Front Mission 2 Original Soundtrack
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Next on the agenda, the Front Mission 2 soundtrack review. If you want to see more, just go here for the rest of the Front Mission stuff.
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One of Square’s most underrated and often overlooked composers, Noriko Matsueda, started her career at Square in 1995 to compose for the Square/G-Craft strategy-rpg Front Mission along with the highly talented Yoko Shimomura. Shimomura had mostly taken care of the fast-paced themes, while Matsueda took care of the mood tracks, while the game may have have been a success, it was never released in North America. Matsueda’s next job, although very small, was to compose one of the boss themes to Chrono Trigger, only to be arranged by Nobuo Uematsu. In late 1995 ~ early 1996, Matsueda finally got to do her first solo project, Bahamut Lagoon. While the game itself was never popular, it allowed Matsueda to polish her skills as a composer. A year later, Matsueda was presented with a challenging task : write the score to the sequel of Front Mission…. on her own. Not only does she succeed flawlessly in making an excellent soundtrack, but she also manages to keep the feel of the prequel. Later on, she will compose for Racing Lagoon and The Bouncer. (I have yet to hear both of these OSTs)
The score to Front Mission 2 is still quite different from the prequel, in which that Matsueda incorporates an atmospheric, airy sound to most of the tracks. It still holds strongly the epic feel of the first, mostly in the event and battle themes. For an example of the airy sound, you can hear it in « Silence », a gripping ambient theme which has some sound effects in it. « Shock » will most likely surprise many, as it is a wonderful updated version of Front Mission’s « Terrible Density », and keeps the epic feel of battle perfectly. Now I will mention the tracks of which I chose to sample. « Sorrow » starts off eerily, but then a quiet but saddening melody takes place, something Matsueda really exceeds in getting through. An interesting note I want to bring up now is that Yoshitaka Hirota(yes, the same Hirota whom is mostly responsible for the Shadow Hearts score) is credited as sound effect creator in the liner notes, this is one of the few soundtracks in which that he collaborated some of his works directly into the music, the only other soundtrack that he played a part in to my knowledge is Final Fantasy 7. You can hear Hirota’s stuff in « Enemy Battle (Swift Attack) », which mostly sounds like a voice effect, and at a point you hear a yell in the music, I find that quite amusing, although it does make that one track stand out from the rest, and of course, the battle theme is still serious and epic. "« Arena » starts off with some organ and percussions and carries that airy feel in the music, which I find very enjoyable. Another of the updated Front Mission tracks found here is the jazzy « Counter Bar », which stays true to « Shop » of the prequel. « World Map » is another of the atmospheric tracks, you can easily imagine the wind blowing into your face as the wanzers travels through Huffman’s Island while listening to the music. Another track I insist on mentionning is «Hatred », it is mostly an ambient piece with some errie but painful sounding screams effects, this track is probably the successor to Front Mission’s « Destructive Logic » while Shimomura got the eerie bit going with the organ in the prequel, the screams used here serve to bring the same feel. All in all, I think Matsueda has done very well here, I can easily listen to this without needing to skip a track. Bottom line is if you enjoyed the soundtracks to Front Mission and Bahamut Lagoon, then you’ll like this as well, if not just as much.
Okay, now you’re probably interested in getting this soundtrack right ??? I’m sorry, but this soundtrack, like most of Matsueda’s major works, is VERY(insert # of times you wish to repeat this) difficult to come across. I guess it was just a stroke of luck when I bumped onto it on Ebay. Sure, try Ebay, chances are it will never show up there again. If you want to, try to special order it from Otaku and pray, yes, pray a lot that they find it, this is easily one of the rarest out of print soundtracks I’ve ever heard, so best of luck in your hunt. This is a must have for any Square/Front Mission/Matsueda fan, you will not be dissapointed in any way from getting this CD.
Front Mission 2 and its prequel are not quite as close as you might think. FM2 was for a completely different system (Playstation), and there was also the intervening Gun Hazard game which some (incorrectly) assume to be the official sequel. One thing they do share, though, is a common composer. Noriko Matsueda contributed about half of the music to the first Front Mission game, and returned to write the FM2 soundtrack solo. It gives us a great opportunity to look at the evolution of Front Mission music, since no one can claim that the differences are due solely to a change in composers.
The first major difference you'll notice in this soundtrack is the sound quality. Not surprising, since it's Playstation-era stuff. But what may be surprising is that the disc is amazingly faithful to the style of the first Front Mission OST. About five of the tracks are either remakes of FM1 songs or include references to them, just enough to make the connection but not so many that it leaves you wanting more original material. Believe me, this album reeks of originality. Matsueda even rounds out her musical style, so the overall OST sounds more like "Front Mission done by Matsueda" and not merely "Matsueda's Front Mission stuff done again".
Listening to the soundtrack feels more like a storytelling than the previous Front Mission. I'm not sure if it's due to the tracks themselves or simply the way they're ordered on the disc, but it seems like a more natural flow. It starts with two good openers, "Opening Theme" and "Weapons Introduction". The first is a slow symphonic buildup with some outstanding percussion. The second starts slowly with a wavy ambient melody, but eventually builds up into a powerful string and brass (and drums!) attention-getter. From just these two themes it's obvious that Matsueda is by no means sticking to her characteristic modal/jazz style -- there's very much a traditional side to her music, and it shines all throughout the CD.
Some other good songs in the early part of the soundtrack are "Surprise", which is a remake of FM1's "Terrible Density", the bittersweet "Lira's Theme", and the haunting "Suspicion". Mid-soundtrack is where you'll find all the hard battle music, which features a "Swift Attack", "Normal Attack", and "Heavy Attack" for both the player and the enemy. The "Enemy Swift Attack" is a particularly amusing piece, featuring all sorts of weird voice-like samples sprinkled throughout, besides having a pretty cool slow techno rhythm. "Dukandi Town" is classic Matsueda through and through... with an odd melody over a modal harmony, and to me it has a hint of an folk dance in there too.
As we move into the latter parts of the disc, we find some really excellent town themes. "Diaraba Town" is an electronica piece with bagpipe and flute instruments. "Bornea Town" has a cosmic tone to it, relying heavily on classical styling and string instruments. Little clarinet tangents make a nice waltzy break in the monotony, emphasizing the dark and minor feel of the track. But "Capital City Dakka" is possibly the coolest of all. It's very short, and has a fairly simple dragging beat, but it's got these rising melodies played out on some electronic instruments that sound absolutely spine-tingling. It's the stereotypical High Technology Fortress o' Evil. For those wanting some of that old Matsueda jazz, "Counter Bar" is a fantastic remake of "Shop" from the prequel, featuring a great-sounding bass guitar and electric piano. "Show Pub" runs along a similar vein, but it's blues instead of jazz, and it's also very good at mixing up the genres. The ending is a 3-part syphonic wonder, borrowing heavily from (you guessed it) Front Mission 1's ending theme. It does a perfect job of wrapping everything up nicely and giving you some great ear candy, chock full of rich harmonies and captivating melodies. All that, and a bag of chips.
Buy this soundtrack now, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world! Pretty please? It's got all the great stylings of the Front Mission 1 OST, which was a damn fine ST in itsef, and this one sounds about 300 times better. Oh wait, Shinryuu's right. It is hard to come across, but believe me when I say it will probably be the best out-of-print game soundtrack you'll ever buy.