Front Mission 2 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Kero Hazel
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 Front Mission: Gun Hazard, 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. This is 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 Front Mission Original Sound Version. About five of the tracks are either remakes of Front Mission tracks or include references to them; this is 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 soundtrack 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 pieces in the early part of the soundtrack are "Surprise," which is a remake of Front Mission'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 symphonic wonder, borrowing heavily from (you guessed it) Front Mission 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 Original Sound Version, which was a damn fine Sound Version in itself, and this one sounds about 300 times better. 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.