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Front Mission Alternative :: Review by Z-Freak

Front Mission Alternative Album Title: Front Mission Alternative
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10010; SQEX-10081
Release Date: November 21, 1997; November 22, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


When one mentions the name 'Front Mission', many immediately think of Front Mission 3, the last title for the PlayStation. Unfortunately, most of the Front Mission series remained in Japan, and only serious importers would get the chance to see what the fuss was about. It's an amazing series featuring strategic combats involving futuristic mechs. There are currently nine games released thus far, the composers of each being: Front Mission (Yoko Shimomura, Noriko Matsueda), Front Mission: Gun Hazard (Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano), Front Mission Alternative (Riow Arai), Front Mission Second (Noriko Matsueda), Front Mission 3 (Koji Hayama, Hayato Matsuo), Front Mission 4 (Hidenori Iwasaki, Ryo Yamazaki), Front Mission 1st (Hidenori Iwasaki as arranger of Front Mission), Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ (Hidenori Iwasaki, Kenichiro Fukui, Yasuhiro Yamanaka), and Front Mission Online (Hidenori Iwasaki, Tsuyoshi Sekito). When one looks closely, he will quickly notice an outsider: Riow Arai, who is discussed in the biography pages.


The album starts off with "Opening," which begins with a few generic beats, then explodes into a cacophony of weird sound effects. Then comes an extremely rapid drumbeat, followed by another, and another. The weird SFX keep on coming. Not your usual opening track, that's for sure. "Sandtown" starts off with a few cymbals and beats, a few drums, and it stays this way for most of the track. Eventually, Arai decides to add a few rapid drumbeats, which start off quietly and keep on getting louder and louder. "Jungle" is kinda nice. You get mainly tribal drumbeats mixed with techno beats — Arai simply keeps on adding effect after effect, which makes it a fairly basic theme. However, "Woods" doesn't offer much variety. Here, Arai just adds on layer after layer of techno sounds while the main melody repeats continuously.

"Rock" is an interesting change; you get loads of drum beats that are sometimes slow - and at other times - very rapid. While the main melody is repetitive, it still manages to entice the listener to the very end. After a while, Arai starts to break his beats up, sounding as if the record is malfunctioning, which is effective in getting the listener to notice these sudden changes in the track. "Beach" is one of the quieter themes. It's a nice jazzy track which is slow-paced and allows the listener to slowly sink into the theme. "Port" brings back the music to its quick techno beats and sound as Arai inserts a few sound effects which sound like an alarm of some sort. "Night" has a few special things to it — at points you get to hear a synthesized saxophone in the background, which is something you won't hear again in the soundtrack.

"Town 01" is one of the more difficult tracks to get into — Arai goes all out with the beats and crazy drumbeats, which do repeat up to four times, each time getting more and more intense. "Town 02" is in the same style of "Town 01," but not as difficult to get into. Arai throws in a few vocal samples in there, which sound like a person wailing. "Desert" is funny to me, as when you hear the beats in this track, it sounds as if Arai was simply hitting pots together, yet the exotic feel of the track represents the heat of a desert pretty well. "Bonus" is one of the most boring tracks — it never changes from beginning to end, Arai simply adds an extra effect here and there, but that's it.

"Airport" is a rather unique track — it starts off with a chant followed by gamey blips 'n bloops, then the usual techno beats come in. But, at one point, Arai slips in a few interesting samples (it sounds like a person talking through a malfunctioning radio), then you hear another person "singing" back. It does this a few times, which I found to be a very nice touch of originality. "Defeat" uses continuous beats and a few voice samples... and a piano!!! Wow, the piano doesn't waste time in getting the listener to pay attention to the notes. It surely does portray the sadness and despair when you and your troops of WAW's (Walking Armored Wanzers) are defeated. "Under" is another track filled with beats and fast drums, but unfortunately, it doesn't change too much and bores quickly. "Ending" is easily the best track — Arai demonstrates that he can compose beautiful, emotional music after all, as he uses the piano with amazing expertise.


So, how about the oddity? Should you buy or not? Well, it depends on a few factors. First off, are you big on techno music? And are you willing to shell out a decent amount of money to hunt it down? I got mine through a Japanese contact at Yahoo Japan Auctions, it seems to be the best place for it. I got mine for $60, so that gives you a good idea of how high it can go for. While the soundtrack seems to have few tracks, most of them are over 5 minutes long, so you get your money's worth, provided repetition doesn't bother you too much.

Overall Score: 8/10