Review by Psycho Penguin
"It's back, and it's better than ever!"
One of the main complaints that I, as well as many other gamers that I know, have about the gaming industry nowadays is the fact that there are way too many ports and remakes being released. The Game Boy Advance was notorious for this, especially with the constant Super Mario Advance games. However, the good news about the two main ports/remakes I got for the Nintendo DS is the fact that neither of the games ever came out in America before. I had played them on ROMs on my computer over the years, but it was not the same. Now, I have the ability to play one of the finest strategy games ever made on a portable console whenever and wherever I want, and that is definitely worth the price of admission to me.
Simply put, this is one of the deepest, engrossing, and fun strategy games on the market today. While not quite as brilliant as the all time classics in the genre, like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and the series' Playstation second title Front Mission 3, I still found myself having an absolute blast with this title. It has its flaws, like an uneven difficulty level and the fact that you really have to worry about customizing a whole LOT throughout the game, due to all the various characters and mechs you can gain control of, but overall these issues do not cut into what is an excellent title from Square.
There are two separate storylines to the game, but I only played through Lloyd's story so I will discuss his. At the beginning of the game, you will see a scene where Lloyd and his fiance get separated during a battle. She tells him not to worry, but unfortunately something goes horribly wrong and she is presumably killed. Lloyd will spend a while trying to figure out what happened to his beloved Karen, and the answers may surprise him, and you as well. The story eventually gets full of twists and turns, and it's an absolute blast trying to figure out who really are the good and bad guys.
As this is a fairly old Super Famicom title, don't expect to see the greatest graphics in the world. Unlike their fabulous remake of Final Fantasy 3, Square decided not to upgrade this game's graphics at all. The main complaint I would have is the fact that since there is so much going on during the game, it's hard to keep track of everything sometimes, due to how squished the battle areas seem to be due to the limited size of the DS's screen. Fortunately, the game does take advantage of the dual screen gimmick. As you attack an enemy, the top screen shifts to the battle screen. It's a neat touch, and the graphics are made even better during these scenes, as you can see arms and legs explode. It really adds a nice touch to the graphics.
The music is definitely a mixed bag, as some of the songs are really good and will be stuck in your head, while others range from unmemorable to just plain bad. I really couldn't stand the town song, the battle arena song, or the shop song, for instance. Since you'll be hearing those a lot, especially at the beginning of the game, it could prove to be quite an annoyance. Fortunately, a lot of the battle area songs are quite good, and the song that plays during attacks is pretty excellent, as well. My final complaint has to do with the terrible sound effects. Or should I say, sound effect? The only voice I heard during the game was a robotic "thank you" when you buy or sell something at the shop. Every time. Over and over. It drove me nuts.
Using the DS stylus to its fullest advantage, you can now have an even easier time controlling your allies during battle. Just click on the one you want to move, and go from there. I heard you can play the entire game using the stylus and touch screen controls only, but since I hate the stylus I just used the regular controls. There were no issues there, either, because the game is really easy to control. It's mostly sifting through menus, and moving your allies in the allotted space they are allowed. There's nothing too complex here, so you shouldn't find many problems with the controls at all.
The Front Mission series is a turn based strategy/RPG hybrid that has one unique gimmick going for it. You control large war-like mechs instead of regular human beings. This adds a lot of fun to the game, since there is a lot more interesting stuff you can pull off now. The mechs can be equipped with a variety of weapons ranging from bazookas to rocket launchers, so chances are you will find a set of weapons that will fulfill your needs.
Battles are structured like pretty much any other normal strategy game out there. The key to winning most battles is to simply destroy all of the enemies, so that's your mission. Doing so requires a certain amount of strategy at times. Sometimes, it is best not to rush into combat and do something foolish, like being surrounded by 3 strong enemies and destroyed. The less casualties you have, the more money you earn at the end of the battle, so keep that in mind.
The key to winning battles in the game is to destroy the mech's body, but there are three other parts to focus on too. Each mech has a body, two arms, and legs. If you destroy the body, the whole mech is dead and you get a bunch of experience. If you destroy the arms, it cannot use the weapons it has equipped on that arm. If you destroy the legs, it will be barely able to move, if at all.
That sounds wonderful, and it is, but the one main complaint I always have had about this series is that you simply cannot control what body part you want to kill. Realistically, killing all the parts before the body would be ideal due to all the experience points you get from killing a part. Plus, the mech would basically be useless anyways without arms and legs. The game just randomly chooses what part you hit, which is pretty lame.
Outside of battle, there's a wide variety of things you can do as well. There's a wanzer shop where you can buy upgraded parts for your mech, as well as items that can do various things like healing injured body parts. There's a bar where you can chit chat with various people in the town and sometimes learn new information. Finally, there's an arena where you can choose one character and go one-on-one with one of the arena opponents in a fight to the death. The higher the odds, the tougher the opponent, but the more money you stand to earn if you win.
Unfortunately, there's a downside to all of this as well. There is no exploration to speak of, whatsoever. The towns are simply set up in the form of a menu, and pretty much every town has the same exact menu in the same exact order. It really did get quite old and boring after a while, especially with the aforementioned awful music.
The game also has a weird challenge level. For the first six or seven hours, I breezed through with very little difficulty. Then, out of nowhere, a tough fight will come up, then some more easy ones, and then another really tough one. It does not make much sense, but that seems to be a trademark of the series at this point, it would seem.
There's a terrific amount of replay value in this one, due to the fact you can play the game from two different scenarios and points of views. Therefore, once you beat the game, you will want to beat it again on the different scenario. Plus, the game is so much fun, I find myself picking it up time after time just to enjoy the heck out of it.
Fortunately, all of the bad points does not make this a bad game, and overall I really had a heck of a time enjoying this one. I am really glad Square decided to port this one to the DS, and I can only hope for a translated port of Front Mission 2 to show up on the DS or PSP one day. If it's half as good as this, Square will have another winner on their hands.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/19/08
Game Release: Front Mission (US, 10/23/07)
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