Squaresoft Are On a Mission

Squaresoft Delivers Mecha Strategy RPG Series to the West!

By John "Loch Ness" Hynd

Front Mission 3

Although, until now, never seeing the light of day in the West, Front Mission has been a fruitful series for Square thus far. Four games have been graced with the Front Mission name in Japan since the original was released on the Super Famicom back in 1995 - two being spin-off titles. Now, the fifth game to bear the name, Front Mission 3 will be the first to see American shores. It's due to arrive on March 22nd. Front Mission you say?? This is a name which might not sound too familiar in the West, and this goes not without good reason. Squaresoft decided that the game was maybe too 'Japanese' for a western audience or too obscure and different to risk treading the water with so thus far, no titles have sailed Pacific, but that is about to change....

Now, with the upcoming release of Front Mission 3, western gamers will finally get the chance to savour mech style urban warfare. Front Mission 3 is a strategy game, taking more than just a slice of the veritable RPG cake. Leading massive mechanical robots (called Wanzers) into battle, the will player find a game of strategy, decision, tactical thinking and a deep and involving plot

Set in a rather bleak and not too distant future, the year 2112, the plot sees a rather nasty fall out between two political parties. A mysterious and unexplained explosion at Yokosuka milatary base is the fuse, and it blows mightily causing a rift between Southern Asia's Oceania Community Union (OCR) and United States of New Continent. A couple of local lads, Kazuki Takemura and Ryogo Kusama, who both work as Wanzer test pilots for Kirishima Heavy Industries, near the explosion set about the task of looking for information as to the whereabouts of Takemura's sister, who worked at the plant. He is helped on his way by the USN's Emir Kramskoi, a female scientist.

Players will find themselves thrust into the seats of giant robots ready for action. Gundam fans are probably excited already. In turn based strategy oriented battle, the Wanzers are controlled by the player, and pitted against the enemy in neo-apocalyptic cities.

Fights are strategy based, and take place in turns. Each Wanzer has a HP value and has different parts of the body. For instance you can opt to shoot different sections of the Wanzer in an aim to take out that particular part or destroy it. Say, you shoot a rival Wanzers legs, then it will be immobilized, or if you took out it's arms, then it's firepower will be lessened.

The game features a new gameplay element. Play, as was in the first two games, is no longer limited to the wanzers. The player will be able to step out of the wanzer, and inflict his own dexterity and weaponry upon the field of battle. If a mech is damaged, the character can hop out, obviously losing a lot of power and ability in the process. A nice feature though is that you can now hi-jack or capture other mechs, provided of course the pilot is willing to step aside at your kindly offer to take their machine. Should you already have a mech, you can choose to use the scrap from your captured Wanzer to upgrade or maintain your own. The character can also try his hand at a whole host of machinery including helicopters and tanks, which sounds promising and intriguing.

Each Wanzer has a particular set of skills that it is given, but more can be learned and installed. Upon plundering enemy robots, skills and abilities that they had may be taken and used. They are generated totally at random though, and although some can be useful others might not be so. Square have also mentioned 'negative skills', whereby skills are gained, if that is the choice word, that cause negative effects to the party.
In the aftermath of battle, the Wanzers can be upgraded, in a similar vain to the gears in Xenogears. A body part, such as the arm, leg, or torso can be upgraded to provide better defensive cover or more firepower.

For the third title the game went back to it's strategy RPG roots and features a small advance in the graphical department. The game is generally viewed from an isometric view hovering above the characters, but whenever any action takes place, the camera pans down to catch it close up, in the same vain as casting a summon in FF VII. There have been murmurs from Japan however, that the graphics are a wee bit bland and dull, but that should matter not. Gameplay, Gameplay, Gameplay!!

Square are promising a massive game; some are throwing a 100 hours plus figure about. There is nice feature in that gameplay can take one of two paths, depending on the player choice. Given the choice of the two main characters, the player must decide on which to choose, and this will be reflected in the game with different parties, both in their own adventure. It's nice to see a bit of variety being injected to the genre, and hopfully a mov which will enliven the game replayability (not something RPGs are widely acclaimed for). All in all, the prospect of over 100 missions and two different scenarios doesn't sound too bad.

It's sounding like a very promising title, that will hopefully get the series off to a good start in the West, and thereby bode well for future updates to the series' chances of seeing our fair lands. Not long now 'til the Mech wars begin; stay glued to RPGamer for the details.

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