Front Mission 3 - Review
The Most Efficient Use of Disc
Space I've Ever Seen!
By: Zohar Gilboa
| Battle System
| Replay Value
||Medium - Hard
| Time to Complete
40 - 120 hours
All things need to start somewhere
Front Mission 3 is a strategy game by Square for the
PlayStation, released in Japan in 1999. As the name implies, it's not
the first in the series - the first appeared in 1995, on the SuperFamicom.
However, FM3 is the first ever Front Mission translated to English, and
what a welcome addition it is! The game is a strategy RPG and the battles
are fought with mechs (this time they're called Wanzers).
Strategy RPG means that the gameplay revolves mainly
around battles. More important is the fact that the placement of your
units matters. This also means that unlike many RPGs, you actually have
to think here and some battles can be very tough. You basically move your
wanzers around the battlefield, attack your foes with your melee weapons,
missiles, shotguns, machineguns, rifles, grenade launches etc., while
the enemy coutnerattacks, if it can. Then, the enemy units get to fight
back and you're the one to defend. That's one turn. This goes on until
the battle goal is achieved. On each turn, every character can move and
perform an action. Too bad that in this game you can't move after doing
something. The various actions from attacking with one of your wanzer's
weapons, ejecting from the wanzer (you can also move to other wanzers
like that), using items or just ending a turn. Moving and attacking (as
well as counterattacking with either a shield or a weapon) cost a certain
amount of Action Points, depending on how much you've travelled and what
type of weapons you're using. Your characters regenerate 12 AP each turn.
Their max AP rises as they gain experience from destroying enemy body
parts. Also, the more you use a weapon, the more experience it gains and
the more powerful it becomes. This means you should usually stick with
the same type of weapon for each character throughout the game.
While there are many strategy elements within battle,
you also have to think outside of it. You have to keep your equipment
up to date, right? However, that's not so simple. You can't just place
a grenade launcher on one shoulder, a missile launcher on the other, put
a shotgun in your right hand and a shield in your left. The main problem
is weight. As you go through the game, you'll get new wanzer models available
(either from shops or by capturing enemy wanzers). The wanzer parts consist
of a body, a left and right arm as well as legs. By the way, when you
destroy the wanzer's body in battle, the wanzer is destroyed completely.
Anyway, the body determines how much weight each wanzer can bear. The
other limbs also have weight, as do weapons. So usually, you end up with
no more than one or two weapons. You can also put a backpack on your wanzer,
either for items (these cost more weight), or to add more power to the
wanzer, so you can place heavier things on it. I seriously can't think
of a drawback to the battle system, apart from the fact that it's challenging.
|Use battle skills in combat
You can upgrade your wanzers in various ways. All parts
can be upgraded to have more HP. The body can get a defense against a
type of damage (fire damage, impact damage or piercing damage). The arms
get an accuracy bonus. The legs get an evade bonus and a movement bonus
(able to jump higher, for example). The amount of HP added, the evade
percent and so on, they all depend on the wanzer part. For example, wanzer
models which are designed to fight with melee weapons will have lower
accuracy (since most melee weapons have a pretty high accuracy percent
already), but they'll have high HP values to sustain attacks from the
front line. Also, each wanzer part has a particular battle skill. These
skills you will discover randomly as you fight. Once you get one, you
can set it into the pilot's computer and you'll get it more often. The
skills allow you to cause more damage in an attack or to avoid it when
The battles are held in 3D polygonal stages. The wanzers
appear as sprites and when the attack occurs the screen zooms in and they
turn to polygonal models. While this may seem tedious, it doesn't take
much time at all and it's an efficient way of showing the damage done
without overloading the system. The models are pretty detailed, though
still a bit grainy. The game should look better on a PS2, but I
haven't tried that, since I don't have one. The game is very linear. You
almost never get to choose where to go. The plot leads you around the
world using 3D maps (which you can't control) and inside cities (where
you usually choose to go to a bar, a shop or back to HQ). The city screens
and where most of the conversation occurs are pre-rendered backgrounds.
You use menus to speak with people (you don't actually see them on screen,
only their portraits). While this isn't the most fun way to interact with
characters, it does the job well, especially considering the various available
expressions for each character. The game also has many FMVs (and even
a few scenes of real footage), which are amazing. Incredibly detailed
cities, machinary, forests, explosions... Truly breathtaking.
The battle scenes are accompanied with great sound
effects, ranging from explosions to static noises during radio transmissions.
The menu actions are various computer bleeps. All these really add to
the game experience. The music in the game is mostly militaristic (trumpets,
drum beats), though there are some other genres as well. The sampling
quality is pretty good (meaning that the music sounds fairly 'real', not
synthesized unless meant to sound that way). The music quality is a different
matter. Apart for some very good pieces, the soundtrack is mostly pretty
bland. Background music, nothing more. It's not bad, but this certainly
isn't the game's strong point.
While I haven't played any other Front Mission games
(you'll need to know Japanese for that), I can compare the game to other
strategy games I've played. The approach of using a chessboard-like battle
arena is not a new one, it's been around here since the Genesis, maybe
even earlier. However, in no other game have I had to think of factors
such as the weight of my equipment, the abilities I'll learn from it or
just how cool I want my wanzer to look like! Front Mission 3, while being
very similar to other strategy RPGs within battle, is the first game,
for me, to have really made me think outside of battle, to strategize
and think about possible outcoms and combinations of equipment. I think,
though, that the most original part in the game is the network.
|Where would you like to go today?
Since the game is very linear, you don't get that much
character interaction with other people in the game, and you're not always
in a city, so you might not be able to buy equipment (though you only
get new things when you actually reach a shop). For that, the designers
of FM3 created the network. The network is built of two basic areas. The
first is the web browser. You can go through web pages created by the
game to learn about the politics in the world, find out new information
about characters and plot elements, you can even vote in a contest for
"Miss Teihoku University". The second part is the desktop. The
desktop contains the online shop, a simulator (where you can fight and
gain experience), you can configure the desktop (change the background
with images you download through the browser, for example) and there's
the e-mail system. The e-mail system is just a way to talk with other
people and find out more about your party members (each has their own
mailbox). You can even send a message to Square, but you need to find
out their address, first. With government websites come passwords, correct?
You get to hack into confidential information by decoding images online,
getting e-mails from hackers etc. The web browser isn't important to the
game, it's just a lot of fun.
As you might have noticed, the game is set in a futaristic
world. The year 2112, to be exact. The hero is Kazuki. Along with his
friend Ryogo they witness an explosion in a military base in Japan, where
they live. From then on, they get pulled into a world filled with double
agents, rebel factions, conspiracies of genetic manipulation and a new
weapon of mass destruction. You run away from Japan and move all over
the far east in Taiwan, China, the Philippines and other countries. There's
one last twist to the story, though. Right at the begining of the game
you will get to make a seemingly unimporant decision. Depending on it,
you will get into one of two scenarioes. While both scenarios have the
same general story, you will encoutner different characters (apart for
Kazuki and Ryogo), go to different countries, battle in different areas,
get a different ending. Where in one scenario someone is your enemy, in
the other you will be their ally. This adds a lot to the replay value.
The game is a bit tedious at times, and it does require much thinking.
I've played both scenarios once already and I doubt I'll play it again
soon. However, the second time was as entertaining as the first.
One of the theories on why Square hasn't released any
of the Front Mission games in the US before is that they didn't want to
upset people there. Simply put, the game doesn't display the USA in the
most positive manner... Still, when they finally did translate
one of the games, they did it very well. Especially considering the huge
amounts of text on the network. The characters speak freely, they don't
sound restrained, there are jokes and slang. There are still a couple
of spelling mistakes, but those are rare and you need to look well for
|Incredibly detailed FMVs
The game's difficulty varies. It all depends on how much time you want
to spend on building up your characters and their skills, how much time
you want to spend trying to capture enemy wanzers to get new parts etc.
This also determines the game's speed. The first time I played the game
it took me sixty hours. The second time, on the second scenario, it took
me another forty. With enough work, you really could get to the 150 hours
written on the back of the game. This is also due to the game's biggest
flaw - loading times. It takes a while to load maps, the arenas and so
on. Luckily, once you're at some place, you usually stay there for a while.
In conclusion, Front Mission 3 is an excellent game. The story draws
you into the world of the game, the characters are charming, the battle
is interesting and challenging, yet not tedious. The sound effects are
excellent, as well. It's worth playing the game at least twice, if not
more - you can always find out new secrets on the web or new strategies
to use in battle. While the music could use some more work, it does a
good enough job. The game manages to make a stand regarding war and the
human nature. It succeeds in making you love characters, hate them, call
them idiots or appreciate their genius. If you like to think, this is
the game for you. Otherwise, stay away from it. I can't believe how much
data Square managed to cram into one CD...