Front Mission fine tuned for the DS

By Louise Yang . November 1, 2007 . 12:48pm

fmds1.jpgThink of a well known SRPG, like Final Fantasy Tactics.  Now replace all those units with mechs called wanzers.  Replace magic attacks with long range missiles. Replace melees with short range rifles and punches.  Put in an HP bar for your wanzer's body, arms, and legs.  Replace the epic story of kingdoms fighting each other with a futuristic story of two super powers (the OCU and the UCS) duking it out on an island (Huffman Island).  Then add in a whole bunch of stats for all sorts of attributes from the weight of mechanical legs to a pilot's accuracy rating.  That's the simplest way to describe Front Mission 1st.


Purchase at Play-Asia


fmds2.jpgSince Front Mission 1st is touted as a strategy game, I thought that it would be like Advance Wars where all the strategy lies on the battlefield.  After playing for a few hours, I feel that most of the strategy lies outside of the battlefield.  Wanzer customization is really the heart of the game.  Winning a battle depends on how you customize your wanzers and which ones you bring into battle.


If you're a stats junkie and numbers make you weak in the knees, the game's options in customization will be your favorite part of the game.  If you're new to the series, it may be a bit overwhelming at first.  A wanzer is divided into several parts: left/right arms, body, and legs.  Different types of parts can be bought in the shop to replace your stock wanzer parts.  The parts effect stats like movement and how much damage your melee punch causes.  On top of that, there's a whole crapload of weapons you can purchase that range from short-range rifles for each arm to long-range missiles from the wanzer's left and right shoulders.  The fact that the game shows the different equipment and weapons that your wanzer has equipped, even in the shop menus, is a nice touch.


Battles are broken down into player turns and enemy turns.  During player turns you can move your wanzer and choose a weapon to attack enemies within range.  After choosing a weapon, the top screen changes to show the attack animations, which will include arms and legs getting blown off.  During an enemy turn, players can choose to guard or use a shield if the enemy uses missiles on them, or even counter-attack with a melee or a short ranged weapon if the enemy is using one of those attacks.


fmds3.jpgThe separate health bars for arms, legs, and body bring on another layer of strategy.  Some attacks have a damage spread that gives a little damage to all the parts, while other attacks like a melee will concentrate on damaging the body. Once a wanzer's body HP goes down to 0, bye bye wanzer.  Similarly, if both arms are destroyed, the wanzer will no longer be able to attack. The strategy comes in the form of choosing between a long range attack that has spread damage, or a melee attack that will likely damage the body but will cause your wanzer to attack last.


Some DS features in the game make it hard to believe that this game first came out on the SNES. The use of the top screen for stats about friendly wanzers, enemy wanzers, and the terrain is brilliant and extremely useful. The touch-screen controls are so competent that selecting wanzers and pointing to where they should move are painlessly easy.  Unfortunately, the slight lag between choosing an attack and the attack animation loading reminds me of just how old the game is.


Things like the slight hitch in load time and the fact that there's no way to see an enemy's movement range might make the game feel dated, but the gameplay and crazy customization more than makes up for it.  There were many missions where at first try I got creamed in, but after adding a few wanzer upgrades and switching out a weapon or two became laughingly easy.  The fact that the stats a pilot gains upon a level up depends on how you used that pilot in battle, like whether they mostly used long range or short range attacks, gives me a satisfying feeling of making progress.


With all the SRPGs being released these months, it's easy for something lesser known like Front Mission 1st slipping by unnoticed.  Players astute enough to pick this up will not be disappointed as long as they have patience for all the stat tweaking.

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  • byrc

    “Unfortunately, the slight lag between choosing an attack and the attack animation loading reminds me of just how old the game is.

    Things like the slight hitch in load time and the fact that there’s no way to see an enemy’s movement range might make the game feel dated, but the gameplay and crazy customization more than makes up for it. ”

    Actually the lag is due to bad porting. There was no lag in the SNES version. Front Mission 1st was released on the psx later on, which just like all Square snes-psx port, there is actual loading, where in the original there was none (FF anthologies, chronicles, etc…)

    Front Mission DS is actually a port of the psx version, which of course was a port from the original SNES. Why the hell is there lag, blame that on Square’s horrible attempts at porting (see FFT: WOL psp) If they just took it from the snes version it would not have this delay.

    The game maybe old but it ran silky smooth on the snes.

    As a big FM fan I recommend everyone to play the snes version anyway (there is a translation for it). This version may have more stuff but it has the psx lag, and its censored. A game with such mature plotline could not get a E10 rating. Its already been confirmed that the game was censored and edited for the DS release.

    Please dont’ give Square your money. This way your telling them you don’t support their lazy porting and censorship.

  • mikael

    byrc, hmm this game cant be that bad for newcommers?
    i know i dont like the sound of lazy ports,but id rather give this game an audience than getting some emulation which wont be the same thing,

    lagging doesnt have to scare me aslong as it doesnt happen every third second

  • byrc

    You’re right the snes version won’t be same thing, but atleast you get the true original story, unedited to fit the DS kid/family-friendly persona.

    I love my DS, but i’m very unhappy with Square’s insistence to keep their games family friendly on the DS.

  • mikael

    i get what you :) are saying,i truly support such
    you have a point,i dont like either games being dumbed down for family friendlyness
    did the change the story too much so that it feels different or just a bit dumbed down,i dont think id mind too much a bit dumbed down as its mostly the battle system id be for

  • You wonder why Squeenix keeps putting out such lousy ports? VP:L, FFT, now this.

    I mean, NIS managed to make a port of Disgaea that runs on the PSP better than it did on the PS2. And they are a very small company (and honestly, based on their PS2 games, I never thought good programming was one of their talents).

  • @byrc

    Aside from the more dramatic moments in the game being toned down a little, I don’t get what you mean by censorship. If it were censorship, those moments would be removed all together and instead you’d be playing an incomplete game.

  • Mirko

    “the fact that there’s no way to see an enemy’s movement range might make the game feel dated”

    That’s incorrect, actually. Press the Y button to enter free cursor mode, then just tap an enemy. Their movement range is then highlighted with green squares.

  • LegaiaRules

    The only toned down moments referred to FM 1st’s forbidden technology(a recurring plot element in the main series) and some intense moments. It wasn’t even censored by any means, which would’ve reduced the game down to an E rating. Speaking of the translations, SE’s team did a better job overall of conveying the atmosphere so to speak, even with some sloppy mistranslations.

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