When I learned of the Square Enix merger, I was scared. I hoped that Enix didn’t seriously consider allowing Square to drag them down into the pits of hell. I mean, these are the guys that made that horrid Final Fantasy movie!
Then I heard they were going to re-release the Front Mission games, and they were developing another entry into this fine series. I could barely contain my elation.
Yeah, SEX (SquarEeniX) is good (NMIAOW). Not too many westerners have heard of the Front Mission series, which is a shame. I’d say that Front Mission beats Final Fantasy any day. Why?
In Front Mission, the world isn’t some fantasy world with magic and chocobos and all that “kiddy crap,” as one would say. It is instead a futuristic world, with genetic engineering, super-powerful nuclear bombs, peoples’ brains used in computers (well, they put a stop to that), coup d’etat galore, and most importantly, robots.
The Front Mission series takes place in an alternate timeline. In fact, the world map is a lovely rendition of Earth. The third installment of the Front Mission series (which could be considered the fifth) places you in the role of a 19-year old named Kazuki Takemura, who is a test pilot for the wanzer (short for German for “walking tank”; all of the mechs in the game are referred to as wanzers) manufacturer Kirishima Industries. After wasting a couple of mechs, Kazuki calls it a day. After this, he’s drawn into a GLOBAL CONSPIRACY.
Seriously, though, the plot in Front Mission 3 is astoundingly good. It has enough twists and branches to make a redwood tree jealous. THIS GAME IS AWESOME.
Now, if a good plot isn’t enough for you, the game also boasts a complex engine. Battles are somewhat FFT-ish (or TO-ish, for the rest of us). Your small squad of wanzers traverses a 3D map while blowing up cars, trees, tanks, gigantic spider things, and God knows what else.
Throughout the 100-something battles in the game, you’ll usually face stronger numbers. How can four wanzers annihilate a Filipino SAM silo and still make it back to destroy a gigantic mobile fortress?
Customization. The mechs in this game have interchangeable arms, legs, bodies, weapons, and computers. The mechs aren’t as (needlessly) complicated as the ones in Armored Core *shudder*, but there are enough parts to keep you busy. Fun things, ranging from batons to flame-throwers.
But, a game is only as strong as the weakest link in its chain. I’m glad to say that the audio isn’t the said link. Koji Hayama and Hayoto Matsuo did quite a good job on this game’s soundtrack. However, audio isn’t all music. Luckily for us, the sound effects in this game aren’t too bad. They aren’t Metal Slug-quality (HEAVY MACHINE GUN!), but they work.
This game, however, does have a weak link. The visuals. The game suffers a SEVERE slowdown problem during battle phases (which can be skipped), the mechs are a tad blocky, and well…the people. The people in this game are really ugly (their 3D models during battle, specifically). Other parts of the game function with character portraits speaking during interaction with NPCs and PCs alike, which seems to be the tradition in FM games.
Of course, a solid plot, a solid battle system, and a lot of customization aren’t the only good things in this game. This game (seeing as how it takes place in the year 2114) features something that no other game has (well, except for Shin Megami Tensei: NINE…and Shadowrun, to a certain extent…): the Internet.
Through the game’s pseudo-Internet (no pop-ups…or porn…or porn pop-ups), you can do things ranging from talking to hackers about the bombing of a military base to ordering wanzer parts. The pseudo-Internet (or Network, as the game calls it) is almost as interesting as the real Internet. This game goes beyond the typical tradition of Front Mission games.
…or I would say that, if this game wasn’t a lot like previous titles. The game engine still uses Battle Skills, although in FM1 (and possibly 2), Battle Skills were based on character, making each character suited to certain types of combat. In FM3, you learn Battle Skills form equipping certain parts.
You can get awesome Battle Skills like Body Smash (1-Shot kill), Salvo (fires all remaining missiles), and Double Shot I (if you don’t know what this is, I will maim you). Unfortunately, you can also get Battle Skills that are damn near useless, like Auto I (wow, you lose stun status sometimes!), Pilot Eject (wow, my pilot with 20 hp is now ejected and useless instead of dead and useless!), and Guard-B (nothing like guarding my body and legs with the most useful parts: the arms!). But still, it’s good to see that the series has actually changed. We can only pray that FM4 isn’t another clone of FM1….
Overall, Front Mission 3, while lacking in some areas, is still as great as games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics. Kudos to Square for an excellent game.