One of Square’s most underrated and often overlooked composers, Noriko Matsueda, started her career at Square in 1995 to compose for the Square/G-Craft strategy-rpg Front Mission along with the highly talented Yoko Shimomura. Shimomura had mostly taken care of the fast-paced themes, while Matsueda took care of the moody tracks. While the game may have have been a success, it was never released in North America. Matsueda’s next job, although very small, was to compose one of the boss themes to Chrono Trigger, for them only to be arranged by Nobuo Uematsu. In late 1995 ~ early 1996, Matsueda finally got to do her first solo project, Bahamut Lagoon. While the game itself was never popular, it allowed Matsueda to polish her skills as a composer. A year later Matsueda was presented with a challenging task: write the score to the sequel of Front Mission 2, on her own. Not only did she succeed flawlessly in making an excellent soundtrack, but she also manages to keep the feel of the prequel. Later on, she will compose for Racing Lagoon and The Bouncer (I have yet to hear both of those OSTs).
The score to Front Mission 2 is still quite different from its prequel, in that Matsueda incorporates an atmospheric, airy sound to most of the tracks. It still holds strongly the epic feel of the first, mostly in the event and battle themes. You can hear an example of the airy sound in “Silence,” a gripping ambient theme that has some sound effects in it. “Shock” will most likely surprise many, as it is a wonderful updated version of Front Mission’s “Terrible Density,” and keeps the epic feel of battle perfectly.
Now I will mention the tracks of which I chose to sample. “Sorrow” starts off eerily, but then a quiet but saddening melody takes its place, something Matsueda really exceeds in getting through. An interesting note I want to mention now is that Yoshitaka Hirota (yes, the same Hirota whom is mostly responsible for the Shadow Hearts score) is accredited as the sound effect creator in the liner notes. This is one of the few soundtracks in that he incorporated some of his work directly into the music (in my knowledge, the only other soundtrack that he played a part in was Final Fantasy 7). You can hear Hirota’s stuff in “Enemy Battle (Swift Attack),” which mostly sounds like a voice effect; at a point you hear a yell in the music. I found that quite amusing, although it does make that one track stand out from the rest. And of course, the battle theme is still serious and epic. “Arena” starts off with organ and percussion and carries that airy feel in the music, which I find very enjoyable. Another of the updated Front Mission tracks found here is the jazzy “Counter Bar,” which stays true to “Shop” of the prequel. “World Map” is another of the atmospheric tracks, you can easily imagine the wind blowing into your face as the wanzers travels through Huffman’s Island while listening to this music. Another track I insist on mentionning is “Hatred.” It is mostly an ambient piece with some errie but painful sounding screams effects. This track is probably the successor to Front Mission’s “Destructive Logic”; while Shimomura got the eerie bit going with the organ in the prequel, the screams used here serve to bring the same feel. All in all, I think Matsueda has done very well here, I can easily listen to this without needing to skip a track. Bottom line is if you enjoyed the soundtracks to Front Mission and Bahamut Lagoon, you’ll like this as well, if not just as much.
Okay, now you’re probably interested in getting this soundtrack right? I’m sorry, but like most of Matsueda’s major works, it is VERY (insert # of times you wish to repeat this) difficult to come across. I guess it was just a stroke of luck when I bumped into it on eBay. Sure, try eBay, chances are it will never show up there again. If you want to, try to special order it from Otaku and pray, yes, pray a lot that they find it. This is easily one of the rarest out of print soundtracks I’ve ever seen, so best of luck in your hunt. This is a must have for any Square/Front Mission/Matsueda fan; you will not be dissapointed in any way in getting this CD.