Front Mission: Gun Hazard Original Soundtrack
to the music review at RPG Classics.com! Our goal is help people see
the soundtracks they listen to in a better light as well as help the
RPG music lovers out there know what to get and know what crap they
should stay the hell away from before they're stuck listening to something
so bad, they'll want to drive ice picks into their ears to relieve
Enjoying the festivities at the Millennial Fair so far? 'Course you are!
Front Mission: Gun Hazard is not the direct sequel to the original Front Mission, nor is it even an RPG! But it's still in the series, and it's still damn good music. Here's our take on it. 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
A year after the fantastic Front Mission, Squaresoft brings a sequel, but instead of being a stratety/rpg, they chose to produce a platformer instead. Two of Squaresoft’s most reknown musical geniuses, Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda; were asked to compose for this title, but they’ve also brought up two newcomers with them : Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. Compared to Uematsu and Mitsuda, Hamauzu and Nakano only did 4 pieces each, but they left a nice impression. All four composers pitched in to create one of the better SFC soundtracks, strong in both musical and sound quality.
A mistake many people make is comparing this soundtrack to the composers other works. Many will say it is not epic like Final Fantasy and not mood-setting like Chrono Trigger. The people need to understand that this soundtrack is meant to sound military and very serious, unlike those other games. With that out of the way, let’s move along with this review.
Disc 1 general review
It starts off with the magnificient “Gun Hazard”, which plays during the intro of the game sets the standard of the entire soundtrack : filled with military overtones and serious. “Emergency” gets straight to the point, your president nearly got assassinated, the villain is hot on his tail, PROTECT HIM AT ALL COSTS !!!! “Last Words” is the game over theme, short, sad, nothing more. “Tension” is the world map theme, it gets you into a thinking stance and allows you to choose your next location carefully. “Shiver” starts off similar to FF6’s “The Serpent Trench”, but loads of drumrolls make it evident that you’re not on an easy mission and the success of the mission means everything. “A Shop Keeper” is jazzy at best, but dosen’t stand up to Matsueda’s “Shop”. It is one of the less serious themes and dosen’t get annoying even after repeated listens. Junya Nakano’s sole contribution to disc 1 is a good one, if you want rhythm and fast-paced music, “Enemy Raid” has it all. Nakano’s “Amplification of Selves” from Another Mind was loosely based on this track, and it spells panic all the way through, but also shows off Nakano’s repetitive side. “Successful Attack” is easily one of the most interesting battle themes in this soundtrack, well composed and sounding good, it puts the player at ease and helps to concentrate to endure the lengthy conflict. “Genoce” is another of the stand-out pieces of disc 1, also a battle theme. It is moderately-paced, has interesting passages and variations throughout the track, yep, this one’s a sure winner in my eyes. The disc ends with Hamauzu’s “Naval Fortress”; right off the bat, Hamauzu shows off his skill at making an excellent theme, very enjoyable, excellent quality composition and above-average sound programming make this one one of the best on disc 1.
Disc 2 general review
Yasunori Mitsuda opens up the second part of the soundtrack with “Royce Felder”, a serious character theme, sprinkled with hints of hope and despair at the same time, which is unique, especially for a platformer. “A-R-K” is an interesting electronic theme, slow-paced, but very militaristic in its approach, probably used against a slow-moving but powerful opponent. “Cavern” is the ambient gem of the soundtrack, loaded with wind and voice effects, tribal drums and xylophone represents the darkness of a cavern, when the instruments quiet down, you could almost hear a heart beat, with a voice sample saying “Slayer”, or something to that approach. “Edel Ritter”, composed by Nakano, is a interesting mix of drums, piano and trumpets, I consider this piece to be one of Nakano’s better compositions in this soundtrack. “Nature”, by Uematsu, will remind FF4 players right off of Golbez’s Theme from Final Fantasy 4. The organ defenately gets the creepiness across, something evil must be going on as this plays. The soundtrack eventually closes with “Trial Zone”, composed by Mitsuda. Easily a fine ending theme, even by today’s standards.
Should you buy this ? It all depends on how much you wanna pay….. It’s a rare bugger, and I was able to get my copy through Yahoo Japan Auctions for about 60$, usually it goes for much higher, so bring in lots of cash in case the auction goes out of control.
Some teams were just meant to be. I think Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda, individually two of the biggest names in video game music, make a terrific team. The two collaborated for the Chrono Trigger soundtrack, and they returned for Front Mission: Gun Hazard. Whereas every other Front Mission soundtrack has been the work of newcomers to the game music industry, Gun Hazard was primarily the work of veterans. There were two newcomers that played a small but welcome role in the soundtrack as well: Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu, who would later come to be game music veterans in their own right. We end up with a 2-CD soundtrack that just oozes professionalism. It's still Front Mission through and through, though, and it's a credit to the composers for the other games that their works sound as good as Uematsu and Mitsuda.
Gun Hazard gets off to a great start from the opening track, "Gun Hazard". Right away all fears of inferior synth quality (which was really only an issue with the first Front Mission) melt away as the theme song plays. Fears of inconsistency with the established style are also put to rest. The opening track is a true representative of the soundtrack it shares its name with. The album is very military throughout -- that is, full of marchy rhythms and cool percussion effects. Some of the very best mood-setting pieces in the world of game music can be found right here. With "Tension", an early track on the first disc, the name says everything. Amid the echoing cadence of factory noises, a melody which is almost jazzy emerges. The extremely high quality percussion means everything to this track, and the songs that follow are no different. FM:GH is easily the most mood-setting of the Front Mission soundtracks, and I think it owes this primarily to the fantastic percussion work.
Mitsuda's "Cavern" on disc 2 is a wonderful ambient piece, utilizing more distinct drums, ratchets, and sound samples than I can count. Electronic instruments play their odd little layered melodies and then studdently drop out, and all you can hear is a heartbeat and a voice whispering "slayer" in the darkness. I don't know where he comes up with this stuff, but it's more than just a little creepy. Hamauzu also makes a very cool contribution called "Approach to a Shrine" which is another great example of instruments setting the mood. The piece has an Eastern flair to it, owing to the metal xylophone-like instrument playing chords typical of that region. Melodies and harmonies are layered and flow together easily, despite there being some very different instruments in there -- some electronic, others (like the deep bell) very traditional. It's a song that feels restful and restless at the same time... I guess the characters can feel the tranquility of the nearby shrine, but still have to be on the lookout for enemy ambushes.
Ancient shrines and whatnot are well and good, of course, but the heart of Gun Hazard is industrial music. It's already met halfway by the electronic instruments, and those hammering factory sounds are some of the best ambience around. "Voice of Ark", "Galeon", and "A-R-K", to name a few, are industrial tracks that all sound like the player is giving chase (or being pursued). The slow "Invasion" and the two "Warning" tracks which follow it (the second by Uematsu) are more industrial goodness. Uematsu's is especially interesting, featuring a weird melody instrument that sounds kind of like a snake charmer's flute -- at least, that's the way they always sound in the movies. :P As long as you're listening to those tracks, keep going with the next one, "Genoce", which is another battle theme from the sound of it.
Careful listeners might catch a few glimpses of Uematsu's trademark work in here. This composition job shortly preceded Final Fantasy VII, if I'm not mistaken, and there are a couple tracks that even use similar instruments. "Warning Two" already has a few hints of that game in it, and "Cenktrich" reminds me heavily of Aeris's Theme. With all those symphonic strings in the background, and lofty melodies, it has that same warm spacey feeling that takes me back to the days of spikey hair and buster swords. Uematsu also takes us back to a simpler time with "Blue Sky ~Blue Sky~" (the track so pretty they named it twice! :P), whose simple sad chimings almost sound like they could be from FF5-era. And finally, he gives us a glimpse of the future (looking forward from 1996 anyway) in "Transaction", which has sort of a sneaky jazz going on, possibly the predecessor for the Deling sewers music of FF8.
One of Gun Hazard's musical strengths is its terrific track arrangement. A harsh lesson was learned in Front Mission 1, where too many tracks of one kind (battle themes, for example) fell grouped together, leaving large segments of the CD sounding the same. Gun Hazard really mixes things up, and provides a perfect balance between having too many different styles going on and having everything sound the same. It does this despite having 4 different composers... with the exception of the tracks that remind you of Final Fantasy, it's nigh impossible to tell which musician wrote what. You'll find a filler track here and there, but at least nothing that's annoying to listen to.
Now for a few favorites. As I was saying before, the whole soundtrack is very cool-sounding, and it's very much greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes you'll need to hear a run of several songs for the full effect to take you in. But a good soundtrack should still have its gems, and Gun Hazard delivers. The final track of disc 1, "Naval Fortress", is a nice battle theme, as well as the final battle "Impatience" by Hamauzu, which has an eerily controlled melody but disguises a fierce tempo underneath. Mitsuda's "Royce Felder" is some fantastic mood music. First we have a hopelessly sad harmony played on harp and strings, then the tears are choked back as a march picks up the shattered pieces and carries on, like a true soldier. "Atlas" and "202", both by Uematsu, sound like preludes to battle. The first is definitely more inspirational, grand organ passages rising from the depths and weaving together like nobody's business. The second is deep in industrial territory, and it's much darker. Nevertheless, it has its own share of heroic harmonies and melodies that speak of grim determination. Finally, Uematsu gives us "Sentinel". It's a dynamic, fluid piece that is the closest thing I've ever heard to a military battle played out in music. You can practically hear the marching, the weapons ringing in your ears... you can even track the progress of the fighting as harmonies turn tragic and then hopeful as the heroes gain ground. A brilliant narrative jewel.
There you have it, the soundtrack to Front Mission's little brother, Gun Hazard. As a musical work, though, this thing is little brother to nobody. It's primarily a thumping example of fine industrial music, but with ample influence from other styles as well. As an out of print soundtrack, you'll be hard pressed to find this little wonder, but it is out there. Just keep scouring the horizons, good listeners.