Front Mission 1st (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 18.10.2006 12

Squaresoft is renowned for its Final Fantasy series, with its Mana games playing second fiddle and various other franchises petering along in their shadow over the years. One particular example is that of Front Mission, a mech-oriented strategy RPG that has picked up more than a cult following in the West, following the PSone and PS2 releases. But many do not realise it all started back on the Super Nintendo. Soon they will, though, as the very first title is now being reworked on the Nintendo DS. Cubed

Front Mission is one of those games that many will look at and think is far too Japanese to appeal to a Western audience. However, in all honesty, anyone that has actually played the games will know that this assertion is complete nonsense. After all, the characters throughout the game are generally Westernised, the themes are very gritty and dark rather than twee, colourful and full of specific references that would go straight over our heads. And hey, if you want to look at it in a really basic way, then just think about how popular Transformers was over here. See? Is the idea of a game all about large mechanical robots in the strategic title full of role-playing elements such an alien idea? Do millions of gamers NOT go crazy for the latest MechAssault game? Exactly...

Screenshot for Front Mission 1st on Nintendo DS

So with that, let me drag myself back from that tangent and onto the main topic at hand once more: the very first Front Mission, which appeared on the Super Famicom/NES only in Japan over twelve years ago in 1995, is back. The Squaresoft property is being resurrected by Square Enix in the form of 'Front Mission 1st' on the Nintendo DS in the hope of revitalising the franchise that has seemingly lost some of its appeal to consumers after FM5 and an online version, both on the PlayStation 2.

Now, unlike Final Fantasy III from the crusty 8-bit NES, Square Enix is not giving this the massive visual enhancement bestowed upon the DS FFIII that is nearing 800,000 units sold in Japan at the moment. Instead, other than maybe a little manipulation to get the aspect ratio right on the DS screen and perhaps touching things up slightly to make it look fresher than before, this looks for all intents and purposes exactly like its precursor. Whilst only unveiled a short time ago, the game already has a 'Winter 2006' release date for Japan and was even on show at the TGS event at the end of September. It may have only been a one-stage demonstration on offer, but considering most of the Japanese Press are already familiar with the original, all that was required to show was how the DS system's features are being used for the update.

Screenshot for Front Mission 1st on Nintendo DS

The general consensus? Square Enix may not be delivering the most attractive DS game to date, but it is definitely on to another winner with Front Mission 1st. The game may have been ported to the PSone in 2003, but this really seems like the ideal version as the series is perfectly suited to the dual-screen set-up and touch capabilities. Using the stylus for precision manoeuvres and accessing the menu system all looks extremely smooth and hitch-free. The menus and various control options were all in English for this current build, so in between the dark, dull stylised (SNES-era) visuals and character portraits depicting the person speaking at any one time (Yoshitaka Amano's work), there is an easily navigable system for those considering an early import. Well, that is if you do not mind skipping the main storyline, which itself is indeed in full Japanese.

Talking of the storyline, the isometric turn-based strategy game had you controlling a group of wanzers (the mechs) as they take part in a war that is on-going between the Oceana Community Union (OCU) and the Unites States of New Continent (USN). The story is fleshed out by various long-winded conversations that take place even during the heat of battle; so a grasp of Japanese would be handy. However, this will likely make it to the West soon enough...Anyway, back to how the actual game controls and how well the stylus control proves to be. Gamers are able to quickly flick through a range of menus with complete ease, hastily amending any errors made or changing your opinion about what you want to do with your move without any trouble.

Screenshot for Front Mission 1st on Nintendo DS

And you will have to be careful about what your final action is, because your wanzers may be strong, but when faced with opposition of at least an equal status, then the cracks do begin to show if you lack diligence in your planning. Wanzers' statistics are broken into three separate areas: body, arms and legs. The body is your main health, pure and simple, with your mech exploding if this drops to zero. The legs are your speed and movement, whilst the arms act as a primary source of defence. So each aspect is vitally important to your overall status, meaning a lot of thought needs to go into how vulnerable you leave the mechs after your team has completed its turn. And yes, 'team' as in the way Advance Wars or Fire Emblem works, with each mech in your squad being moved or completing its action before the opposing side gets their chance to attack.

Again, just like in both of the Intelligent Systems games mentioned above, when a skirmish actually occurs, the main action zooms in on the top screen so you can see exactly what is going on in that particular encounter. Whilst the choice of attacking option you make seems to only affect enemy stats in a random fashion, at least there are extra attack options made available depending on the distance from each foe, adding some variety to the proceedings. Other than that, not much else is know, and will not be until Square Enix decides to open the floodgates closer to the game's release before Winter is over. But so far it looks impressive enough indeed! Oh, and there is also the promise of a Wi-Fi feature, new wanzer types and extra scenarios to be included, as well as the reappearance of Glen Duval from Front Mission 5...

Screenshot for Front Mission 1st on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

The Front Mission series may not be too familiar to Nintendo fans in the US, Europe and the Australian regions due to the only translated versions being on the PSone and PS2, but those who loved Fire Emblem and Advance Wars will find this is right up their street. Square Enix once again shows it knows how to use the DS to full effect, this time more on the technical, rather than graphical side.

Also known as

Front Mission: The First

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (1 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

It sure does use the top screen, that's an advancement. It uses artwork from Amano-san, whom I like very much. It looks not too shabby. These isometric graphics are suitable for the job and not too oldfashioned.
It's not my favourite type of game, but looks promising. You actually have to tell us how it plays and how it feels doing so, because that is what raises it equal to Fire Emblem and co.
Hope it does well.

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

The last picture- the guy in the top right...whats wrong with him?

He looks constapated.

Avoid Games Like the Plague, productivity++

The original Front Mission, this one, is actually one of the best in the entire series...so the fact that this will be the best version of it so far bodes well! :-D

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I still can't believe this is coming back on DS. On one hand, it is flogging a dead horse if they aren't updating it at all, but on the other hand, it was a great game, both in gameplay and the "feel" of the dark, mechanized world. The dramatic plot may come across a bit overplayed now on those dated graphics though, but back in those days it was amazing.

A part of me wish they would update DS version somewhat more aggressively particularly because they are likely to have the original on Wii virtual console, but the other part of me says I want it to stay as nostalgic as it is.

Either way, landing this on a Nintendo platform is definitely a big welcome. Another reason why DS is becoming the Holy grail and safe refuge of good old values.

This looks quite good. It looks a bit like Commandos on the DS. Not keen on that type of game though.

Marzy, it's more in line with games like Advance Wars, except it's meant to feel more realistic than that in a MechWarrior sort of way, with a strong plot element and good music. It does play very well, if you let it. There is a bit of learning curve at the start.

I'm surprised it's the one that's been chosen for a port, rather than something like Chrono Trigger or Romancing SaGa...but I'm not complaining! Smilie

I agree with you PW about the soundtrack being very good. Most S-E games have great music.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I never really had any interest in this game...and I still don't. Ah well.

I think a lot of people are put off this series because of its style and theme, which is a shame...Are you not a fan of turn-based strategy games like Advance Wars, FF Tactics and Fire Emblem?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

FF Tactics? That was one of my favourite GBA games! I really don't know why, but this game just turns me off. (And not in that sense Smilie)

Ah well...:-(

"I think a lot of people are put off this series because of its style and theme"

Really? Christ, I never knew that. I thought its style and theme were the distinct strength in the beginning - I remember thinking "Wow this looks cool, I must check it out".

Oh well I guess we all like different things.

I don't mean in Japan, more in the Western world. Why I don't know, but people I've heard from always seem to be uninterested in the series due to its apparent 'style' :roll:

Can't wait for this to be shown in more detail at the Jump Festa later this year!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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