Name: Front Mission
Format: Super Famicom
Front Mission is an isometric turn based strategy game based around the universally renowned principle of big stompy robot mech suits.
Front Mission is developed by Squaresoft, who were and still are unarguably the greatest console RPG developers ever. Square's CV, if anyone ever wrote it, would be massive, including such famous classic RPGs as the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and their sequels, and masses of other RPG games. However, as well as RPG games, which the developer is principally known for, Square also produced isometric strategy games. Some of these games were fantasy styled games, eg. the Ogre Battle series, but some were of the science fiction genre. Front Mission fits in the latter category, set into the near future.
The game is set on Huffman Island, which is divided by two nations which are at war: the OCD, which the main character fights for, and the USN. At the beginning of the game both sides are at an uneasy stalemate, with treaties drawn up which prevent any conflict from taking place. A team of OCD operatives in their battle mech robot suits are sent in on a covert mission to perform reconnaisance on a factory in USN soil. In a completely unpredictable plot twist, the enemy show up, led by Driscoll, who promptly kicks the ass of the main character's fiance. Our guy is reasonably perturbed by this, and decides that the best way to honour his fiance's memory would be to kick some ass. After the USN team defeats everyone except Driscoll, he decides to blow up the whole factory, and Huffman Island is plunged into a war. The main character and his comrade Sakata are kicked out the army, and the main guy ends up in a coloseum fighting in his mech for the crowd's amusement. After a battle, though, a man called Olson shows up and offers the main character a chance to join the OCD mercenary force, named the Carrion Crows. He mentions the possibility of finding Driscoll and getting revenge. Naturally, our guy accepts.
As previously noted, this game is very different to Square's RPG games, with the player taking on a series of preplanned missions, on preplanned levels. You can't just wander around randomly to get some more money, you either have to complete the next mission in the line, or go to the colosseum (there is one in each town) and bet on yourself winning a fight.
Each mission takes place on an isometric grid of squares, with lots of terrain types and levels. Each mech can move a certain distance each turn, (as well as the usual item, status options etc.) and then at the end of that if they are close to an enemy mech they can choose to fire on it with whatever weapons fit the range of the enemy. The enemy then gets a chance to counter attack., and the two moves are played out. Of course, if the enemy is killed in the attack, it won't get the chance to counter attack. Generally, although each mission has a theme (recover some cargo, protect some people) they all boil down to wiping the enemy off the face of the map. Once the enemy are all dead, you get your military commision, in H$ (Huffman Dollars), and head off to the next town, to spend it.
Customising your mech is an obscene amount of fun, because of the surely near infinite amount of combinations for each mech. And after all, everyone likes to take a big stompy death mech and add sharper, shinier, spikier implements of death to it. When you have a team of five or six going, the sky is the limit! Each mech must have a body, a set of legs (although the name is misleading, as it is possible to fit tank tracks instead) and two arms (left and right). There are absolutely loads of different schemes of mech, and while it does look better if you have a mech totally made out of Zenith or Husky Mk. IV parts, the game doesn't force you to do this. Some arms have an built in weapons, for example fitting a Zenith arm to a machines allows it to use Zenith punch in close combat situations.
Each mech has four points where weapons or shields can be attached, one on each shoulder and one in each hand. However, as well as money, and what the shopkeeper has in stock, there is another limit on what you can fit your mech with. Your mech's engine can only carry so much, and so often to fit on a really good piece of kit, you have to either upgrade the body, or get rid of something else. Weapons include the usual rocket launcher, grenade launcher, rifle stereotypes, as well as shields. Perhaps the most important option, though, is that of painting your mech whatever colour you want.
Although the game is primarily a strategy game, there are RPG elements - after doing almost anything (attacking, defending, etc) a character is rewarded with EXP points. These are used to level up, which makes a character do more damage, etc. The only way to get EXP outside of a mission (that I know of) is to enter the colosseum.
Front Mission was originally made only in Japanese, but like many of Square's other games, it has been translated for English players by a group of amateur Rom hackers. The team was:
- Japanese Translator, Script Editor
- Japanes Translator
- David Mullen
- Script Editor, Utility Testing, Menu Translation
- Shih Tzu
- Assistant Script Editor
- Frank Hughes
- Script Editor, Utility Author, Game Recoding
- Dark Force
- EUC - JIS Character File
The above information was taken from the first screen of the translated Rom.
Considering I started drafting this writeup the day I played the game for the first time, you might guess that this game is good. It is - definitely the best turn based strategy game I've played (including the Civilisation series, which I never find time to play). The graphics are great, if not as amazing as the Snes' graphical masterpiece (Seiken Densetsu 3, also developed by Square), the gameplay is very absorbing and complex but simple to pick up, and the amount of mechs you can have is brilliant. I've not completed it yet, but since it's Square, I can guarantee some plot twists, and a good long adventure. The Rom is widely available on the net, and for those of you with Snes Emulators, I would recommend that you track it down. There is a side story game or Gaiden, named Front Mission Gun Hazard, and I have recently managed to find a rom of it. It appears to be a prequel to this game, and plays in a different style - it is a side scrolling shooter rather than a strategy game. Some elements such as pilots levelling up and EXP are in both games though. See Leynos' writeup in the Front Mission Gun Hazard node for more details.
Thanks to amib for correcting me that FMGH was a Gaiden, not a sequel.