Front Mission 3 Review by Aaron Bourne

Posted: March 31, 2013 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 Reasons Front Mission 3 Is The Best Game Ever And 1 Reason It’s The Worst

 

For those who don’t know, Front Mission 3 is the first Playstation incarnation of Squaresoft’s giant mecha strategy series to appear in Europe.  It’s like Final Fantasy Tactics meets Armoured Core and it might just be the best game ever.  And here’s why:

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1)       Fully customizable robots, so you can create a hovering rocket launcher.  Or a 4-legged sniper.  Or someone with two shotguns and a grenade launcher.  Literally whatever you can squeeze into the weight restraints.  No weapon restrictions on characters, either, so if you want a 4-man squad of flamethrowers, go for it!

2)      Literally the angriest protagonist in an RPG (at least until someone makes a Berserk-themed one).  Kazuki is a nutter.  Or at least, he bounces between standard stoic hero and bloodfury.  I swear he even seems to activate melee-based skills more than other characters.  Tends to go for the arms, too.

3)      A 4:1 spy to comic relief character ratio.  Everyone loves spies, no-one likes comic relief characters.  Winner!

4)      Morningstars the size of buses.  Yep.  You can even dual wield them!

5)      The Internet.  Well, a drastically reduced simulacrum that runs like it was on a DOS beta, but still.  It’s also hooked up to some kind of huge, gnarly 3D printer so you can literally send weapons and material down the phone line in seconds.

6)      Beam weapons!  Okay, lasers are nothing new in mecha games, but what do they usually accomplish?  Some pew pew noises and a few flashes like someone was shooting glow sticks at you with a crossbow?  These are like the angry glare of ZEUS; a caustic line of pure energy, along with a scream like the souls of the damned being subjected to dubstep.  And they do damage!  Do you have a shield equipped?  No?  Say goodbye to your ride!  When you finally get to use one, it’s an experience of true joy…

7)      Grand Theft Mecha.  Yep, you can punch someone out of their robot and jump in it yourself.  Nothing quite like crushing a poor pilot with his own machine.  You can even take it home later to sell or dismantle.

8)      You assault a farmstead guarded by machine-armed walking trucks that run on manure.  This is exactly as much fun as it sounds.

9)      Both scenarios have at least a handful of missions aboard a gigantic rolling fortress that can accommodate an army and bristles with weapons.  One mission even takes place on top of it!

10)   A branching story arc allows you to see two sides of a gigantic national incident  over a huge campaign, amounting to 120+ hours of gameplay, each with six or more unique characters and multiple events to each play through.  It’s pretty easy to clock up 500 or so hours on this game without even realizing it… and it’s damn well good enough to make that effort!

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So in conclusion, Front Mission 3 is well worth playing and those ten reasons should be more than enough to convince you!  However, there is one fly in the ointment…

1)      Random status effects.  That’s right, every single attack has a random chance to inflict either a stun, confuse or auto-eject on either you or an enemy.  Battle skills increase this chance or make it a certainty, but the chance is high enough to make it almost certain that at least once a battle, something bad will happen to a pilot.  And that one time your main pilot is ejected on your own turn, right in front of the enemy firing line, you will want to throw your Playstation out of the window.

Despite that, Front Mission 3 is definitely worth a play, especially now it’s available for a modest sum on the Playstation Store.  So what are you waiting for?

Hey, remember Squaresoft?  No, not Square Enix; presumably the remnants of old Square who were abducted, experimented on by evil aliens and then amalgamated into gestalt entities with the similarly abducted Enix staff into the evil clones we know today.

If you don’t, once upon a time there was a Japanese company that just churned out quality (for the most part) RPG titles, tactical sims and action titles like Final Fantasy, Vagrant Story and, most importantly for this review, Front Mission.   They made these great games with care and enthusiasm and amassed an international fanbase of millions, incidentally the only reason Squenix survives to this day.

Everyone knows what Final Fantasy is, so I’ll skip that explanation.  But what is Front Mission?  Surely another turn-based monster slayer starring blue-haired kids whose villages have been razed to the ground?  Nope.  This game is set in the not-too-distant future where the world is divided into 4 or 5 super-countries and primarily features 30-FOOT TALL WALKING DEATH MACHINES! Okay, so humongous mecha are nothing new, but they’re so rarely done this well that it’s always a joy to see.  They work especially well in this environment, as a team-based tactical RPG similar in style to Final Fantasy: Tactics.  Battles take place on an isometric-view grid with your mecha able to make use of obstructions, heights and environmental hazards to take on outnumbering enemy forces.  Each turn, you move your squad around the ‘board’ and select opponents to attack with a variety of weapons.  Every time you do so, the camera zooms in to a more detailed scene of your mech blasting away at the enemy and receiving incoming fire in turn.  Although the graphics are typically PS1-era crude, it’s still fun to see your shots exploding off the enemy, ripping arms and weapons off and your pilot celebrating when they make a kill.

 

I have a slight bias for the third installment of the Front Mission series, as I will happily rant to no end to anyone willing to listen.  In all honesty, this is probably my favourite game of all time, and certainly the one I’ve spent the most time with!  The battles are fun, but mostly act as a testing ground for the way you customize and supply your Wanzers (short for wanderung panzer or ‘walking tank’) and what skills your pilots have learned.  The customization is, for me, where Front Mission 3 really shines.  You’re given complete freedom on how to arrange the parts, weapons and accessories of your Wanzers whilst balancing the weight limits, movement speed and durability of each mech.  Past a certain point, you can select any weapon for each character, too, so if you want a squad entirely made up of missile-slinging heavies, you’re free to do so.  Experimentation and adaptability is key and the ability to swap out individual parts of each machine means you can always tinker to make them slightly better, faster or harder hitting over time.

In addition to part swapping, your pilots can learn ‘Battle Skills’ from each piece of equipment that allow them to randomly push the limits of their craft or guard against certain drawbacks.  Everything from missile salvos, to ejector seats, electronic chaff and rapid-fire weapons, giving you the chance for that extra edge against your opponents.  One of the more fun skills sees all your units within range gang up on an enemy machine for some free shots or punches!

 

So enough about the combat system, how is the story?  Front Mission 3’s is an interesting one.  Being set, rarely for Squaresoft games, in the real world, it’s much more grounded in reality than most RPGs.  You begin as Kazuki Takemura, a hot-headed Japanese test pilot working alongside his friend, Ryogo Kusama, a fellow employee in Kirishima Heavy Industries.  Kirishima is one of the major Wanzer suppliers distributing materiel for the Japanese Defence Force.  You begin the game testing out a new model combat Wanzer, which Kazuki comments on being ‘far too offensively-oriented for the defensive Japanese military’.  It’s partly this insight that ends the pair up to their necks in hot water as a global conspiracy unfolds.  I won’t spoil anything, but their journey takes them across continents, over vast battlefields and sees them join up with a plethora of unlikely allies.

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But… which side of the battlefield and alongside which allies is where the game shows off it’s more interesting feature.  A simple decision early on sees the story split entirely in two, following completely different party members on opposite perspectives for the same story.  Today’s friends could be tomorrows foes and both paths offer unique insight.  Looking back, I wish my first time playing I’d tried to juggle both branches simultaneously, trying to keep pace with both sides of the story… that would be an experience.

Whichever path you take, you’ll meet interesting characters from all walks of life, from a ditzy policewoman, to a jovial marine commander, to a federal spy (or four!), even scientists and… farming equipment salesmen?  Indeed, the game’s sense of humour is prevalent in Kazuki & Ryogo’s banter, though the game’s overall tone can be a little bleak, especially in ‘E’s’ scenario.  Still, the world of 2113 is an interesting one where you’ll get to see the results of rampant genetic experimentation, city-sized mobile fortresses, weapons of mass destruction and… a man kicking a 30-foot tall robot in two.  Seriously.

 

Each scenario easily weighs in at 60+ hours, especially if you want to grind up credits and do some experimentation.  So with both paths to explore, that’s more game time than even a Final Fantasy title and with multiple playthroughs, you’ll easily surpass your Skyrim game time!  Front Mission 3 comes with my highest recommendation for any fans of tactical warfare, giant stompy robots or a good storyline.  It’s only a shame that more Front Mission titles weren’t released in Europe ( I went to great lengths to get 4 and it looks like 5 will be out of reach for a while…  hey at least there’s… Evolveeeddd D8 ).

 

With a download available through PSN, there’s no excuse for any PS3/PS Vita owner not to experience one of Squaresoft’s great hurrahs and to own a game that certainly did its part in making the PS1 era once of gaming’s greatest moments.  You’ll not regret it!

 

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