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Front Mission 3

Front Mission
  • 03/21/00
  • 01/17/02
  • August 11, 2000
A- 13 total ratings
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Front Mission 3

A Front Mission 3 review Author: Davon Alder Published: May 31, 2000
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Without a doubt, there is a person somewhere in this wide world who played Final Fantasy Tactics and said, "Wow! That was great...but the plot could have been more political, and the customization needed to be more complex!" Perhaps this person also thought a sci-fi plot featuring giant mecha would have been nice as well. If you are that person, stop reading this review and buy Front Mission 3 now.
As for the rest of us, Front Mission 3 is a great game, albeit one that will test our patience. Plot-wise, the game focuses on a political struggle that the main character, a wanzer (the game's term for mecha) test pilot becomes entangled in both by chance and by family ties to major players in the events. At an early point in the plot, a minor decision will send the plot in one of two quite separate directions. While the two plots have some basic similarities, each is a unique story. From that point, there are further minor branching paths which have an effect on your path through missions, though only the first decision effects the overall story. In addition to the refreshing differences between the two plots (as opposed to having two nearly identical quests, as is the case in many games that use a dual plot system) , the storytelling is kept fresh by the network. By logging on to the network, you can send and receive email, or check out websites which you have received the addresses of in conversation (or, occasionally, from captured wanzers). Emails and websites contribute both trivia and background to the story, and provide an element of exploration that is otherwise missing from the game.
Front Mission 3's gameplay can only be described as extremely complex. The basic combat unit, the wanzer, is made up of four parts: the body, the legs, and the right and left arms. When damage is taken, it goes to one of the parts, either randomly or in a pre-set manner, depending on the weapon and/or ability used by the enemy. Each part has a separate HP rating, and will break if it takes too much damage. If legs break, movement is limited to one square per turn; if an arm breaks, the weapon it holds is unusable; and if the body is destroyed, the wanzer and its pilot are out of commission for the battle. Each part is customizable to a great degree- by buying them in shops or capturing enemy wanzers, the player may acquire a variety of parts and weapons, each of which suits a different strategy. Each part can also teach the pilot of the wanzer it is equipped on an ability if the conditions for the ability's activation are met during battle. For example, attacking with a missile, bullet (machine gun, rifle, or shotgun), or melee weapon while your wanzer has a Enyo MK109 arm equipped, the part has a random chance of teaching you the Leg Smash skill, which instantly destroys the target wanzer's legs. These abilities can be equipped by the pilot and activate randomly during attack (no matter what part in now equipped in place of the one used to learn the ability), so long as the criteria needed to originally learn it are fulfilled. Abilities are stored by the pilot in computers. If one ability is activated and there are more of the same ability stored in the computer (there is no limit to how many times an ability may be learned, though a computer may only store so many abilities for use in battle), there is a chance that the abilities will link, leading to occasional devastating chain combo. Depending on the computer you have equipped, the chance of either the ability activating raises, or the chance of an activated ability linking raises. As is true with many other choices of equipment in the game, this is a trade-off. It is up to the player to discover which weapon/part/ability/computer/pilot combinations work best.
On top of all this, pilots themselves gain experience in the use of specific weapon types. If a pilot uses flame-throwers often, for example, he or she will gain experience in the use of flame-throwers. As well, pilots provide AP, which is used to perform all actions, from movement to attacks to counter-attacks, that are performed in the game. Each time an enemy part is damaged, the pilot gains medals (not to be confused with the medals received for performance at the end of a battle). When enough of these medals are acquired, the pilot's maximum AP is raised. As stated before, all actions require AP to perform. Movement requires one AP per square moved, attacks consume a set amount of AP depending on the weapon used, and counter-attacks can be performed if one has enough excess AP built up. At the beginning of a turn, each pilot's AP is refilled by a maximum of 12 points. As if AP wasn't important enough, wanzers may be upgraded in various ways in shops, and some of these upgrades can be enhanced by distributing AP to them at the beginning of the turn.
By now it should be clear that Front Mission 3 has complicated gameplay down pat. The same may be said of its presentation. Graphically, the game offers solid polygonal battlefields, each of which is well designed. Missions are varied well- one battle, for example, starts you off without wanzers, forcing you to sneak up to and board unoccupied wanzers on the battlefield. Such interesting challenges are fairly common, and some of the game's minor branching paths depend on your success in meeting mission objectives. While there are no stunning spell effects such as are staples in most Square games, Front Mission 3 does offer a sense of what combat would look like if giant robots were actually used in real world combat- effects are realistic, but not over the top. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the battle graphics is the zoom in during and attack's execution, which is reminiscent of the attack cut-scenes in the original Strategy RPG series, Shining Force. The only real complaint that can be lodged against the in-battle graphics is the fact that you cannot zoom in at all on the battlefield while manipulating units. This, however, is rarely (if at all) a major concern. Outside of battle, seventy-five percent of the graphics are static screens and text boxes (which may lower the game's appeal for some), though polygonal cut scenes are common as well. Of course, no Square game would be complete without stunning FMV, which Front Mission 3 delivers a surprising amount of considering the fact that it has two separate quests to fit on a single disc. Though FMV cut scenes are a rare occurrence, they are of high quality and good length. While you probably won't find yourself rushing to import the soundtrack, Front Mission 3 offers a perfectly fitting musical score, which fulfills the traditional role of setting a mood even if only a few tracks are particularly notable.
Front Mission 3's complexity is its greatest strength as well as its greatest weakness. For die-hard strategy and RPG buffs, as well as those who love customization and detail, Front Mission 3 will be a solid eighty hours of bliss (around forty hours per quest). However, the majority of gamers will likely be turned off by this very feature. Between the network, the plot, and customizing your wanzers, a player may well find him or her self spending more time out of battle getting ready for combat than they will actually fighting. Because of the complexity, those new to the Strategy RPG genre may be better off cutting their teeth on Final Fantasy Tactics or an old copy of Shining Force before they venture into the complicated waters of this game. Those who do brave this maze of systems and customization with dedication, however, will find themselves rewarded by diverse challenges and satisfying moments in both plot and gameplay. Front Mission 3 is a game that may not find a huge audience, but will likely find a loyal and satisfied one.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Customization drives the complex gameplay of Front Mission 3. The complexity will either turn off the player or turn him on and many a gamer will finish satisfied."
A- dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 13 ratings) | Rate it Now
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