Front Mission (video game)
Super Famicom cover art
|Developer(s)||G-Craft, Square Enix Co., Ltd.|
|Publisher(s)||Square Co., Ltd. Square Enix Co., Ltd.|
|Release date(s)||Super NES
|Genre(s)||Tactical role-playing game|
|Distribution||Cartridge (SNES) (WSC)
512-Megabit flash card (DS)
Front Mission (フロントミッション Furonto Misshon?) is a tactical role-playing game developed by G-Craft and published by Square Co., Ltd., and was released in Japan on February 24, 1995 for the Super Famicom. Front Mission is the first main entry and the first entry overall in the Front Mission series. Front Mission is part of a serialized storyline that follows the stories of various characters and their struggles involving mecha known as wanzers. A direct port of the game was released for the WonderSwan Color in Japan on July 12, 2002.
An enhanced remake of the game developed by Square Enix Co., Ltd. was released for the PlayStation in Japan on October 23, 2003, titled Front Mission First. This version of the game received an enhanced port that was released on the Nintendo DS in Japan on March 22, 2007. Only the Nintendo DS port, renamed as Front Mission, was released in North America on October 23, 2007. This release marked the third time that a Front Mission title was localized and published outside of Japan.
Game progression in Front Mission is done in linear manner: watch cut-scene events, complete missions, set up wanzers during intermissions, and sortie for the next mission. The player travels to locations on a point-and-click world map. As the player progresses through the plot, new locations are revealed on the world map. Towns and cities act as intermission points where the player can organize and setup their units for the upcoming mission. Battle zones are where the missions take place, though they become inaccessible upon the completion of a mission.
In Front Mission, players use playable units called wanzers, a term for mecha derived from the German word "Wanderpanzer", or "walking tank". Wanzers differ from the typical combat unit in that it has four modular parts: body, left arm, right arm, and legs. Each part has a specific function and its own health bar. The legs parts enable movement and evasion, the arm parts are necessary to use hand and shoulder weapons, and the body part maintains the wanzer's operability. In the event the body is destroyed, the wanzer is removed from play completely. Destruction of arm and leg parts does not remove the wanzer from play, but it severely cripples its performance. While the player fights mostly wanzers, vehicles, aircraft, and mobile weapons platforms are also featured. These enemy units generally have only one part, the body, and are much stronger than wanzers themselves.
In the customization aspect of Front Mission, wanzers can be customized with a variety of parts, computers, auxiliary backpacks, and weapons. The player has full control over customizing their wanzers and can do so as long as its total weight value does not exceed its given power output. To field a wanzer in battle, it must have a complete frame of parts: body, left arm, right arm, and legs. Parts with built-in weapons in the body or arm sections can also be equipped on a wanzer. Computers improve the accuracy of the weapons equipped on the wanzer. Auxiliary backpacks and weapons are not mandatory equipment to use wanzers, but are crucial in order to progress through the video games. Auxiliary backpacks serve to give a wanzer special features during combat; they allow a wanzer to carry support items such as ammunition reloads and increase the power output of the unit, allowing it to carry heavier gear.
In terms of weapons, there are four classes of weapons: melee weapons, short-range weapons, long-range weapons, and support fire weapons. Melee weapons are weapons used at melee range and have a tendency to strike the body part of its target. Tonfas and rods are examples of melee weapons. Short-range weapons are weapons used at close range and deal damage to all parts of a target. Machine guns and shotguns are examples of short-range weapons. Long-range weapons are weapons that have long firing ranges and are ideal for avoiding counterattacks. Bazookas are examples of long-range weapons. Support fire weapons are indirect fire weapons; they can never be counterattacked, but have limited ammunition supply and minimum firing ranges. Missile launchers are examples of support fire weapons. Lastly, shields can be equipped on wanzers to absorb some of the damage taken from incoming attacks.
Front Mission has other notable features incorporated into the game. Arena is a unique feature in which the player can fight AI-controlled enemy combatants, or face another player to earn monetary rewards. Likewise, Front Mission sports a briefing feature that details basic information about the composition of enemy forces for the upcoming mission. Missions in Front Mission are traditional tactical RPG fare, ranging from destroying all enemy targets or protecting a particular allied target.
Set in 2090, the story of Front Mission takes place on Huffman Island, a fictional Pacific Ocean island roughly the size of Oahu, created by volcanic activity south of Mexico's west coast in 1995. In 2002, the land mass was classified as an island, and was ceded to United Nations control. However, in 2020, the United States of the New Continent (USN), a unification of North American and South American countries, made a bid for control of the island after withdrawing from the United Nations. The Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU), an alliance of Oriental Asian nations and Australia that was created in 2025, dispute this claim when the two superpowers colonized the island in 2065. The tensions heat up and eventually lead to the 1st Huffman Conflict in 2070, with Huffman Island being divided into two halves at the end of the war. An uneasy peace is maintained until the Huffman Crisis in 2086, when a series of skirmishes across the island causes chaos. Tensions flare up and end in war when the OCU is blamed for inciting the Larcus Incident on June 3, 2090.
The plot of Front Mission revolves around OCU captain Royd Clive. An OCU reconnaissance platoon led by Royd is assigned to investigate a USN munitions plant in the Larcus District, located on eastern Huffman Island. Upon reaching the premises, the platoon is ambushed by USN wanzers led by an officer named Driscoll. He quickly ambushes Karen Meure, Royd's fiancee, and destroys her wanzer. As the two forces engage in battle, Driscoll detonates explosives inside the plant and escapes. The USN accuses the OCU of the attack, later known as the Larcus Incident, but the OCU insists that the incident was a set-up. Both sides soon declare war, setting off the 2nd Huffman Conflict. The OCU pins the blame of the incident on Royd's platoon, discharging them from the military indefinitely. One year later, OCU colonel Guri B. Olson seeks him out at a wanzer fighting arena in the town of Barinden. Dangling the prospect of killing the person responsible for Karen's death, he manages to recruit Clive to the Canyon Crows mercenary outfit. With the Canyon Crows, Royd is assigned to help the OCU military reverse its fortunes and win the war.
In the Nintendo DS version and the PlayStation remake Front Mission First, the player can also play a second scenario revolving around USN officer Kevin Greenfield. Months before the Larcus Incident, Kevin and his teammates in the Black Hounds special forces unit are participating in an operation against a terrorist organization known as "The Star of Freedom". Upon finding out the location of their headquarters in the Andes Mountains, the Black Hounds execute an operation to eliminate the group. A grave mistake on Kevin's part gets him fired from the unit and arrested by USN MPs. In a last-ditch effort to remain in service, Greenfield accepts a post to the USN special weapons research division known as the "Nirvana Institute". He is then deployed to the Nirvana branch on Huffman Island, which is led by Driscoll. After a few operations with the division, the 2nd Huffman Conflict breaks out and Kevin is recalled to active duty. As the new leader of the Silver Lynx strike force, he aids the USN offensive to defeat the OCU and help end the war quickly.
Understanding Front Mission in its entirety requires playing through both the OCU and USN campaigns. They each have their own unique events and mysteries, the latter of which is fully explained only by playing the other scenario. The two scenarios also have a plot connection when a link between the Larcus Incident and the Nirvana Institute is established.
Front Mission was remade as Front Mission First, which was released on the PlayStation on November 23, 2003. This remake included new content and offered a new USN scenario to play through. Front Mission First also included new characters that would later be seen in Front Mission 4, namely Darril Traubel and Billy Renges. This remake later received an enhanced port on the Nintendo DS, which was released in Japan on March 22, 2007, and in North America on October 23, 2007, simply titled Front Mission.
In the Nintendo DS version, battle sequences are tuned to use the console's dual screen setup for an easy view of the action. The port also includes a number of new additions. A number of characters from other Front Mission titles were added to the game's storyline, such as Griff Burnam and Glen Duval. New parts and weapons from other Front Mission entries were added. This version also boasted nine secret missions that further expanded the storyline.
Front Mission's soundtrack was composed by the joint team of Noriko Matsueda and Yoko Shimomura. Shimomura's work on the soundtrack was requested by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the vice-president of Square, due to the need for a more experienced composer to work on the project along with Matsueda. While Shimomura intended to turn down this request due to her preoccupation with the Super Mario RPG soundtrack, she changed her mind after encountering the company president, Tetsuo Mizuno, and being embarrassed to decline the request in front of him. Shimomura mainly composed the action themes, as well as the opening theme, describing the soundtrack as "passionate" due to their "motivated" work. The score was arranged by Hidenori Iwasaki for the PlayStation and DS remakes. The promotional album, Front Mission 1st Special BGM Selection, arranged by Isawaki, was released in 2003. Two songs composed by Shimomura from Front Mission, Take the Offensive and Manifold Irons, were orchestrated for the Drammatica album.
The original Front Mission was a huge success in Japan, having sold over 500,000 copies during its first week of release.
On release, Famitsu magazine scored the WonderSwan version a 30 out of 40 and in April 1995, Famitsu magazine gave the Super Famicom version of the game first a 9 out of 10 and later an 8 out of 10 in their Reader Cross Review.
The Nintendo DS port of Front Mission received average reviews from critics. IGN's Mark Bozon rated it at 78%, commending its "options", "depth", and "customization" compared to other DS tactics games, but was disappointed at the lack of online play, calling it a "pure" port. Front Mission received a 65 out of 100 from Nintendo Power, which called it "a stark, futuristic 'Advance Wars' without the happy combatants and vehicle variety."
By the end of 2007, the Nintendo DS version sold 57,153 copies in Japan.
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- Nintendo Power (2007-12 ed.). p. 82. "The game is like a stark, futuristic "Advance Wars" without the happy combatants and vehicle variety."
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- Front Mission at Square-Enix.com (English)
- Front Mission First at Square-Enix.com (Japanese)
- Front Mission official website at Square-Enix.com (Japanese)
- Ten-Mou / Worldwide Network System (Japanese)