Front Mission is a series by Square Enix that hasn’t seen any exposure since 2019 with the offensively bad Left Alive. Hoping to win back the Mecha crowd, the controls have been handed over to Forever Entertainment who have gone back to basics with a remake of the game that started it all: Front Mission 1st Remake.
War Wanzer Good For?
Front Mission 1st Remake follows the story of two warring factions, the O.C.U and the U.S.N who are vying for control over Huffman Island.
Forever Entertainment has used Front Mission 1st, the expanded PlayStation 1 version, as a basis for the remake. As such you get to witness the conflict from both sides of the war with pilots Royd from the O.C.U and Kevin from the U.S.N. This wasn’t included in the original Super Nintendo version. While it’s possible to play in any order, the original O.C.U. route is recommended to play first, as it’s slightly easier and introduces you to the world.
Royd and his team, which includes his fiance, are performing what should be a routine surveillance mission that naturally doesn’t go to plan. His fiance is killed and O.C.U is cast in a dark light which in turn sees Royd being outcast and living life as a civilian, propping up bars and earning his money in the Arena.
After a successful fight, Royd is approached by an O.C.U higher-up who wants our protagonist to lead a mercenary group. While initially dismissive of the offer, the prospect of finding the mysterious pilot “Driscoll” and getting revenge for the death of his fiance prove too tempting. Royd is once again thrown into the thick of a Superpower war.
The narrative follows all the clichés of any war-torn drama. Nothing is quite as clear cut as it seems and the dual protagonist aspect allows you to view the battle through the eyes of both sides of the conflict. Fortunately, the story is one of the strongest aspects of the title and you’ll fall in love with its world and the characters that are fighting within it, even if all it’s missing is someone to proclaim that “War never changes”.
GunDamn Good Customization
Front Mission 1st Remake is a Strategy RPG game where the focus lies very much on the battles. There’s no exploration to be found here outside of the town menus. Instead, the bulk of the gameplay lies within the battles themselves.
Before we tackle that particular aspect, I have to point out that while you’ll be doing a fair bit of warfare, you’ll likely spend nearly as much time in the Mech setup screen. It’s here where you’ll be customizing your motley crew of Wanzer wonders. Despite each pilot bringing their own rig to the table, you at no point need to accept it and instead can chop and change until you are happy with the Mechs in your group.
When I say you can customize each Mech, I really mean it. From paintwork to weapons and all the way to what parts. It’s totally down to you, with money and weight restrictions being the only things holding you back. This is slightly dangerous as it leaves it to the player to perfectly balance their platoon, but the amount of freedom really is refreshing. This is especially the case when you remember this game is originally a Super Nintendo title.
In towns, you have a bar where you can chat with the patrons but they add very little to the ongoing events. There’s also an Arena to fight in that provides your extra income. Aside from that, there isn’t a whole lot to do in towns outside of the Mech Set up and Shop.
It’s a Tank with Legs!
War is the name of the game and you’ll be spending a lot of time positioning Wanzers on a grid-based system in a traditional turn-based strategy role-playing fashion. While it’s fairly routine in its execution, there are a few caveats to set this apart from the plethora of SRPG titles that have been released over the last few years.
RNG is something that permeates throughout every battle in Front Mission 1st Remake. Each Wanzer has multiple health bars, one for each arm, your legs, and your body. Should you whittle down the body health bar, that spells death. The others affect what actions you can do. Unfortunately, there is no way of choosing what area you aim at and you will often find yourself not taking down the part you want or find your Wanzer useless as the enemy has taken down all your weapons.
This aspect can really lengthen the time it takes to complete missions. The random nature of the damage, along with early game throwing a huge amount of Wanzers at you with only a few of your own troops means that the early game can be quite a slog. While you do get more units at your disposal as you go on, the slog never quite eases up due to the random limb feature, and will often see you rolling your eyes as you’ve either missed completely for the third time in a row or as you slowly disarming a unit you really could have done with taking out 2 turns ago.
While there are ways to improve the flow of the battles such as turning off the repetitive attack and movement animations, the core of the game is still painfully slow. This is a massive oversight when the developers decided to take on remaking a Super Nintendo game. It just hasn’t aged well.
While the Wanzer customization and story are quite engaging, the thought of each battle ranging well into the 45-60 minute mark is enough to bring you to tears. Even if you lean into your pilot’s expertise, they still miss a lot of the time and half your team ends up as useless units hopping around the map trying to avoid destruction, which then costs your wallet at the end of the map.
Front Mission 1st Remake features two gameplay modes to choose from alongside the dual campaigns. There’s a “modern” mode and a “Classic” mode. The “Modern” mode gives you a moveable camera and the new soundtrack whereas the “Classic” mode gives you a fixed camera and the original SNES soundtrack. This is ideal for newcomers and returning players alike, giving them the option of a more up-to-date feeling title or to play the game as they may remember.
Visually is where the bulk of the “remake” has landed in Front Mission 1st Remake. Instead of the sprite art that carried the original title, you are presented with a fully 3D re-envisioning of not only all of the Wanzers but also the stages. New 2D artwork has also been created for the town scenes and the cutscenes.
The visuals here really are somewhat of a mixed bag. While the models are all well done and there isn’t anything particularly egregious about the visual style, it just doesn’t have the same impact it did back on the Super Nintendo release. This makes the game look a whole more generic than it actually is.
The stages especially can feel really hit-and-miss. The city-based maps look outstanding, but the jungle stages have a real plastic feel about them, especially the ones with water. I couldn’t shake the feeling of them looking a little cheap and lacking any of the heart of the original release.
Animations in battle are done well enough, but the movement animations when moving your Wanzers around really don’t hold water. If they have to turn to face anything, it’s like the developer decided to take the bare minimum route. This resulted in me turning animations off altogether, not only to save time but so I didn’t have to see them anymore.
The fact that you can switch between soundtracks is a brilliant addition. In terms of quality, I found some tracks weren’t as good in the new soundtrack and it also worked the other way. The voice acting is passable. It’s not exactly award-winning but was a nice touch to a game that originally didn’t have any.
Front Mission 1st Remake is a bizarre title. It is a true remake rather than a remaster, but all the effort has still gone into the visual side of things rather than tweaking the gameplay to make it more in line with the modern era of gaming. It’s a slow-paced title with painful RNG that really isn’t too interested in providing more than a basic SRPG experience with customizable mechs.
It’s great to see the series back once again. With a remake of further titles planned, I can only hope this serves as a stepping stone to provide players with a much more fun and engaging title in the future. Unfortunately, as it stands, Front Mission 1st Remake is a pretty title that while offers some fun, really doesn’t stand out in any real meaningful way compared to its many, many peers.
WAIT FOR SALE ON FRONT MISSION 1ST REMAKE
Many thanks go to Forever Entertainment for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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