On February 24, 1995, Squaresoft released the tactical role-playing game Front Mission. While it eventually would become a long-standing icon in Square’s arsenal, the series remained relatively unknown in North America until the year 2000. It wouldn’t be until Front Mission 3 that both Europe and North America would have their first chance to play a Front Mission title. And even though Square Enix has begun to release Front Mission games outside of Japan, the first Front Mission has never seen a remake or adaptation for gamers in North America. Front Mission 1st is a revised version of the series original title, and for the first time gamers outside of Japan will have the opportunity to play it.
"Since this Japanese-made game is held in a futuristic world, it's almost certain that the game will include some variation of giant robot."
The basic premise of the original Front Mission involved political tension between two factions: the Oceanic Cooperative Union (OCU) and the Unified Continental States (UCS), both of which hold power in the futuristic world of 2090. The main character is an OCU officer named Royd Clive who was stationed on a contested volcanic landmass called Huffman Island. Each side had recognized a mutual cease fire; however, that cease fire is broken when Royd is unknowingly sent on an illegal reconnaissance mission that results in the disappearance of his fiancé and partner, Karen. The eventual storyline follows Royd in his quest to find Karen and discover the true purpose of his original ill-fated mission.
Changing things up in comparison to the original title, the player will also be able to take on an opposing role in the conflict as Kevin Greenfield from the perspective of the UCS. While playing as a UCS soldier isn't quite as special to Japanese who have already seen this campaign in a separate remake for the first PlayStation, it's definitely a nice touch considering it's our first encounter with the game.
Since this Japanese made game is held in a futuristic world, it's almost certain that the game will include some variation of giant robot. Accounting for this fact, each side utilizes "Wanzers" (short for Wander Panzer, or walking tank in German) for use during wartime. In typical giant robot style, Wanzers are gigantic machines that have an incredible amount of firepower, and the player's task in-game is to strategically equip, repair, and command groups of these units on the battlefield in strategy RPG fashion.
The gameplay remains relatively standard in comparison to other strategy RPGs with a few exceptions. Each of the player's units has not one health bar, but several accounting for body, arms, and legs of the Wanzer. Additionally, each of the health bars can affect the effectiveness of that unit if damaged, such as slowed speed with damaged legs or loss of a weapon with the destruction of an arm. To add to the complexity, each player will also have the opportunity to fully customize their Wanzers by changing up to four weapons and individual body parts between each battle as the need arises. Options such as these allow the player to never feel as they are being forced into any one role.
As for controls, Square Enix has modified the game to fully integrate touch screen use. To further adapt to the new platform, Square Enix also added dual screen functionality by making the top screen display the current statistics on the unit selected, while the bottom is reserved for the grid-based battlefield map. This leaves the player's view of the battlefield completely free from screen mongering interface.
To those who may be searching for deep multiplayer content, then their hopes are sadly limited to local play. Even though the multiplayer will not support Wi-Fi connectivity, it will include two different forms of local play. The first included will be a minigame-based arena mode, while the second will allow the player to go head-to-head in a battle with a friend.
As far as complex strategy RPGs go, Front Mission 1st is a solid title worth consideration. It will hit stores in North America on October 23, 2007. Unfortunately, there has been no announcement of its release in Europe as of yet.