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Armored Core Machine Side Box Best Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Armored Core Machine Side Box Best Soundtrack Album Title: Armored Core Machine Side Box Best Soundtrack
Record Label: From Software
Catalog No.: ACFFCD
Release Date: March 3, 2005
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Armored Core series has held a reputation for featuring some of the most cutting-edge video game music ever since its debut in 1997. However, the music for the franchise has evolved and transformed considerably over the years, due to its sound directors being keen to experiment in each game. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the franchise, From Software released a special box set featuring four games, an artbook, a documentary, and a best soundtrack. The soundtrack features selections from each of the series' soundtracks released up to 2006 and certainly reflects the aforementioned diversity.


The soundtrack reflects the series' respectable origins with several tracks from the original Armored Core. "High Fever", for instance, combines a blend of mechanical electronic beats with more soothing synthpads and various treble frills. The result offers a certain sense of energy and immediacy, which is appropriate for an action game, though is also quite understated and downbeat to reflect the greater ambience of the game's visuals. With elating beats, ethereal soundscapes, and epic interludes, "Circulation" is clearly inspired by anthemic trance music. However, Keiichi Segawa still expresses his unique voice throughout and ensures that the track is sufficiently dark and mature to fit the game.

The composers took a more elaborate and artistic take on subsequent additions to the series. "Grip" from Armored Core: Project Phantasma greatly develops upon the more hostile sound featured on the original game: the synthesis is tighter here, the stylings are more in line with psychadelic trance, and the development is much more comprehensive. "Apex in the Circle", a selection from Master of Arena, once again fits the game with its blend of bittersweet synthpads and mechanical beats, but is more accessible to listeners with various catchy hooks and compelling rhythms. Surprisingly, however, the three selections from Armored Core 2 ignore the title's numerous creative masterpieces, in favour of more gimmicky experiments like "Beatmask".

It was with Armored Core 3 that the soundtrack acquired a unique voice against mainstream electronica of the day. Most notably, Tsukasa Saitoh's "Artificial Sky IV" reflects the more dramatic and surreal feeling of the game with its tragic worldly vocals and dense electro-orchestral instrumentation. "Administration" also reflects the shift to new styles and this final battle theme takes no prisoners with its heavy orchestration. Armored Core: Silent Line developed on these elements even further and its main theme, "Silent Line I", is an especially welcome addition to the album. By further blending orchestral and acoustic forces, it is fascinating how Kota Hoshino combines a conventional portrayal of militarism with futuristic mechanised elements.

The series returned to its electronic routes with Armored Core: Nexus. However, "Shining" will still takes series' listeners by surprise given its light-hearted and cheesy tones. Hoshino manages to blend the series' more off-the-wall sounds with upbeat electronic beats and lyrics such as 'Shining every day'. Small selections from Armored Core: Formula Front and Armored Core: Last Raven close the album. "isaku-No.373" and "Fake Facer" follow series' tradition with their mixture of colourful synthpads and hard-edged beats. More surprising are "5 point Five" and "Six" from the latter game. With irregular rhythms, hardcore beats, and voice samples, these tracks certainly befit the featured fast-paced mechanised action, but are rather inaccessible.

The soundtrack does feature four exclusives from games that didn't receive soundtrack releases. "Act Zero" and "Detect" from the expansion Armored Core 2: Another Age continue the experimental electronic approach of its predecessor with lovely fleshed-out mixes. However, "Act Zero" is rather exceptional for the way it integrates some moody orchestral elements into the mix, until then forbidden for the series. The controversial Armored Core: Nine Breaker also receives a rare commemoration on "The Encounter World" and "Break Point". Both are close in style to the upbeat contemporary pieces featured in Armored Core: Nexus, with the former even featuring some uplifting piano riffs and some more of Hoshino's trademark vocals.


Armored Core is evidently a series that allows its composers to do almost whatever they like. This production method would be dubious at most companies, but it's fortunate From Software has one of the most impressive sound teams in any company, and each of their Armored Core scores up to 2006 was highly unique and impressive. This best soundtrack certainly reflects this and provides a worthwhile commemoration of the series' music for those prepared to purchase an expensive box. Despite its strong selections and various exclusives, most listeners will nevertheless find the series' full soundtracks more rewarding than this compilation.

Overall Score: 8/10