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Front Mission 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Totz

Front Mission 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Front Mission 3 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube
Catalog Number: SSCX-10035
Release Date: September 22, 1999
Content: 2 CD Set - 47 Tracks
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


With the game actually being the fourth in the series, since Front Mission 1, Front Mission 2 and Front Mission Alternative preceded it, Front Mission 3 was made a few years into the PlayStation's lifecycle, and instead of bringing us the familiar faces of Yôko Shimomura, Noriko Matsueda or Riow Arai, the soundtrack yields the Ogre series composer Hayato Matsuo, and Japan's 'Big Brother', Koji Hayama. Indeed, that's quite an interesting mix, considering each one's origins in the Video Game Music world. Matsuo is as refined as possible, and Hayama's Cho Aniki compositions are definitely out of the ordinary, and often need an acquired taste. Anyway, enough dawdling, let's get it on.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) The Government

The image of a modern city comes to mind when listening to SHIGEKI's only contribution to this album. Everything about the track throws out futuristic vibes at me — from the high-pitched, near dreamy, synth, to the piano-like sound used on the melodic line. One can't forget the bass ostinato or the drum set either, as they complete the composition. Without a driving force behind all the synthesized sounds, the whole structure would fail. With a fair bit of development, "The Government" sure is a nice disc opener, and a fine addition to the soundtrack. (9/10)

2) Starting

Almost like a sudden attack on the tranquillity of "The Government," Hayama's "Starting" comes with an electric guitar ostinato, and other tension enhancing instruments. With the melody being divided between some wiggly synth, another electric guitar and a short burst of strings and bass, there's enough variety to keep even the pickiest of listeners satisfied. The melodic line at times is so simple and effective, like an ascending scale, and the synth melody is so much simpler, you might ask yourself why the track doesn't become tiresome after a while. (9/10)

3) City (Japan)

Sorry, Matsuo, but I expected more from you. After hearing your Shenmue arrangements and Ogre tracks, I expected at least a composition that would be more appropriate in its name and atmosphere. I hear nothing in "City (Japan)" that makes me think of that country, unless I'm missing something. It's got a wicked cool beat and bass ostinato, and a pretty neat melody, but where's the reference to Japan? Only if it is that particular instrument used only in the development of the track, that sounds as if someone got a woodwind and mixed it up with synth. If not, you lost me. (6/10)

4) Problem

Here comes another ostinato-heavy, tension-filled Hayama track. Instead of an electric guitar, like in "Starting," we get strings that keep to a simple motif which runs to keep us anxious and nervous throughout. After a brief interlude, whose erratic melodic behaviour can only be associated to being a simple bridge between the regular section of the track, we get silence. Just silence. Even for such a short period of time, it does a great job at enhancing the anticipation. Good track. (8/10)

5) The Bar

Now we relax a bit with a jazzy, lounge composition. Matsuo calms us down with some soft piano, strings, a saxophone, and very light percussion. Even though the whole note-repetition can get a bit annoying, you can't help but rest when hearing the mellow saxophone lines. The whole track's great to relax to, so if you want something easy on your ears, "The Bar" is for you. (8.5/10)

6) Infiltration

Pizzicato strings on a synth ostinato? That's not as stealthy as you think, Hayama. When you turn 180 degrees into another section, you leave listeners confused. The development is far more ominous than the childish pizzicato beginning, and with a lot more repetition as well. Actually, if it's not playing the melody, it's in an endless ostinato. The piano, the snare drum and, later on, the timpani, all repeat the same thing with a boring string melody that begins with a chromatic run, and seems to have no direction whatsoever. Indeed, it goes right back into the pizzicato strings, and that just baffles me. With no bridges, this track is awful. (4/10)

7) Setup 1

Oh, hey, let's dance! After a long introduction, which is nothing more than the same synth melody and accompaniment being repeated in different intervals, a piano joins the party, but, of course, it just keeps repeating the same melodic line, until a whole new synth section begins. Nonetheless, it's so short, that you won't mind it much. All in all, it's nice to listen to, but nothing more. (6.5/10)

8) Setup 2

"Setup 2" is actually a lot like "Setup 1," only livelier, and much better. For starters, the synth is a lot more appropriate, and the brass does a great job replacing the piano. However, it's not the last you see of our favourite keyboard, since it's in a later section where it improvises. One of the best things about the track is that the third development section of the original is not in it, and the fact that the instrumentation of the whole thing is much better also helps it. It's a bit shorter, but it more than makes up for it in overall quality. (7.5/10)

9) Network

"Network" is god-awful. Imagine this: repeatedly hitting your head on the nearest wall, and then, while doing that, punching yourself in the stomach several times. That's "Network." The only difference between the two sections is that Hayama uses synth in one, and percussion in the other. Oh, by the way, you may want to use a concrete wall. (3/10)

10) Base Invasion

Matsuo's track is a prime example of how repetition can sometimes be a good thing, and how to use a multitude of synth and real instruments without creating a mess. "Base Invasion" begins much like a stealth attack, with an electronica motif being repeated. To give the composition some rhythm, Matsuo added a nice beat and a piano playing the bass line. The melody flows very well, from synth to strings to small touches of piano here and there, and each section leads into the next very well. This may not be the Ogre series, but it still shows how refined Matsuo's compositions are. (9.5/10)

11) Impact

Yet again, ostinatos in the bass. This time, though, with an orchestral hit and a snare drum. Get ready for the melody; synth playing ascending notes! Who could have seen that coming!? In its defence, it does develop into an orchestral hit-free slow moving 4-note-long chromatic passage. All in all, "Impact" is a pretty strong track, and if it wasn't for the really bad use of repetitions and the poor attempt at creating a melody (although there isn't really a need for one), it could have been better. (5/10)

12) Silence

You already know what to expect, right? It is Hayama after all. With a very simple bass ostinato, consisting of very few percussion beats, a bassline that is simply one note being over and again, and a woodwind playing a 5-measure long phrase, the composer successfully achieves a feeling of loneliness. It's Hayama, but at least it's great. (8/10)

13) Defensive War

One of the best features of this track are the clanging metal noises, an integral part of the ever-present ostinato. Since this is a mech game, and the score is war based, the sounds of the Wanzers (the robots) walking around sure was a nice touch. Too bad the rest is bland. I felt no danger or anything like that coming from "Defensive War," and when you've got the typical militaristic instrumentation added on top, it's not good. (6.5/10)

14) Anger

This is what I'm talking about. Power! I hope this is a battle theme, because it's great. This is the Ogre series Matsuo I have wanted to hear since the beginning of the album. "Anger" is a prime example of how refined his works can be, having a melody that actually goes somewhere and develops well with a decent use of instrumentation. Great stuff right here. (9.5/10)

15) VS Katatsu

OK, now forget the orchestral Matsuo, as his electronica persona has taken over. Fortunately, the result is equally as satisfying. By using a plethora of sound effects to complement the synth melody, Matsuo creates a very robotic theme, if I may say so, and that's even more apparent when he starts doubling the melodic line with another synth part. In comes the snare drum to lead us to another section of the composition, this time a calmer one, before a really bad transition takes us to yet another part. Thankfully, the next section is pretty great, and is actually my favourite part of this track. If you analyze it, it's pretty much just a descending passage, but the way Matsuo handles it makes it a good listen. Unfortunately, the rest of the composition is dull, with a simple brass line repeated over a synth bass and percussion, featuring little development. That's what hurt the score. (9/10)

16) City (China)

Unlike "City (Japan)," "City (China)" has a very fitting atmosphere. I can easily picture a Chinese city when listening to the composition, because of the instrumentation used. Matsuo mixed some electronica with Chinese instruments and produced a piece of music that is great to listen to. He combined both the old and the new to represent the future of China. Very neat. (8.5/10)

17) The Bar (China)

"The Bar (China)" is even more oriental than the previous track. With the complete absence of electronica, all that's left are the instruments of that particular region, so the picture now is of an 'old school' Chinese bar. As always, the composition flows wonderfully, so listening to it doesn't get dull quickly. Matsuo succeeds once again. (8.5/10)

18) Agito

This track's got a pretty cool bass line. I think this is amusing because in Portuguese (I live in Brazil) one of the meanings of the word 'Agito' is 'party', and this piece of music is most certainly dance-like. Hayama keeps it very, very simple this time, with a synthy bass and drum ostinato. With about three different sections, each one longer than the other: the first is with a low synthy wind playing long notes, in the second, there are strings and some sort of xylophonic instrument, and the third is the most Hayama-esque one, because there are lots of long notes and chromatic passages. All in all, despite the lack of variation, I find it to be pretty enjoyable. (8/10)

19) Escape

With heavy drum beats and a synth intro that leads nowhere (and that's good!), we are thrown right into the middle of an escape attempt. Hayama reused everything he knew to write this track: crazy synth runs, awesome percussion, low-pitched string passages, everything. The result is pretty cool. (8.5/10)

20) Army Base

Here comes Matsuo, to kindly remind us that militaristic tracks demand lots of brass and snare drums. But I'll be damned if he didn't add a whole lot of stuff to make it awesome. The beginning is what gets me, with the powerful repeating brass melody and snare drum. However, I'm not so crazy about some of its development, namely the short synth part right after the low brass section. Fortunately, the section after that one is pretty great. Matsuo uses wobbly synth and brass to play the melody, with a piano playing in a lower register and strings to hold long notes. The next part has string going all Psycho on us, with lots of "stabs" (if you will). Finally, we are lead back to the awesome, awesome beginning with a synth passage over piano and snare accompaniment. I just can't get enough of "Army Base." (9.5/10)

21) Research Lab

With some very simple percussion lines and synth passages, Matsuo slowly builds and develops "Research Lab." Since the main melody seems to be played by a synth keyboard, it sounds Sakuraba-ish in nature, but with Hayato's touch all over it. It's nothing special, but it does its job well, that's for sure. (7.5/10)

22) Lucarb 1

This piece of music starts off very sneaky and ambient, with very quiet cymbal taps, suspended strings, and an awesome contrabass ostinato. Alongside all of that comes a piano, playing a melody in its lower registers. Next up is a simply fantastic piano line over percussion and a synthy bass ostinato. The piano replays the melody from the beginning, but with a few differences. Since the piano passage is way too great for the simple person to take, Matsuo takes a small break from it by having strings play the melody for a while. It's astonishing what this man can do. (9.5/10)

23) Suspicion

Just when you think something could not be repeated, in comes Hayama to prove you wrong. "Suspicion" is pretty much an ambient track, with the same five piano notes over the same suspended notes for the duration of the track. The only difference is the occasional weird sound effect. Interesting, albeit boring, composition. (6/10)

24) Front Line Base

Yet another example of great use of repetition is in "Front Line Base" each section of the composition has a different ostinato backing up the melody. The first part has brass and synth beats with a woodwind melody over them, and the second has a quieter accompaniment, with, again, brass and synth, but with strings as well. This is also my favourite part of the track, because of the rhythm; after a brief violin and wind passage, we are lead to a what I consider to be the weakest link of this music piece. It sounds very messy, with piano and string and winds and whatnot, all clamped together. Not really my thing. At least everything sounds good, the sections flow from one another very well, and that's it. That's what we should expect from Matsuo anyway, so it doesn't come as a surprise. (8.5/10)

25) Attack

Talk about ending a disc on a high note! "Attack" is an acoustic and electronica wonder. It's got it all: awesome synth ostinatos, amazing melodies, flawless transitions, the whole nine yards. Not only all that, but the instrument variety is pretty good: it's got piano, strings, winds, choir, drum set, and around three gazillion synth instruments. Not too shabby if you ask me. Easily one of my favourites on Disc One. (10+/10)

Disc Two

1) Rest 1

Although the track might sound repetitive, rest assured it's only the first 50 seconds. It's a simple repetition of a string motif over a string and percussion line, with some ethereal harp touches here and there. When it develops, it gets a bit livelier, with a faster-paced drum line and a much better happier melody. After some rather disappointing contributions on the first disc, it's nice to see Hayama opening the second one with a nice, laid back composition. (8.5/10)

2) Rest 2

If you thought "Rest 1" was as happy as it gets, "Rest 2" is here to prove you wrong. Hayama opens the track with a bouncy wind melody over a repeating bass guitar line, and strings quickly join the bunch. At around the 0:47 mark, the strings play the melody from "Rest 1," linking the compositions in a way that Hayama himself did in Disc One, with "Setup 1" and "Setup 2." In the repetition, a flute plays that passage, with strings accompanying it. It's still pretty cool, but since I'm a huge fan of strings, I prefer that section the first time. Still, that's not a bad thing, and the whole composition comes together very well. (8/10)

3) City (Ruins)

A driving percussive line and strings is what this track is all about. Hayama represents what was once already a great city using first broken rhythms played by violins, then a sad melody played by full strings. It's really simple, yet works tremendously well. Way to go, Koji. Way to go. (8.5/10)

4) Barrier

Wow, this is wonderful! It's got a cool bass guitar and percussion ostinato and, for the melody, synth that starts playing long notes, and then turns into something quite jazzy, maybe with a bit of Blues, with touches of an electric guitar on places, and, even though it may sound a bit messy, it's pretty good. Brass then take the melody and lead us back to the beginning. (9.5/10)

5) Plains (China)

This is pretty scary... The first section is built around a mechanical sound motif, with two different parts: low brass with strings in the background and woodwinds with strings. When it develops, at around the 0:45 mark, it sounds a bit like something Sakimoto would write, especially the string passages. Anyway, after the Sakimoto-esque section, comes a new part where Matsuo at his best. Frantic percussion and strings accentuating every beat, giving this 'time is running out' feel, in ways similar to Uematsu's "Weapon Raid," over which brass develops an epic brass melodic line that perfectly connects the development sections of the track. (9.5/10)

6) Fort Invasion

After the initial sense of confusion, this composition turns into a full-blown crisis theme. A repeated piano line over some violins and low brass also helps set the mood before a theme is introduced by some violins. After a similar bridge as at the beginning, the theme gets repeated, but in a minor tone this time. The track starts to loop at this point, but I must say Matsuo did a great job on this one. (9/10)

7) Forest (Southeast Asia)

Here we see Matsuo experimenting with tribal sounds to give us a feel of what the forest is like, but that's not what's interesting about this track. What's interesting is how he mixes tribal drums with electronica, sort of like the old and the new together. At first, it's just those drums and choir, which are soon joined by some sort of synth that aims to sound like an echoing choir. Everything blends in very well, but that's not all. Diminuendo strings (mimicking an echo) lead us to an electronica (backed by strings) part, and although it's not very long, it has a lasting impression in the rest of the composition, because synth gets to be used a lot more often, especially after the 1:40 mark. It compliments the melody (it goes through some changes since the beginning, but it's pretty much the same) in a very nice manner, and, as I have said before, it's very interesting. (9/10)

8) Enemy Attack

This track has some mixing problems that are a bit of a bother. The melody in the first part is really low when compared to the snare drum, so we hear a lot more of the ostinato instead of what's actually interesting. When it repeats, it's a different instrument, so we can hear it a bit better. The second part is quite short, and it's pretty much a crisis-ish brass passage that acts more as a bridge between repetitions than an actual different section of the composition. (7/10)

9) Scout Unit

Can't say I care too much about this one, although it sets a dark mood well. The drum rhythm can get annoying very quickly, and since it takes a while for something completely different to appear, some people might be turned off by it. The first section is some ghastly sounding choir with some nice bass guitar lines; then, some ominous strings take over, and brass play a similar melody afterwards. Next up is an electronica bridge to the beginning, and that's pretty much it. (7/10)

10) Raid

It's amazing how "Raid" is the opposite of Disc One's "Attack," despite both being synth battle themes. It's slow, it's boring, it's not interesting, it drags on for too long, and it's just plain annoying. However, it does have instrumentation in its favour, because every section is different from the previous one. But, well, that's not good enough to save this track from mediocrity. (5/10)

11) VS in Unit

Hayama using repetition in a decent way for what seems to be a battle theme. He builds the entire track over a very simple low brass, choir and percussion ostinato, with high strings and synth occasionally playing a melody. It can get boring fairly quickly, though, and that definitely hurts whatever enjoyment we could get out of the track, but with a runtime of a bit less than two minutes, it's not that bad. (6.5/10)

12) Isolation

Matsuo got a perfect feeling of sadness with "Isolation." Using strings to play chords at every beat and a woodwind and violins for the melody, the first section is built. Okay, but hold the strings at every beat, we'll get back to it later. Then, a harp enters and plays over some hovering strings, but that's just an appetizer for the great, yet short, piano section that comes after it. Guess what's with the piano. Yep, the strings at every beat. Unfortunately, because of the ritardando on the end of the track after the piano section, the track loops horribly, and makes you feel kind of weird. That's definitely the worst part of the composition. Other than that, it's all good. (8/10)

13) Lucarb 2

Remember "Lucarb 1" way back in Disc One? That was a very good piece of music. "Lucarb 2," unfortunately, doesn't achieve the same result. With little to no variation in each of its two sections, this composition not only goes nowhere, but annoys you because it gets infuriating listening to same thing several times in a row. At least Matsuo had the decency to write different ostinatos for each part. (5.5/10)

14) A Promise

If it wasn't for the ridiculously loud snare drum and metallic ostinato, Hayama would have had a gem in his hands, since everything else is pretty much perfect. I'm a sucker for sad string passages, and this is no exception. Unfortunately, like in "Enemy Attack," mixing problems pretty much ruined the track for me. Still, if you were to ignore the stupid repetitions, I think you would find a lot of enjoyment in "A Promise." (6/10)

15) Assault

This track sees the return of orchestral Matsuo. It's epic, it's developed, the melody goes places, the piece flows well, and anything that can be complimented about a composition of this calibre is in this case. Every instrument is used to the fullest, and Matsuo even throws in a choir. You could say that "Assault" is this disc's orchestral "Attack," because both are fantastic battle themes. (10+/10)

16) Determination

Two orchestral tracks, one after the other? You do us too much honour, Matsuo. While "Determination" isn't as aggressive as its older brother, it is still quite the battle theme. With a lot more wind and choir than "Assault," this here track may lead you to believe it's a bit light-hearted, but, trust me, it's not. The composition gives every instrument a chance to shine, and might even sound more epic than the previous piece, due to its foreboding beginning and choir use. What really hurt the track is its ending. I'm not that crazy about that accelerando stabbing rhythm, and it doesn't connect very well to the beginning. (9/10)

17) Memory (Alisa)

With nothing but a simple music box, Matsuo brings us happy, innocent memories. I wouldn't say it's a tear-jerking melody, but it makes you feel good, you know? It makes you go back to those awesome childhood memories you just love, and that's a darn good feeling. (8/10)

18) Swift Attack

Now we're talking! Hayama's "Swift Attack" is all kinds of awesome! He begins the track with a simple beat, and creates the percussive ostinato based on it. Strings play the melody, which, even though is mostly whole notes with a few triplets, you get a feel of urgency. Then, just because it's cool, Hayama takes it up a notch and adds an electric guitar line, that sounds like it was improvised right then and there. The composition is good, it works as a whole, and that's why it gets such a good score. (10/10)

19) Stage End 1

Even Matsuo's short fanfare tracks are top-notch. "Stage End 1" has brass playing the melody with a snare drum accompanying it, and occasionally strings doubling up the melody. It's short, it's sweet, and gets its point across. (8/10)

20) Stage End 2

It sounds like this stage didn't end in a very satisfying way. With brass playing a melody over strings and what sounds like a young choir, with some titbits of percussion here and there, Matsuo creates a pretty unnerving aura. (8.5/10)

21) Game Over

"Game Over" is a militaristic funeral march. Well, since you lost, it's pretty gloomy and dark, with an all male choir over strings and a snare drum. With just the right amount of development, Matsuo makes it good enough to be worth listening to, and not ignored, just because it's the game over music. (7/10)

22) Ending

With a rather sad beginning with a xylophone backed by strings, strings and woodwinds come in to start off Matsuo's epic ending. It's absolutely endearing to hear it in this manner, as it gives it such character. The next section is lead by a harpsichord, brass and strings, and it's one of the most powerful parts of the track, purely for the brass. What comes next is the first happy sounding part of the whole composition, and it's past the 2 minute mark. Woodwinds are accompanied by a harp and then joined by strings and xylophone, and after a bridge, we go to a brief harp and wind section, that leads us back to the beginning. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of a definitive ending. For such a powerful and important tune, I would want it to end like it should. Nevertheless, this composition is gorgeous, and pretty much kills any doubts you could have had about Matsuo's skill to write for orchestra. (10+/10)


I'm going be honest with you guys: I was a bit sceptical of this album before reviewing it. I know Matsuo can write great pieces of music and that Hayama can too, but what worried me was not each one individually, but what would come of their partnership. Fortunately, after hearing everything, I have to say I had no reason to be worried. Both composers did a great job and, although there were a few hitches along the ride ("Network" and "Lucarb 2" come to mind), it was a great trip, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Matsuo's orchestral tracks or Hayama's electronica.

Percentage Overall Score: 85%

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