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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 No.: SSCX-10035
Release Date: September 22, 1999
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


After three other Front Mission games, we... yeah, there are three FM games before this one: Front Mission 1, Front Mission 2 and Front Mission Alternative. Anyway, the 3rd numbered FM game was made a few years into the PlayStation 1 lifecycle and instead of bringing us the familiar faces of Yoko Shimomura, Noriko Matsueda or Riow Arai, we got the famous Ogre Series composer Hayato Matsuo and Japan's Big Brother, Koji Hayama himself.

That's quite in interesing mix, considering each one's origins in the VGM world. Matsuo is as refined as possible, and Hayama's Cho Aniki stuff are just crazy.

Enough dillydallying, let's get it on.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) The Government

The imagem of a modern city comes to mind when listening to SHIGEKI's only contribution to this album. Everything about the track scream "future" to me, from the highi-pitched, near dreamy, synth, to the piano-ish sound used on the melodic line. One can't forget the neither the bass ostinato nor the drum set, because they complete the composition. Withouth a driving force behind all the synthesized sounds, the whole structure would fall off. WIth a fair ratio of old to new sections (i.e., development), "The Government" sure is a nice disc opener, and a fine addition to the soundtrack. (9/10)

2) Starting

And almost like a sudden attack on the tranquility that is "The Government," comes Hayama's "Starting." With an electric guitar ostinato running throughout the track, a feeling of tension is created, which is emphasized by the militaristic nature of the percussion line. With the melody being divided between some sort of 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 ascedning scale, and the synth melody is so much simpler, you might ask yourself how can the track not be tiresome to listen to after a while. I don't know, all I say it's not. (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 (synth-based), 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, man. (6/10)

4) Problem

And here comes another ostinato-heavy, tension-filled Hayama track. Instead of an electric guitar, like in "Starting," we get strings, but the idea is the same: keep the same motif running to keep us anxious and nervous, expecting something. Yet again, the melody is kept simple: brass and strings keep going up (that is, if you consider the theme the ascending scale, and treat the shorter notes as being mere ancilary, used to give the thematic material some movement), sometimes doubling the melody. After a brief interlude, whose erratic melodic behaviour can only be associated to being a simple bridge between the regular section of the track and the drum roll leading to percussion-heavy development part (which is just the A section with more percussion), and said section, silence. Just silence. Even for such a short period of time, it does a great job at keeping us nervous. (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 sax and very light percussion. Even though the whole note-repetition thing can get a bit annoying, you can help but rest when hearing the mellow (and unfortunately, the few) sax lines. The whole thing's great to relax to, so yeah. If you want something easy on your ears, "The Bar" is for you. (8.5/10)

6) Infiltration

I don't... get this track. Pizzicato strings on a synth ostinato? That's not as stealthy as you think, Hayama. And when you turn 180� into another section, you leave listeners going "What the heck?" The development is far more ominous-sounding than the kiddie 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 repeating the same thing, over and over again, with a boring string melody that begins with a chromatic run, and seems to have no direction whatsoever, other than repeat the same thing a number of times, then vanishing without a trace, to be later replaced by brass, with yet another melody that goes nowhere. Actually, it goes right back into the pizzicato, and that just baffles my mind. With no brdiges, no nothing. This track is awful. (4/10)

7) Setup 1

Oh, hey, let's dance! After a loooong intro section, which is nothing more than the same synth-y melody and accompaniment being repeated in different intervals (it goes up a second, I believe, then again, then goes back down), a piano joins in the party, but, of course, it just keeps repeating the same melodic line, until suddenly a whole new synth section begins, with, yes, stuff being repeated several times. But it's so short, you won't mind it much. All in all, it's nice to listen to, but nothing more. (7/10)

8) Setup 2

"Setup 2" is actually a lot like "Setup 1," only livelier, and much better. For starters, the synth is a lot better, 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 on the awesome new section, just improvising. 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, yeah, but it more than makes up for it in overall quality. (8/10)

9) Network

No, just.. no. You want to reuse the same thing over an over again, but making it different and enjoyable by adding layers of instruments on the repeated part, fine, but when the repetition is so loud and obnoxious, and the added stuff is not nearly as interesting as you would have hoped, your compositon is not good. "Network" is godawful. Imagine this: keep hitting your head in the nearest wall repeatadly, and then, while doing that, punch yourself in the stomach several times. That's "Network." The only difference between the two things is that Hayama uses synth and percussion, and you'll be using concrete and, well, your fist. (3/10)

10) Base Invasion

Matsuo's track is a prime example of how repetitions can 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, very Metal Gear Solid-ish, with an electronica motif being repeated. To give the composition some rhythm, Matsuo added a nice beat and a piano playing the bass line, which I think is very cool. 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. (9/10)

11) Impact

Yet again, ostinatos in the rhythm. This time, though, with an orchestra hit and a snare drum. And get ready for the melody: synth playing ascending notes! Whoa, who could have seen that coming!? In its defense, it does develop into a orchestra 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 and a bass line that is simply one note being over and over again, and with a woodwind playing a 5-measure long phrase, the composer achieves successfully a feeling of silence and loneliness. It's standard Hayama, but at least it's great. (8/10)

13) Defensive War

One of the best features of this track is the clanging metal noises, an integral part of the ever-present ostinato. Since this is a mech game, and the composition is about war, the sounds of the Wanzers (the robots) walking around sure was a nice touch. Too bad the rest is kinda bland. I felt no danger or anything like that coming from "Defensive War," and when you've got the typical militaristic instrumentation (strings, snare drum and brass), that'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 been wanting to hear since the beginning of the album. "Anger" is a prime example of (you've heard me say this before tons of times) of how refined his works can be, having a melody that actually goes somewhere and develops well, and decent use of instrumentation (as is "giving each instrument used some importance in the track"). Great stuff right here. (9/10)

15) VS Katatsu

Ok, now forget the orchestral Matsuo, but 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 (resulting in a pretty out-of-this-world kind  ostinato), 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 line. 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. I thought this one (0:44-1:02) was too long for its own good, and with as little variation as simply going up a second is not enough. 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 it's great: two synth lines, percussion and a kind of metalic instrument. You have to hear it to believe. Unfortunately, the rest of the composition is kind of dull, with a simple brass line repeated over a synth bass and percussion, featuring little development. That's what hurt its score. (9/10)

16) City (China)

This is what I meant in "City (Japan)" when I said the track didn't have the right atmosphere. "City (China)," fortunately, does. 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. (8/10)

17) The Bar (China)

"The Bar (China)" is even more Chinese-oriented 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, not a modern one. As always, the composition flows wonderfully, so listening to it doesn't get dull quickly. Matsuo suceeds once again.  (8/10)

18) Agito

Heh, this track's got a pretty cool bass line. I think this is amusing because in Portuguese (only the greatest language ever) one of the meanings of the word "Agito" is "party," and this piece is music is kind of danceable. Just kind of, because it's not fast-paced enough for a real party. Hayama keeps it very very simple this time, with a synthy bass and drum ostinato, and with about 3 different sections, each one longer than the other: the first is with some kind of low synty wind of some kind playing long notes; in the second, there are strings and some sort of xylophonic instrument; and the third is the most Hayamesque one, because there are lots of long notes and chromatic passages, all in strings. 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, because it's all in here: crazy synth runs, awesome percussion, low-pitched string passages, everything. And the result if pretty freakin' cool. (8/10)

20) Army Base

Here comes Matsuo, to kindly reminds 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 (I just found it to be unnecessary). Fortunately, the section after that one is pretty great. Matsuo uses some kind of wobbly synth and brass to play the melody, with a piano playing in a low register and strings to hold long notes. The next part has string going all "Psycho" on us, with lots of "stabs" (if you will), piano and brass alternating playing the melody, with some synth beats here and there and the snare drum for backup. And, finally, we are lead back to the awesome, awesome begiining with a synth passage over piano and snare accompaniment. I just can't get enough of "Army Base." (9/10)

21) Research Lab

With some very simple percussion lines and synth passages, Matsuo slowly builts and develops "Research Lab." Since the main melody seems to be played by a synth keyboard, it kind of sounds Sakuraba-ish in nature, but with our man 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

Whoa, what's up with Lucarb? This piece of music starts off very sneaky and ambient, with very quiet cymbal taps, suspended strings and an awesome contrabass ostinano. Alongside all that, comes a piano, playing a melody on its lower registers. What's even awesome comes next: 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. (9/10)

23) Suspicion

And when you think something could not be repeated, comes Hayama to prove you wrong. "Suspicion" is pretty much am ambient track, with the same five piano notes (although there seems to be something wrong with them, because they sound kinda freaky), over the same suspended notes for the duration of the track. The only different thing, is the occasional weird sound effect. The suspended string note is strange, because it sounds like something accelerating. 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; 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 (where the violin repeats itself), 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 we should expect from Matsuo anyway, so it doesn't come as a surprise. (8/10)

25) Attack

Talk about ending a disc in a high note, eh? "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 (including percussion). Not too shabby if you ask me. And since you are, it's not too shabby. Easily one of my favourites on disc 1. (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 harp touches here and here, with sort of an ethereal quality to it. 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. You'll understand the importance of the strings soon enough, child. And that "soon" is actually right now. 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 the first CD, with "Setup 1" and "Setup 2." In the repetition, a flute plays that passage, with strings accompaning 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. (8/10)

4) Barrier

Wow, this is wonderful! Its 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 takes the melody and leads us back to the beginning, while keeping the "cool" feel the synth left (though on the repetition, this part is a bit different, and worse than this first time). All around, a great piece of work. (9/10)

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-ish section, comes a new part that is Matsuo at his best: frantic perucssion 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. If you read "Matsuo at his best," just skip the rest of the review and listen to the composition, because it's worth it. (9/10)

6) Fort Invasion

After the initial sense of confusion this composition makes you feel (the melody purposefully does not resolve itself, so we're always waiting to see where it goes), you've got 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: the one from 0:32 to 0:39, played by violins. It is repeated right after that time, but with the added power of the full strings ensemble, not just the violins. After a similar bridge as the one from the beginning, that theme gets repeated, but in minor tone this time, and then comes a passage quite similar to "Weapon Raid," like the one in "Plains (China)," with the developing brass melody and all. And since the track starts to loop at this point, 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 how the florest 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. Here's the breakdown: the first section is some ghastly sounding choir with some nice bass guitar lines; then, some ominous strings take over and brass plays a similar melody afterwards; rinse and repeat, and follow it with an electronica bridge to the beginning and that's pretty much it. Not a lot, I'd say. (7/10)

10) Raid

It's amazing how "Raid" is the opposite of disc 1'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. Oh, God, make it stop! (5/10)

11) VS in Unit

What do you know, 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 brass, strings and synth occasionally playing a semblant of a melody. It can get boring fairly quickly, though, and that definetely hurts whatever enjoyment we could get out of the track, but with a runtime of a bit less than 2 minutes, it's not THAT bad. (6/10)

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 definetely 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 1? 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. Perfectly skipable. (5/10)

14) A Promise

If it wasn't for the ridiculously loud snare drum and metal noises 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 (especially if it's a string quartet, but whatever), 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

Orchestral Matsuo says hi once again, and he brings us great news: "Assault" is fantastic! It's epic, it's developed, the melody goes places, the piece flows well, anything that can be complimented about a composition of this caliber is in this case. Every instrument is used to the fullest, and Matsuo even throws in a choir, 'cause he's such a nice guy. 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 honor, Matsuo. While "Determination" isn't as agressive as its older brother, it is still quite the battle theme. With a lot more wind and choir than "Assault," this here track may ed 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 tuplets, 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 accompaning 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 the 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 tidbits of percussion here and there, Matsuo creates a pretty bad aura, like what you did what was bad or something. Kind of unnerving. (8/10)

21) Game Over

"Game Over" is like a militaristic funeral march or something. All there was left to make it authentic was those guys shooting into the sky or whatever they do. Well, since you lost, it's pretty gloomy and dark, with an all male choir over strings and a snare drum. And 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

What were you expecting to be the last of this album's tracks? Was it an electronica wonder? Was it an orchestral masterpiece? Did you want Matsuo to end this soundtrack? Or Hayama? Because the right answer would be an orchestral masterpiece by Matsuo, so if you thought anything else, you got it wrong, fella.

With a rather sad beginning with the xylophone backed by strings, we soon get a repeat of that theme, but played by strings and woodwinds. It's absolutely endearing to hear it in this manner, 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. Hah, but that was simply to get us to a repetition of the main theme, with more time on the strings.

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 kind of bridge, we go to a brief harp and winds 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'd 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 gonna be honest with you guys: I was a bit skeptical of this album before reviewing it. I mean, I know Matsuo can write great pieces of music and so can Hayama (well, I'm not a fan, but as far as crazy music goes, he's pretty much one of the best), 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 reccomend it to anyone who likes Matsuo's orchestral tracks or Hayama's electronica.

Overall Score: 8/10