My offhand remark about the courtroom theme from Chrono Trigger and its resemblance to Pink Floyd’s “The Trial” from The Wall sparked more conversation than I expected. Well, mostly it prompted people to listen to the two together and say, “Huh, I totally see it.” It’s not that Trigger’s theme stole specific melodies or riffs from Floyd, but the two songs have a remarkably similar feel and structure, and given their common context can’t really be chalked up to coincidence, you know?
There’s also the small matter of famous video game composers and their love of prog rock. That’s right, you laugh at it, you think you hate it. But Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu and Hiroki Kikuta have all confessed at some point or another to totally digging the likes of Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer and other dinosaurs of rock.
And that is why their music is, in the words of Knives Chau, so, so good. Don’t believe me? Check out these five tunes and try to imagine them in the context of an RPG battle.
- Genesis: Firth of Fifth – Final Fantasy V’s “Battle on the Big Bridge” has always reminded me of this particular tune, except the Genesis version has a way more amazing guitar solo.
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer: The Three Fates – Visualize “Dancing Mad,” the Kefka final battle suite from Final Fantasy VI, and I think you will be startled by the similarities.
- Yes: Starship Trooper – The second half, a layered instrumental that gradually builds to a climax, seems ideal as a dynamic battle theme that adapts as you progress, no?
- Gentle Giant: Alucard – The song so video-game-y they named a character after it!
- King Crimson: Red – I could totally fight a pretty-boy aspiring to godhood to this song.
And while I can’t place direct influences, Chrono Cross has a ton of proggy bits. Particularly “Fate – Gods of Destiny.” To say nothing of Secret of Mana’s “The Oracle” — or the entire Secret of Mana+ album, which is basically Kikuta channeling Tubular Bells.
Of course, prog isn’t everything! Every should be aware by now that Robo’s theme from Trigger resembles a horrible Rick Astley song. But let’s chalk that one up to coincidence — I’m pretty sure that “ghoulish white boys straining themselves to be soulful” aren’t big on Mitsuda’s list of inspirations. Then again, he is pretty hardcore into Celtic music, so clearly he enjoys music by pale people. So who knows.
Okay, I’ll stop now.