The original Front Mission came out in 1995. Ports came to the PlayStation as well as the Nintendo DS in 2003 and 2007 respectively. Apparently, its reception each time was positive enough, and there were enough fans asking for it, to justify a remake on the Switch. I wonder now if fans got what they were hoping for.
After a reconnaissance mission goes sideways, war breaks out between the Unified Continental States (UCS) and Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU). Royd, the main protagonist who led the doomed recon mission, is discharged from the OCU military for his part in the mission. after a personal tragedy during the recon mission. He is later recruited by a mercenary group called the Canyon Crows, and assigned to assist the OCU in their war efforts.
Language: There are occasional uses of h***, b*****d, and d**n. However, I did not finish the game, so there may be a few more that I missed.
Violence: Mechs explode in battle with human pilots inside. However, there is no blood or gore.
This game is rated T for Teen
I love turn-based strategy games. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance introduced me to the genre, and I’ve never looked back. I jumped on the chance to play this one, because a Strategy RPG with mechs —called wanzers— sounded great. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out.
The first thing I want to mention is the music. Music and sound effects are the only audio elements to this game, as there is no voice acting. The generic sound effects for navigating the map and menus, as well as for combat, are just okay. I’ve heard worse, but they could be better. The music, on the other hand, is not. The songs are repetitive and short, and they loop constantly throughout every mission. By the time the second chapter starts, the music is tiresome.
The artwork leaves much to be desired. It looks decent at first, but becomes less impressive the longer you play. Most NPC portraits are copied and pasted repeatedly for every non-boss unit. Only the most significant characters have unique portraits. This is particularly disappointing to me, because some of the art is by Yoshitaka Amano. I normally love his style, but it looks butchered here.
The story also is nothing exceptional. Most of it isn’t bad per se, but it feels very much like a product of its time. It’s absolutely a ’90s-style action story. I’ve seen much worse, but this one is still forgettable. The most unfortunate thing is the most memorable parts of the story are so because of poor choices.
For example, one mission I did was off-putting, because it was wholly unnecessary. It’s difficult to explain without spoilers, so I’ll sum it up this way: imagine a game where Mario thinks Bowser kidnapped Peach. Then he goes on a quest to rescue her, only to find out that Peach was in the castle the whole time. But he realizes it just in time for Bowser to show up and kidnap her.
The most egregious sin is with the gameplay. As I said earlier, I love strategy games. The problem is there is no strategy to this game. Everything is based on luck and random number generators.
The wanzers are composed of different parts: arms, legs, and body. Each limb has its own HP gauge, and wiping it out disables that limb. However, only destroying the body will defeat the unit. Taking out the limbs will render the unit useless, but will not destroy the wanzer on their own. The legs share HP, while both arms and the body each have their own individually.
In a well-executed game, the player would be able to choose their target. For example, I would focus on the arms first so the enemy can’t use any weapons, and then target the body. Or, alternatively, launch on all-out offense on the body to destroy the unit before it can cause much damage. Sadly, Front Mission: 1st is not a well-executed game.
But there is no way to target specific limbs. So when you attack, you have to just hope that it hits the enemy in a useful spot. If an enemy has a powerful gun in one hand, I don’t want to hit the legs first, yet that is a common occurrence. There have been many times my units have taken out every other limb possible before destroying the body that was already at low health. While my side did that, the enemy wanzers would take the opportunity to disable my units’ weapons. Things like that make every mission last twice as long as it needs to, and it becomes tedious. To make matters worse, at least half the attacks on both sides tend to miss, so that extends a mission’s length by three times.
At first, I thought maybe I just missed something and I actually could aim if I held down a button. However, I tried every possible combination I could think of, and nothing changed. At this point, I have to assume aiming is out of the question.
I have gotten lucky and taken out an enemy’s body right away, but that’s rare. More commonly, I’ve missed most attacks and been hit by almost every one by the opponent. There have been far too many times that I’ve had to rely on an allied NPC to destroy the enemy for me.
Once a wanzer’s limb is toast, there is no way to repair it for the rest of the mission. Theoretically, that should add to the tension and make the player think more strategically. But thinking harder is pointless because the player has so little control. Inevitably, you choose between your limbs or your body, which puts you in a no-win situation. Either you repair an arm for the weapon and lose the unit from one more hit to the body, or you repair the body and lose the limbs along with all usefulness for the rest of the chapter.
The player’s best bet to surviving a mission and landing more hits is to upgrade each character’s wanzer. You get money for every enemy you destroy during a mission, and you can use that money to buy new parts and weapons.
Between chapters, you can participate in battles in the arena for money. They’re one-on-one duels, and you can only pick to attack, guard, or retreat. You can’t use healing items.
One particular mission requires you to win a duel before the chapter can start. I lost at least five times in a row because Royd either missed, or hit the wrong limbs. Meanwhile my opponent landed almost every hit. To make matters worse, I lost those matches on easy mode. The entire purpose of having easy mode went out the window with this game.
During a mission, you have the option to retreat. One would think it would just take you back to town and have you start the battle over. Instead, it starts the entire chapter over. Which means if you bought any new weapons or parts before starting the next battle, you’ll have to do that all over again. It doesn’t even matter if you saved it first, the game will bring you back as if you hadn’t. It’s faster and less of a hassle to just close out the game and re-launch it.
Front Mission: 1st has more going against it than for it. It’s thoroughly flawed, and I’m frankly having a hard time thinking of any redeeming qualities. I suspect it will really only appeal to fans of the original. For first-time players like me, however, it’s best left alone.
The Bottom Line
Unless you're a die-hard fan of the original, it might be best to skip this in favor of a good SRPG.