A Mission Going Back to the 1st Front
The Front Mission games are well known as one of the longest running and best strategy RPG series. While many installments have been released bearing the Front Mission name, Front Mission is often never credited properly for starting the tradition. Having seen a remake as Front Mission 1st for the PS1 and now DS, many wondered if it will ever arrive to North America. Fortunately, Square Enix has finally decided to release the DS version of Front Mission 1st to North America under the title of “Front Mission”.
The narrative of Front Mission depicts the story of Roid Clive and the Canyon Crows unit as they work for Oceanic Community Union (OCU) during the Second Huffman War. As they endure battle after battle against the United States of the New Continent (USN), Roid and crew sets out to clear their names as the causes for the Second Huffman War. With the passing of time, the Canyon Crows eventually discover the real triggers for the war and frightening details of a project designed to replace conventional wanzer piloting methods. Although the narrative is relatively straightforward, its execution is excellent and the atmosphere of war is clearly felt.
In the 1st version of Front Mission, the USN side is available for play. With USN, the story focuses on Black Hounds officer Kevin Greenfield and his teammates. Several mysteries in the OCU side are analyzed and resolved in the USN side of the story, adding to the replay value. For the DS version of Front Mission 1st, the narrative further fleshes out the connections with Front Mission 5 through new or extended scenes. The inclusion of characters such as Glen Duval, Walter Feng, and Hector Reynolds also help to flesh out some details seen in both games. The “talking head” style of plot progression may be quite dated, but it is nostalgic nonetheless.
In terms of visuals, Front Mission 1st for the DS sports new changes even if it may not seem significant. Backgrounds are drawn with much more detail and the game runs at a higher resolution. New wanzers and equipment appear and they make the 2D transition nicely. Apart from these and some computer-generated Full-Motion Videos (FMV), Front Mission 1st is the same as before. It may not win any praise for cutting-edge visuals for the DS, but given this is a remake of an SNES game, it’s not too shabby.
Aurally-speaking, Front Mission sports a little more than just some minor changes. The soundtrack from the original remains untouched, but it has been rearranged and remixed by Hidenori Iwasaki. The remixed track quality is significantly better than the quality seen in the SNES version without any dramatic changes made. Several new tracks composed and arranged by Iwasaki are also in this version, all of which represents his progression as a rising composer for Square Enix. Sound effects are also of higher quality though much of it remains the same.
Presentation-aside, the functionality aspects of Front Mission are what made it truly stand out during its release in Japan and for those who have played the emulated version translated by fans. Front Mission plays out like any strategy RPG, but it has its own twists to the familiar formula. Each combatant pilots a wanzer, Front Mission-speak for mecha, which has 4 separate parts. The body keeps the wanzer going, the arms allow the wanzer to use weapons, and the legs give the wanzer movement and evasive capabilities. Destruction of the body is necessary to fully destroy a wanzer, but taking off its arms or legs beforehand is equally beneficial.
Many important items regarding battle are in static values, meaning that Front Mission leans more towards strategy than the RPG aspect. The RPG aspect refers to the ability for pilots to learn new skills and gaining levels for attacking and destroying wanzers. It also refers to traditional RPG elements such as buying parts at shops or finding information in towns. There is a coliseum where the player can attain additional money for beating select combatants when it is necessary. Of these features, the customization aspect is the main factor that attracts fans to the series, with the ability to create wanzer setups out of any part.
Missions are standard strategy RPG fare with the typical destroy-all-enemies material. There is a briefing feature that details the basics of the enemy forces to expect in each mission, which is helpful for preparation purposes. Once in a mission, the player can choose to move or issue an attack. Weapons such as knuckles, machine guns, rifles, and missile launchers can be used to destroy the opposition. Each weapon is classified as a Fight, Short, or Long type. After using them enough, battle skills can be learned and used to turn the tides in battle. With the DS stylus, control of the game feels comfortable and smooth.
In regards to the new changes for the DS version, the large mobile weapons that were seen as bosses previously can now be accessed by the player. These include the Seaking or Clinton Type units. Front Mission characters such as Glen are playable in new secret missions hidden throughout the game. New wanzers and weapons, some from other installments, are incorporated into the fold as well. There is also a high-speed battle mode where, as one might have guessed, battles go by fast. The last major change is the inclusion of difficulty settings, which are unlocked by clearing either side on certain settings.
In conclusion, Front Mission 1st DS does quite a bit more than merely being a port from the PS1 Front Mission 1st version. The updated visuals and remixed soundtrack do justice to the world and atmosphere Front Mission conveys. Its functionality benefits from the new tweaks and changes. Best of all, the game still is Front Mission in essence. At least this time around, Square Enix will finally allow people worldwide to experience the wonders of Front Mission.
||"Although fundamentally unchanged despite new additions, Front Mission creates the foundation that fans have come to know and love in future installments. At least this time around, Front Mission will finally be released in North America."
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