Front Mission is a series of turn-based strategy games created and published by Square. They use the same engine as the Final Fantasy Tactics games, but the Front Mission series is set in the future, where wars are fought by large bipedal fighting robots called wanzers. (The Japanese really do seem to like those, don’t they?)
The original Front Mission was a Super Nintendo (Super Famicom) game. It was never released in the States, and boy did we miss out.
Most of us North Americanians cut our teeth on Front Mission 3. Now, while I really enjoyed playing Front Mission 3, I can’t remember a single music track from the game. Nothing from the soundtrack stayed with me.
But the Front Mission 1 OST is awesome. Yes, there are tracks on there that I don’t like, but most of it is fantastic. And the most interesting thing about the soundtrack is that it was composed by two women, Yoko Shimomura and Noriko Matsueda. My favorite tracks are:
Force Stall (Noriko Matsueda) – Typical “We Won!” music, but expertly composed, and I love that little faux trumpet trill Noriko put in there. When I first heard this track, I thought, “Ah, this is the ‘I won the game’ music!” Oh, no. This would have been a sufficient “final victory” track for any other game, but not for Front Mission.
Manifold Irons (Yoko Shimomura) – I’m going to go on record here and say that this is the best combat loop I’ve ever heard. Ever. It’s urgent but not shrill. The tone is kept low until the high instruments “break through the clouds” as it were, and even after the high instruments take over it doesn’t get on the player’s nerves (or at least, it doesn’t get on mine). Plus it’s just interesting to listen to. Too bad it plays on the enemy’s turn…
The General Situation (Noriko Matsueda) – This is played while the player is being briefed on his mission objectives. It’s very military-oriented music that doesn’t feel triumphant or sinister (you are the good guys, after all).
Ominous (Noriko Matsueda) – The name says it all. This track typically comes up during a plot point where the player is being betrayed. My favorite part of this track is the little radar ping – perfect.
Kalen (Noriko Matsueda) – Is it just me, or do the women always get the best themes in video games? This is the theme for Kalen, the main character’s girlfriend who dies in the first mission. Simple, lovely stuff.
Elegie (Yoko Shimomura) – Hey, did you know that the Super Nintendo could almost perfectly imitate a piano?
Natalie (Noriko Matsueda) – Again with the women having the best themes. This is a slow, beautiful, dancing track.
Within Living Memory… (Noriko Matsueda) – And finally we have the real ending theme. It starts as a mix of Kalen’s Theme, and then builds up to an amazing crescendo.
What you’ll notice about most of the tracks is how sad they sound. Not pity-party sad, but the true grief of lost loved ones. In fact, if there’s a theme to the soundtrack (and to the game, and to the Front Mission series in general) it’s that of the personal grief that war causes.