Front Mission
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-11-18 Nintendo DS Strategy/RPG E (Everyone) Square Enix

I like my turn-based strategy RPGs. In fact, my favorite ones are the Shining Force games. So when I hoped into Front Mission without having a clue of what it was about, I was at least familiar with the game mechanics. Except now instead of having rangers and wizards as my ranged attack, centaurs and birdmen on the front line, and my priests healing in the back, I have a bunch of mechs with the same abilities.

Front Mission is for anyone who likes Final Fantasy Tactics. It's not really a war game, it's your typical strategy RPG, but without the typical fantasy theme.

The story focuses on the conflict of two world superpowers, the O.C.U. (Oceania Community Union) and the U.C.S. (Unified Continental States), over Huffman Island, which is located in a neutral zone between the two. The last war between these unions took place years ago, but a new conflict arises from the destruction of a U.C.S. military factory.

The game allows you to play from both perspectives, either as Royd Clive, the leader of the O.C.U., or Kevin Greenfield, the commanding officer of the U.C.S. Special Forces, Black Hounds. Playing as Royd is indicated for inexperienced gamers, since it starts with the basics, while Kevin's story is for more advanced players familiar with other Front Mission titles and tactical RPGs.

Gameplay is unit-oriented. Each of your mechs (here called wanzers) moves in two parts: actual movement and action. Combat will involve tactics and a knowledge of each of your wanzers' abilities. Your pilots will level according to the wanzers, so it's a good idea to specialize them in one skill, so they will be better at it and more effective in battle.

On the top screen you get a zoomed-in version of the combat, complete with attack animations, while on the touch screen you have an isometric overview of the area. Combat takes place on a grid, and you can control your units with either the D-pad or the stylus. The controls are fairly simple with the stylus, but the menus are so small that it becomes frustrating picking the right options most of the time.

There is quite a bit of customization to do regarding your units, and this is where the game becomes time-consuming. Wanzers have three body parts that can be swapped, body, arms and legs. You can equip new arms, legs, shields and weapons in whichever way you want, as long as you keep in mind that the wanzer still must be light enough to move. Power and weight must be balanced for them to be effective.

Alternating combat with plot, the rich storyline is presented to you in a series of text box dialogs. There is no voice acting, which is a shame. The music is average at best, and repetitive after a number of battles. The sound effects are fitting, but they're not overly impressive.

Overall, this is a game that will certainly appeal to fans of Final Fantasy Tactics and similar games. The two campaigns offer some replayability mode, while the DS Wireless Play multiplayer feature adds to it. With good tactical combat and plenty of customization options, Front Mission should keep you busy for quite a while.

Special thanks to Charlie Sinhaseni and Square Enix for providing a copy of this game.