Having neither played nor heard any game in the series prior, I had no real expectations for Front Mission 3, game or music wise. Once I finished the opening training mission, I was hooked - the game's awesome. At first though, the music really didn't grab me. Having sunk many hours into playing the game, however, I changed my mind. There's a unique feel to a lot of the music that takes awhile to sink in.
It's hard to describe the kind of music in Front Mission 3. Many tracks have a militaristic feel, complete with drums and trumpets, tinged slightly to make them sound futuristic, with a hint of industrial grinding and plenty of synth to make them sound almost robotic in spots. There is a grandiose orchestral feel evident, but still grounded (intentionally, I would gather) to make it sound artificial.
The most interesting pieces of music are the battle songs, of which there are a pretty good number. These tracks are not fast-paced, boil-your-blood type of work, like Yoko Shimomura's work on the first Front Mission game; rather they are usually a bit slow-paced. This actually suits the game, since it's more of a strategy game than action - but there's still enough excitement and tension contained to convey the mood.
The most intriguing thing about the better battle themes is that they're constantly changing, whether in melody, pace, or instrumentation. One of the best examples is "Base Invasion", which starts off with a mysterious, spacey noise before a beat is introduced. A more powerful beat is introduced, then a piano brings in the main melody. This melody is built upon further and further, until it is then eliminated and the piece escalates to a powerful climax. Such execution really helps in keeping many of the tracks fresh and non-repetitive. Not all of the battle tracks are that good, but even the lower quality ones are eminently listenable.
There's even more than just the battle themes, however. There are a few surprisingly good storyline pieces, like the powerful military sound of the drums and trumpets in "Army Base", the lonely piano in "Sorrow", and the inspiring yet still melancholy chords in "A Pledge", the latter of which easily ranks among the best of RPG hero character themes. The best, however, is the ending credits track. Based on Alisa's theme as played on a music box (doesn't every Square game have a music box?), the melody is both beautiful and depressing, strong and yet weak, and is brought even more thoughtfulness by a tinge of an uplifting and cheerful interlude halfway through. Even with all of the cool battle music, this is certainly my favorite track on the whole album.
There is one downfall to Front Mission 3 OST, and that is its inconsistency. There are incredible high points, as listed above, but at the same time there are a lot of filler tracks. Most of these are used in the storyline segments and are rarely interesting in any way. The worst offenders are the "Setup" tracks, which sound horribly out of place in the game and are more akin to something playing the background of an infomercial; and the "Network" theme, which gets old after five seconds - and the track is four minutes long. Few of these fall in the "unlistenable" category, but they are still very skippable. Luckily, many of these are isolated on the first disc, so the second disc is mostly free of such tracks.
While I wish that the soundtrack overall had a higher hit/miss ratio, the good far outweighs the bad. As a result, Front Mission 3 OST is definitely worth a spot in every video game soundtrack buyer's library.