Front Mission 2 Original Soundtrack
Front Mission 2 Original Soundtrack
September 21, 1997
Buy Used Copy
After the success of the 1995 SNES hit Front Mission, Squaresoft decided to release a sequel to this futuristic tactical RPG game on the PlayStation platform in 1997. Back then, Noriko Matsueda, who took part in the composing of the Front Mission soundtrack along with Yoko Shimomura, was given full powers to compose the entirety of this new episode’s score. Armed with the experience of her previous collaborations and her solo work on Bahamut Lagoon, Matsueda composed her fifth project for Square, taking us one more time into the universe of gears and urban warfare.
First of all, let me remind you that this album has been released right in the middle of the PlayStation era. As you may know, the technology of the platform didn’t allow as realistic renditions as with later systems. This is why several instruments — especially horns and strings — do not sound like real ones. However, the sound programming on this album takes total advantage of these limitations. Minoru Akao and Takahito Eguchi have succeeded in rendering a solid ensemble by using synthesized instruments that do not fake the actual ones. What we got here is not something incomplete nor inferior, but something different; this is the step of freedom taken over realism that is peculiar to early 90’s game music.
Concerning the composing itself, the first thing I’ve come to notice and appreciate is the way each set of instrument has been granted a role. Basically, orchestral elements are on the player’s side; they embody human emotions throughout the many scenes depicted in the album. For instance, the brass section illustrates the building up of tension and adrenaline rushes in the “Player Battle” suite, but also emphasizes the tragedy expressed in “Lila’s Theme”. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the enemy camp is represented by synthetic pads and drums. This cast of instruments evokes automated and optimized machinery, an entity where feelings have made place for efficiency and control. This antagonism can be clearly heard on the various battle themes (tracks 16 to 21), as well as on city themes (tracks 29 to 33), where step-by-step, as the player advances into enemy territory, cheerfulness and folk instruments make place for despair and technological sounds.
The progression on the setting tracks is remarkable, and deserves a little more attention. The first scenic piece, “City of Dorgandy”, features a lively tune played by winds and backed by snare, as in any generic RPG town music. All of a sudden, a crash of male voices and dominant brass reminds us that the city is under martial law. The mood, however, keeps being rather carefree. The theme to the next city (“City of Diaraba”) has its background elements constituted of purely synthetic pads as well as a couple of weird robotic noises. The leading instruments are none other than hopeful bagpipes and winds interacting flawlessly with their artificial backing. The balance is reversed with the theme of Bornea City, which features a deep “sci-fi” set of synthetic pads setting up an impressive and sorrowful mood, as if something horrible was happening. A few wind instruments eventually show up to form the second part of the track and emphasize this feeling of mourning. Finally, the last stage (“Capital City Daka”) sounds like a giant automated factory, a soulless mechanical nightmare crossed by bolts of electricity.
The thrilling feel of military operations is very well rendered through the orchestration, mostly thanks to an excellent use of percussions. For instance, the fast-paced “Shock” is introduced by the brutal sound of timpani, quickly muted as things get into control. From there, snare and a very slight timpani are used as background material for the main action. As the brass section goes wilder, cymbal crashes join in to mark the beat until the track reaches its climax. I’m also quite fond of the harp and echoing wooden drums background duet that give “Sorrow” its serene atmosphere. On other tracks such as “Enemy Battle (Normal)”, pure synth drums are layered to sound like a clockwork, illustrating swift and precise mechanical action. However, they are not preponderant in this soundtrack, as they don’t add as much substance to the acoustic scene as regular percussion instruments.
Last but not least, Noriko Matsueda not only provides us with an epic soundtrack centered on battlefield action, but also with an set of jazzy pieces covering entertainment and off-combat scenes. Tracks such as “Saribash’s Warehouse”, “Arena”, and “Show Pub” really took me by surprise, as they invite to take it easy in the tough and serious context of the rest of the album. They contrast with the dominant feel of the soundtrack, through their cast of instruments as well as their mood, make them all the more enjoyable.
From fast-paced assault action themes to the loosening of furlough, Front Mission Second‘s soundtrack offers a large variety of atmospheres, illustrating the futuristic urban warfare setting of the game. Akao and Eguchi’s excellent sound programming and Matsueda’s clever use of percussions have shaped many quality tracks that leave almost no room for filler material. You’ll enjoy this album without any doubt, but you’ll have a hard time to get your hands on an original copy: being out of print since 1999, it has become quite rare. Seize the opportunity to get it if you can; it will be a piece of pride to exhibit on your shelf.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Zeugma. Last modified on August 1, 2012.