Released: February 1995
Nations and continents merged to make one nation, giant fighting robots and clichéd character stories… it can only be one thing: a Japanese sci-fi video game. Front Mission is possibly the hardest game I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, given it’s incredibly awkward release for anyone in the western world – the game was a Japanese exclusive on SNES and then was re-released on the PlayStation as Front Mission: First. With my searches for PS1 version leading to diddly squat, it did however lead me to finding an English port of the SNES version.
Sci-fi is my disease…
In case you didn’t know I’ve a massive chunk of exceptionally soft fleshy body mass for Japanese sci-fi in games and after the opening brief, my pants where immediately thrown to the ground in preparation for what I hoped to be a delightful experience. Like a reverse of this retro review Front Mission takes place mostly in 2090, 95 years after the video game officially released in Japan. In my translated version of the game you take charge of Llyod (which upon looking it up his actual name is far more awesome: Royd – like thyroid, or steroid or “she’s a roide”) just in time to watch his fiancée Karen get blasted into the next life while you struggle in the allocated two turns to get close enough to at the very least watch the expected fireworks go off in a spectacular life changing show better and more interesting for us than any wedding could ever be. The commander of the opposition also takes the opportunity to explode the factory you were initially tasked with scouting as bonus explosions.
After these events called the Larcus Incident because sci-fi needs arbitrary names, Llyod leaves his post in the Oceania Cooperative Unit (OCU) to go through the second act of most movies; get drunk, become unknown and risk his life senselessly in the gladiator arena. As he’s spiraling out of control an older, hippie-colonel Olsen approaches Llyod and begins convincing him to join his newly formed mercenary unit, the Canyon Crows, on the basis that he might get a chance to avenge his fiancée’s death.
Front Mission me baby
Front Mission really kicks off from this point as you are thrust back into the war for Huffman Island between the OCU (basically Asia and Australia) against the United States of the New Continent (USN – North and South America combined) for Huffman Island and luckily for OCU your super champ squad are expected to turn the tides in this ever churning war by equipping your Wanzers (see: giant mech) with glorious weaponry and top class pilots.
Outfitting, altering and jazzing up your now swanky war Wanzer is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Front Mission. Your equipment is limited by a rather nifty system of weight and, of course, bank. Upgrading the lower half of your Wanzer might allow an extra couple of Kg which could be the difference between gigantic shoulder rocket launcher that lets you target enemies from some distance or a lame mech shoulder pauldron that slightly alleviates damage. You know what I’m going with! Each piece of body armour, legs, arms etc all impact your Wanzer’s stats along with upgrading the internal parts, slowing them down while adding armour or stripping that weight for speed.
That shoulder mounted rocket launchers
Combat plays out very much like a Japanese tactics game. You get a turn to move, attack or repair your mech followed by the opponents turn to do the same. Your equipment, as mentioned, can have a profound impact on the pace of combat particularly your attacks as sometimes the terrain might only allow a one on one destructive, mech battle so having that shoulder mounted rocket launcher enables you to target the enemy from a distance beyond your own unit. Couple the positional combat with the damage system that sees you damage various aspects of each mech; body, individual arms and collective legs, and you’ve got a surprisingly deep combat system.
The animations and graphics do an impressive job adding weight to your actions and you won’t be able to stop the giddy laughter when you’ve destroyed an enemy Wanzer’s arms leaving him with nothing to do but soak up your heavy duty sub machine gun. The weapons are also highly unpredictable so you can never really tell exactly what they’re going to target leaving a lot of suspense in even the most simple of battles. Occasionally you’ll come across other vehicles too in what results in mostly a hard-graft battle even though they generally only consist of the body stat which when depleted explodes the Wanzer/Vehicle. Oh, did I not mention this game is hard? This game is harder than Ian Watkins time in prison.
Dark Souls Front Mission: Prepare To Die Edition
I struggled with a good few missions even though I’m well versed in turn-based and tactical combat like XCOM, Wasteland 2 and Fallout Tactics, I died quite bit. On the first occasion I hadn’t saved my game and had had to start over – 3 missions back. After multiple deaths I reckoned with myself that it just meant a little longer in the Front Mission world – over all that’s not something I will thankfully.
If you didn’t get my view from that last sentence I’ll spell it out for you; I like Front Mission. I didn’t get as far as I normally would for these reviews but you can bet that I’ll continue to play it and that’s the bottom line cause stone cold said so… Or, you know, something.
My retro review score: