Most everyone knows about the original Front Mission, the awesome Square/G-Craft strategy game that hit the Super Famicom back in early 1995. It's a damn shame that it never came out over here, as it is just one of the best games of its class. The original soundtrack comes with a cool fold-out CD booklet, which contains some of Yoshitaka Amano's character art as well as some computer-graphic model pics of the war machines and symbols of the different armies. There's even a hilarious interview with the two composers (for those who can read Japanese, that is).
Yoko Shimomura and Noriko Matsueda have done a fine job with Front Mission. (Just an interesting observation: two women composed Front Mission, and two men, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, did its sequel, Gun Hazard!) Shimomura seems to handle most of the action and battle-oriented tracks, while Matsueda manages the milder "event" songs. At its heart, Front Mission is a strict military-style soundtrack. Track 1, "A Minefield", sets the mood for the rest of the CD with heavy, industrial sounds and reverberating sound effects. "Advanced Guard" and "Take The Offensive", in particular, are prime examples of the mood of music you'll come to hear - very martial, "preparation-for-war" types of melodies.
Shimomura takes the primary role, since most of the game's music is pretty much set to combat. The battle themes are all very cool, with my favorites being the more energetic and intense "Rage! Rage! Rage!" and "The Evils of War".
On the flip side of these belligerent themes are Matsueda's more moderate, contemporary ones. These vary quite a bit more in style; there are traces of funk, ambient, jazz, and techno. In all honestly, however, I think most of Matsueda's works aren't that great. They're usually uninspiring and rather boring (i.e. Bahamut's Lagoon and Front Mission Second), and as such, there are only a couple songs of hers I can truly say are good in this one. "Elegie" is an interesting, somewhat potent piano piece, while "Shop" and "Bar" are downright jazzy, sounding very reminiscent to lounge music. "Kalen" and "Natalie" (two of the more crucial female characters in the game) are soft, sentimental themes that portray their dispositions relatively well. "Within Living Memory" has epic characteristics, and "Tension" just has a likable (albeit repetitive) melody. Despite there being a low number of Matsueda tracks I like (I do like all of Shimomura's tracks), most of her music is more than appropriate for Front Mission, and it at least offers variety of style.
Of my favorite tracks, the first would have to be "Field Hospital". This one has a sort of hidden emotion in it; it's a very simplistic but effective theme that reminds me most of Nobuo Uematsu's superb Gun Hazard song "202". Next is the heavy beat and awesome orchestra hit sound of "Arena", which is totally groovin' with its techno-like beat. "Manifold Irons" sounds typically Shimomura, with a slightly whimsical, yet bold feel to it. I swear, this sounds exactly like "Prelude For The Demon King" on the Live A Live OSV. Finally, I think I should give mention to the last battle song, "Destructive Logic". It seems to me that Shimomura loves to use a "Transylvania-oriented" motif for most of these types of songs (just listen to the final battles in Parasite Eve and Live A Live). There's always an awesome sense of power in them, which is their highest strength. The organ backdrop and bell gongs, coupled with foreboding composition, make for one cool end battle song.
Concerning the sound system, I'll just say that it's typical SNES Square quality - which means it's very good. As a general note, Minoru Akao was sound programmer, who did most, if not all of Square's music from the SNES days. But, since sound engineering is someone other than Eiji Nakamura, the instruments don't quite have the richness of, say, a Final Fantasy soundtrack. Nevertheless, they get the message out clearly, and are very befitting for Shimomura's and Matsueda's symmetry of music.