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Armored Core 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Armored Core 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Armored Core 3 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: SME Visual Works
Catalog No.: SVWC-7136
Release Date: May 22, 2002
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Under the sound director of Tsukasa Saitoh, the Armored Core series underwent a major musical shift for its third main instalment. Rather than focusing solely on electronic music — intelligent or otherwise — the three composers of the title incorporated novel vocal, orchestral, and world music elements to create an unparalleled sound. The resultant soundtrack became one of the most acclaimed in the series' eminent history.


The surreal hybrid "Artificial Sky" is the defining theme of the Armored Core 3 soundtrack. The initial version of this track brings plenty of weight to the opening movie with an abstract blend of orchestral and electronic elements; both forces are treated in an abstract and experimental manner distinct from the typical hybrid Hollywood scores out there, but are nevertheless mixed in quite a cutting-edge way at least for 2002. Surreal vocals, which are manipulated somewhat convincingly to sound like an ethnic female voice, are featured at key moments in the track and top off the unique soundscape. The result is a very moody and dramatic complement to the CG animation.

This main theme is arranged several times during the score to achieve distinctive moods. "no more cry" reflects the tragic setting of the game — Earth destroyed by a nuclear war — with its wailing and reflective vocals. The brooding electro-orchestral soundscaping of "Artificial Sky II" and pumping electronic focus of "Artificial Sky III" meanwhile are effective for setting the scene for the action. The fourth variation of the theme, used during the end credits, has become the soundtrack's most iconic cue, since it combines numerous stylistic elements and resolves the score thematically. It's a stunning way to reflect the epic journey that preceded.

The rest of the soundtrack maintains the experimental focus established by Saitoh's defining contributions. The three competing companies featured in the game are each represented by multifaceted themes, "Bravado" for Mirage, "Blue Braze" for Crest, and "below his eyes" for Kisaragi. The latter of these is certainly the most peculiar with its minimalistic elements and experimental voice samples, reflecting a small entity ambitious for greater control through potentially sinister means. The battle theme "Declare" meanwhile features a very dynamic blend of electronic and orchestral forces, and even subtly integrates the "Artificial Sky" theme to maintain cohesion throughout the soundtrack.

Guest contributor Yuki Ichiki makes an impression on the themes for some of the most intense missions, "your doors" and "Box Heart Box". She yields a particularly dense sound by blending the thrusting drum 'n bass elements typical of earlier soundtracks in the series with various orchestral punctuations. The final mission theme "On Satelloid" takes a relatively understated and introspective approach, but gradually reveals the intensity of the situation with its gradual orchestral and vocal elements. It paves way to the most intense contribution of the entire soundtrack is the last battle theme "Administrator", which takes no prisoners with its heavy orchestration.


While the initial soundtracks for the Armored Core series were remarkable, it is with Armored Core 3 that the series gained a particularly unique voice. The blends of electronic, orchestral, and vocal elements featured throughout the score generally yield a bizarre but somehow immersive and fulfilling sound. The tracks entirely fit the post-apocalyptic setting and mechanised gameplay of the game, while also being fascinating and enjoyable on a stand-alone basis. Though not quite the series' best soundtrack, it still comes highly recommended.

Overall Score: 9/10