I’m playing Greedfall right now and enjoying myself in spite of some misgivings. One thing I miss at the moment, and it’s something crucial to roleplaying games, is a solid musical score. There’s moments of rousing action music but it’s very limited. That got me thinking: what RPG has the best music? The answer was simple. It’s Chrono Cross, and nothing else has ever come close.
Chrono Cross released in 1999 and was met with praise and confusion in equal measure. It was a good game, but this was the eagerly awaiting sequel to Chrono Trigger? A game that only loosely related to the original? Yet, Cross built an identity of its own with magical dragons, cerulean seas, a huge cast of characters, and fantastic music. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda had worked on Chrono Trigger alongside Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda. Here, he took the reigns into his own hands. The results are absolutely stunning. The opening theme, Scars of Time, remains an unmatched piece that has really stood the test of time.
Mitsuda had previously worked on the similarly stunning (albeit somewhat incomplete) Xenogears and would go one to write music for games like Kid Icarus: Uprising and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. He’s one of the best composers that video games has ever seen and returning to the Chrono Cross soundtrack really prove it. Just listen to how haunting and beautiful the ending theme, Radical Dreamers, is. I’ve been listening to it for days now and every time, it stirs a deep reaction in my soul.
Highly apocryphal stories say that when when director Masato Kato and Mitsuda sat down to replay the game, this ending theme was enough to move Kato to tears. I don’t know if that’s true but it really is a fantastic piece of music. Tracks like these cement Chrono Cross as a high water mark for video game scores and while games like Octopath Traveler have sometimes come close to matching it, I’d suggest that Chrono Cross is a singular achievement in this regard. Even if you don’t like where the story went after Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda nailed it here, to the point that two decades later there’s not really been anything else like it.