before the Fall OST. It’s out now, and I highly recommend it (review here). There’s a lovely battle medley from Final Symphony II, featuring “Fierce Engagement” from Final Fantasy VI and a tease of “One-Winged Angel.” Imperial SaGa features Kenji Ito back in his orchestral element after so many rock excursions (Million Arthur, SaGa Battle). It’s fantastic and features a nice variation of the SaGa theme. We also get a taste of the upcoming Legend of Mana arrange album in the form of a wonderful jazz arrangement that is playful at times and beautiful at others. An arrangement from the highly-anticipated Chrono arrange album, “Dimension Break,” has been released before, but sounds as lovely as ever, there’s a new folky tune from Final Fantasy XI, an explosive orchestral/rock hybrid from Alice Order, Mitsuto Suzuki doing his thing on Mobius Final Fantasy that sounds reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, a live band track featuring Motoi Sakuraba with great solos, and a rock track of his from Star Ocean V that’s nice to hear after Sakuraba’s focus on styles other than synth rock in recent years.

In all, while there aren’t any surprises, this is a solid sampler that should have give fans a lot to look forward to. There’s something for everyone with Mana and Chrono arranges, a Final Fantasy spin-off, and a serious classical album coming soon. Stay tuned!