|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
September 10, 2007 - Strategy junkies have a lengthy wait until the next installment of Advance Wars hits the DS, but Square Enix's Front Mission may tide them over in the interim with its complex, twisting story and robot free-for-alls. It's hard to go wrong when giant robot mechs are involved, especially when it's your job to pilot squads of them into the heat of battle. Front Mission games have enjoyed a healthy popularity in Japan, but only a few titles in the series have reached U.S. shores. An updated version of the original futuristic tactical RPG is headed our way soon.
Set in 2090, Front Mission revolves around a conflict between two warring military powers muscling for control over Huffman Island. Around 20 years prior, the first Huffman Conflict, between the Oceania Community Union and the Unified Continental States, sparked a two-year war which ended with a ceasefire and the territory being divided between the factions. A lengthy period of peace is broken when the sudden destruction of U.C.S military facility rekindles the conflict. The DS version of Front Mission will allow you to play two separate campaigns; either as Royd Clive, the leader of a O.C.U mercenary group, or Kevin Greenfield, the commanding officer of a U.C.S special forces squad. Exploring both campaigns will offer a rounded play experience, as each follows a completely different story.
Players will easily be able to pick out nods to various other excellent strategy titles integrated in Front Mission's gameplay. With a presentation similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, Front Mission's battles play out on a grid-based, 3-D isometric field. At the start of each mission, players deploy their mech units - which are strangely called "wanzers" - and proceed in turn-based warfare against a variety of foes including mechs, helicopters, tanks, mobile weapon platforms, among others. The main battlefield resides on the touch screen, but actual combat takes place on the top screen, much like in the Advance Wars titles. When attacking or being attacked, the upper DS screen shows a close-up view of the robots pummeling or blasting the bolts out of one another. Movement, item selection, and other tasks are accomplished with a mixture of stylus and directional pad controls.
Some interesting play mechanics are thrown into the mix to shake the formula up. Each wanzer can be completely customized with a wide range of different parts, armaments, and items. The machine is divided into four sections: left arm, right arm, body, and legs. Each section of the wanzer can be separately damaged in battle, which opens up a range of strategic possibilities during combat. Destroying the main body of the wanzer will put the mech out of commission, damaging the legs will slow or immobilize the unit, and destroying an arm will also scrap whatever weaponry happens to be attached to it. Repair items can be used to fix damaged mechs, but it eats up a turn and leaves you vulnerable to enemy fire. Mech pilots also gain experience at regular intervals, which increases the effectiveness of your wanzer on the field. Being armed to the teeth also helps.
So far, the game's isometric graphics are strong, but they don't aim to dazzle. The entire presentation is also very cold and futuristic. Much of the colors schemes consist of dark grays, browns, muted greens, and similarly drab tones. It definitely adds to the future vibe, but may be a visual turn off for players who have grown accustomed to bright and colorful games on the DS.
To sum it up in brief, Front Mission has awesome giant robots, tactical strategy, mech customization, futuristic warfare, and massive firepower all on the Nintendo DS. It's about time. Wanzer battling is likely to elicit a few low-brow puns, but the game looks to be a great fit for lovers of war tactics and giant robots everywhere. Front Mission is slated for release in late October 2007.
CCC Freelance Writer