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Front Mission 5

Square Enix
Front Mission
  • never
  • December 29, 2005
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This Fifth Mission Goes to the Front of the Crowd

A Front Mission 5 review Author: LegaiaRules Published: May 31, 2007
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Front Mission has been rather under the radar despite being a Square Enix IP. Only 3 and 4 came out in North America, but neither truly caught on with the strategy RPG audience. Due to this, it seems Square Enix no longer plans on localizing the latest game, Front Mission 5: Scars of the War. It is unfortunate as this Front Mission truly is a first-rate effort in all areas.
Front Mission 5 is the story of USN soldier Walter Feng and his experiences in the USN military over a long period of time. This time period also covers prior Front Mission games, which would be 1, 2, 3, and 4. Interestingly, the main narrative explores loose ends and different angles of plot elements seen under the USN perspective. As the plot progresses, loose ends are resolved and it all comes together to strengthen the main narrative. The end product produces the best narrative seen in a Front Mission game. Walter and his comrades constantly reflect on events and how it affects their lives. The antagonists are developed well through subtle and direct approaches that bring life to their character. This is all done through brilliant cinematic direction and excellent presentation values.
It would be an understatement to say that Front Mission 5 has improved in the area of presentation. Toshiro Tsuchida and his team have done an incredible job in visual improvements. Environments and wanzers have much greater detail, including an abundance of special effects to spice things up. Wanzers cause large ripples traversing through flooded environments or kick up dirt in jungle environments. Wanzer actions are also noticeable, such as skid marks when wanzers dash through the battlefield. Furthermore, wanzer animations are diverse and extremely smooth as if it were motion captured. Paired with excellent dynamic camera angles resembling real-life war footage and the battles feel realistic.
This is not what makes the visual presentation stand out though: it is the introduction of a living world that does. A first for the series, characters are seen in beautiful 3D models on par with Final Fantasy X’s models in the game. It greatly helps to give the scenes a more personal feel and seeing them with wanzers makes the world believable. Interaction with the characters is possible in the bases explored throughout the game in beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds. The aural presentation complements the visual presentation with a soundtrack composed by Hidenori Iwasaki. Iwasaki’s compositions are much improved from his work in 4, with tracks feeling more epic, intense, and overall having a stronger impact. Voice acting is also top-notch and stellar for a Japanese-developed game. Top it off with strong sound effects and Front Mission 5 excels in the area of presentation.
Moving onto the game elements, Front Mission 5 does away with cumbersome setups in exchange for a streamlined interface. This may seem bad to the hardcore fans, but it is the opposite. Creating wanzers or setting skills is easier now, complete with many tutorials to assist new players. The Link system seen in 4 makes a return and has been simplified to equipping a skill and the right weapon. Once that is met, up to 6 pilots can Link provided certain conditions are met. Wanzer parts can be bought or optimized with the Remodelling system, which uses rare Remodelling Points (RP). Skills are gained through the Job system and pilots specialize in one Job, though the player is free to learn other skills from other Jobs. Speaking of pilots, the Scouting system is another first in that the player can recruit over 80 pilots in the game for use in different battles.
The Battle Simulator is back to train players for missions. Survival Simulator and the Arena are new features, though the Arena was seen in earlier games such as 1. Survival Simulator is a mode where the player takes one pilot to survive a set of floors and grab items. Many items are available and exclusive in Survival only. The Arena is a mode where players make a bet and choose pilots to fight enemy pilots with the AI in control. As Credit Points (CP), used to buy items, is only gained through missions or the Arena, it is necessary to use it. Needless to say, fans will enjoy the nostalgia in the Arena as characters like Driscoll from 1 appear as opponents.
In regards to missions, the developers have brought back the briefing feature in earlier games. This feature has been modified, now detailing mission information with pictures and streaming data or being able to scan the battlefield. This allows for players of all skill levels to be prepared for the missions rather than being unprepared for them. Mission variety remains unchanged, but the inclusion of mission choices give the player options for progression and can change a future mission’s conditions. Likewise, many missions offer additional features such as building debris or demolition trucks for interaction.
Those who complained about the lack of difficulty in the earlier installments will be pleased to know that enemy composition has significantly improved. Improvements in enemy equipment, skill and Link distribution are noticeable along with intelligent AI. AI in 5 practices tactics such as range control or unit priority, as well as exploiting friendly fire. Yes, friendly fire is a new mechanic that is implemented nicely and forces players to strategize and position units more carefully. In addition, missions reward strategic play with RP or even wanzer parts for excellent performance.
In conclusion, Front Mission 5 is an outstanding product that is worthy of being praised as the best in the series. It is remarkable how vastly improved the game is over 4, which the developers have admitted to being incomplete. Its only real flaw is that Square Enix has no plans for localization and likely never will reach Western shores. For fans of the series or genre, Front Mission 5 is worth importing and to experience a product balanced in both presentation and functionality.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Striking a balance between presentation and functionality, Front Mission 5 stands out of the crowded strategy RPG market. Without a doubt, Front Mission 5 is truly a first-rate effort in all areas."
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