The 2007 Nintendo DS release of Front Mission was the first time the game was available in North America. It was originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 and saw upgraded ports for the WonderSwan Color and PlayStation in the years before it arrived here. The game spawned a series and is undoubtedly one of the more well known tactical role-playing games.
Front Mission contains two lengthy scenarios to play through, each taking place on Huffman Island. The game has a very detailed back-story detailing the events that led up to the confrontation of two superpowers on a small Pacific island in the late 21st century.
The first scenario follows a young captain, Royd Clive who is fighting as mercenary for the Oceania Cooperative Union. When his scenario begins, I witnessed his fiancée getting killed by opposition forces, the Unified Continental States. He loses interest in fighting but is recruited by a mercenary leader and accepts. Through his conquest of the island he receives indications that his fiancée might still be alive.
The second scenario follows Kevin Greenfield, a former high ranking officer in the U.C.S. who was stripped of his rank and sent to Huffman Island. This scenario was labeled as more difficult than Royd’s and I didn’t play any of it. Heck, I didn’t even finish Royd’s scenario; I’ve played for about a dozen hours and I’m basically halfway through his scenario at mission 13.
I spent the bulk of my time with Front Mission when I spent a week away from home, away from my consoles, and I haven’t put much time into it since then. Perhaps I would’ve remained captivated by it if there was more going on plot wise. Most of the plot advancement stemmed from minor victories against Royd’s enemy, the U.C.S., allowing his squad to gain ground on them. Also going on was Royd’s quest for his possibly still alive fiancée but this plotline developed very slowly. Recruiting new squad members introduced new characters, but I rarely saw them afterwards.
Personally, I really like tactical-rpgs… from afar. Leveling up and managing a fairly large squad sounds interesting, but this eventually amounts to too much work. Another thing I dislike about the genre is the sense that there is one correct way to complete a mission; it seems I get halfway through a game and all of a sudden hit a wall. This is one area where Front Mission appeals to me. I never felt like there was one way to complete a mission. Perhaps this is due to the upgradability of the wanzers.
Battles were fought in wanzers (mecha) which could be upgraded in many ways. When I wasn’t in a mission I could set up camp in a nearby town and visit the local shop. Here, I could upgrade the weapons my wanzers had equipped and change their various parts. When I ran out of money I visited the arena and easily won more by gambling. However, this turned into a rather boring cycle of mission, new town, shop, arena, shop, and so on. Recently, I’d spend upwards of thirty minutes upgrading my wanzers, and that’s too much downtime.
The actual missions in Front Mission are turned based and battles take place between individual units like most other tactical-rpgs. Some missions have unique events and enemies, but there isn’t much diversity apart from “attack all units until dead”.
Front Mission belongs to a genre I guess I don’t particularly enjoy but I found it more approachable than other similar games; then again I still didn’t complete it, as of this writing at least. I found the gameplay solid and very rewarding when the tides of battle were in my favor. I wish there was more to the plot, either the actual confrontation between the two superpowers or Royd’s story. Just the thought of a whole other scenario is daunting, but surely a boon for any fan of the genre.