Front Mission 3 Original Soundtrack
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Enjoying the festivities at the Millennial Fair so far? 'Course you are!
Had your fill of Front Mission yet? Well, my hearing is a bit bad, so I'll just assume you said "no". But here's one thing even I can hear, the review for the Front Mission 3 OST. If you want to see more, just go here for the rest of the Front Mission stuff.
To view our previous reviews, check out the archives
In 1999, Squaresoft were busy making their 3rd Front Mission title, at least strategy/rpg wise. Like when they’ve hired Riow Arai for Front Mission Alternative in 1997, they wanted to take another chance and hire composers outside the company. So the duo of Koji Hayama(Cho Aniki) and Hayato Matsuo(Ogre Battle, Dragon Force II) were brought in to breathe in a bit of fresh air music-wise. Both composers did a great job. Although Matsuo was the better one as he wrote the orchestral pieces, Hayama showed off his talent on the techno pieces.
Disc 1 general review
The first track that caught my attention was the guitar-driven “Starting”, composed by Koji Hayama; it has all the good stuff, great composition, lovely sound and just sounds plain cool ! This was used during the sequence of testing the wanzers’ strength and abilities in the laboratory. “Bar(All-Purpose)” is a catchy jazz lounge track, much like Matsueda’s works in the Front Mission series and Racing Lagoon. Matsuo gets the atmosphere just right with this piece. Relax, have a drink or two while you listen to this piece. The “Setup” pieces are both done in techno style and do sound a tad repetitive, yet they tend to stay catchy, the same goes for “Network”. Those themes will be heard often, so you’ll need to get used to them. The fun really starts with “Invasion”, which Matsuo slips in a piano here and there, while the meat of the composition is more techno, it still manages to entrance and keeps the player listening without having to mute the TV. “Impact” sounds like a duel theme to me, as it is fast-paced, is very militaristic in nature and certainly fits the mood of battle. Another note-worthy track is “VS Mercenaries”, Matsuo puts more than enough variety so you don’t lose the focus of your objective, this music is strategy-rpg material at its best in my opinion. “Bar(China)” has that asian sound(d’uh), I can’t describe too much, but it just sounds so fitting for a Chinese bar/pub. Koji Hayama does the melancholic “Suspicion”, which starts with a cello playing an eerie melody, backed up by a piano, something awful must be going on while this plays. Disc 1 ends with the great “Advancing Attack”. It’s fast-paced, loads of fun to listen to, you can easily imagine rushing the enemy to this theme, what more could one want ?
Disc 2 general review
The first track which really grabbed my attention on disc 2 was “Fort Invasion”, once more, Matsuo shows off amazing skill at combing techno and orchestral music, but this one is of a much grander, more epic scale than those on disc 1, you can tell that capturing the enemy fort is a crucial part for winning the war. “Sorrow” is one of the most emotional sad themes I’ve ever heard, Matsuo excels in creating emotional themes as well as battle themes, as this track is a no-brainer. “Big Battle”, always by Matsuo; is the final boss theme. It delivers wonderfully, you can feel the extreme tension while you hold on for dear life and pray that you survive the onslaught of the gigantic enemy wanzer. “Ending” takes the cake as being the most depressing ending theme ever, there are glimpses of hope here and there, but overall, you can feel the characters aren’t quite satisfied with the way the war has gone, even if it ended, too many lives were lost.
So… should you get this soundtrack ? If you do, grab it quick !! Since DigiCube burned down recently, it is only available in limited copies. You can get it at GameMusicOnline for 36$, not bad considering the quality of the music within. I say it is definitely worth it for Hayato Matsuo’s pieces.
As much as I try not to judge music by sound quality, with Front Mission I can't help but keep coming back to it. My first thoughts when I started up the Front Mission 3 soundtrack were "wow, this is like, electronic... but it's also... good!" The dynamic duo that composed this 2-disc set, Koji Hayama and Hayato Matsuo, made it clear that this was a stylistic return to the roots of Front Mission. Many of the symphonic styles and complexities of Front Mission 2 were stripped away, going back once again to that old simple mechanical groove. It's like the evolution of synthesizers. It used to be that a piano sound on a synthesizer sounded like, well, a synthesizer. Then synth makers got good enough that they could make a synthesizer that sounded like a real piano. But then they got this idea to synthesize the old synthesizers too, so now you can select an instrument that reproduces perfectly that old crappy electric piano. It's not quite the same, but you get the idea. The FM3 OST features a large amount of electronic instruments, but they do indeed sound very cool. The characteristic wide range of genres is a feature any Front Mission player will definitely appreciate. One thing is definitely unusual for a Front Mission album, however -- the track length. Most of the songs are well into the 3-5 minute range, with only a very small number being less than 2 minutes. Compare this to Front Mission 1, which had a mean track lengh somewhere in the 1-2 minute range. Though the songs of this soundtrack are still fairly simple, that extra length allows for a great deal more variation, which is a big plus.
The first track, "Government", is a perfect example of that return to electronica that I find charming about the soundtrack. It reminds me a lot of Phantasy Star 2... it's got that same happy melody, and the instruments are similar to the old Genesis hardware too, though of course the good mixing and sound quality makes it a lot cleaner. Sometimes the composers try some interesting fusion, having real-sounding instruments playing alongside heavily electronic ones. "Repose 2", an early song on disc 2, has its melody carried by some flutey instruments. Strings provide additional ambient backup, but the main bass range is clearly dominated by a monotone synthesizer. Such tracks are fairly common in game music, but that doesn't make them any less welcome.
Jazz enthusiasts will welcome the early "Bar (General Purpose)", which might be a homage to Noriko Matsueda's fantastic jazzy work on the first two Front Missions. The two "Setup" tracks, also early in disc 1, make great demonstrations that prove that the extra track length isn't just filler. The first is a trancey dance number featuring very high frequency sounds, a catchy rhythm, and interesting layered melodies. The second is similar in some ways, having the same good ryhthm and dance-ability as the first. The style is very different though, using a bass guitar, brass, and piano for the instruments. The end result is a cool Latin swing that's very easy to groove to. "Barilar" takes first prize for being the downright coolest groove song, though... it's just so funky, you have to give it a listen. Another one of my personal top picks is "Defend", a dark industrial piece with really evil-sounding horns and something that sounds like a sinister war machine.
Front Mission 3 may feature a wider genre span than any of its predecessors. With "Bar (China)", the name speaks for itself. "Hideout", the track which follows, is a heavy, moderately paced piece, and it has some of the best instrument selection on the soundtrack. The monotony of the bassline is easily relieved by the rising and falling synth backups, percussion, and cool-sounding bells that continue the Chinese theme. There's also plenty of symphonic material, despite the soundtrack's general trend towards a more electronic feel. "Charge" on disc 2 is highly recommended, featuring powerful percussion and brass, and a catchy melodic theme that will really get your blood pumping -- it's one of those themes I shouldn't have to point out, you'll know it when they get there. For those looking for battle music, look no further than the bizarre "Escape", which has a really dissonant harmony, but I guess that just makes the fighting seem even more desperate. "Swift Attack" and "Advance Attack" are also highly recommended. "Enemy Attack" is cool in its own right too, but it's much slower and sounds more like a premonition kind of piece than a battle theme. You might notice that all the battle tracks are split up here... something I think should have been done with all the Front Mission soundtracks. With the first two, they lobbed all the fighting songs at you in one volley. Here they take the smart road and mix it up more, so you don't overdose on it.
Is there a Front Mission soundtrack I won't recommend? Not bloody likely. Folks, they just keep getting better and better. As of this writing, Front Mission 3 is new enough that finding a copy should still be pretty easy. If you only buy one FM soundtrack, please make it this one. Considering that all the others are out of print, this makes your choice a bit easier. :P