Thursday, January 15, 2015

Front Mission: Gun Hazard (Super Famicom, 1996)

This is the sister game to Final Fantasy VI, in a weird way. Kind of like how Zone of the Enders is a sibling to Metal Gear Solid 2. It's an action game that constantly feels like the RPG it's related to. And it's pretty good.

This post is intended to be a fairly quick synopsis of the game. Not going to go very in-depth on this one, because to do so would take a lot more posts. I didn't take very many screenshots as I played it, but I took enough to make use of what I have. The good news is that this will have far fewer spoilers than the usual post since I'm not getting into much depth. In particular, the last quarter of the game will go entirely unspoiled.

This takes place in a fairly realistic idea of 2064. The Military-Industrial Complex is running rampant!

The main character's name is Albert, but that reminds me of Dr. Wily. So I named him Gore instead. If I could put in more than six letters, I'd give him the manliest name I can think of: "Cockburn"

 The graphics... are impressive. Especially the fire effects.

Heh, "Beeg"

Here's the overworld. It isn't too interesting and it's a bit hard to negotiate. The game doesn't lead you by the hand to where you need to go next.

Like the mountainside vistas in FFVI? This game has tons of them.

So basically, this game has you outfitting a mech and going into battle, ala any Front Mission game. Only difference is that it's a side-scrolling shoot 'em up rather than the usual SRPG you'd get from this series.

 You know the bad guys in this game are bad because they look like Crazed Anime Villains, while the good guys are noble handsome lads. Just like the real world! It doesn't get any points for the characters, and they come across as pretty cliched.

 The one thing really hurting my enjoyment of the game, though, is the existence of on-foot levels. Controlling Gore without a mech is tedious and the game seems to be making me do it with increasing regularity. He's so small onscreen that it's easy to mix him up with enemy footsoldiers.

But wait, there's another overworld! ...and it's our world. Surprise, Front Mission newcomers. It loses accuracy points here because there's still ice in 2064.

Notice the massive tower. It's basically the Tower of Babil, meant to connect people to the Moon. The me of '96 would definitely connect the game to Final Fantasy IV with this.

I like that this game transpires in the real world of the future. It's an interesting vision of said future. It's neither utopian nor apocalyptic; hell, it's more like the profit-driven Metal Gear Solid vision of the future.

Some of the scenery is elysium-esque.

The sheer variety in stage appearances is great. I don't think I've seen any two stages that looked alike. There is a problem, though. The stage layouts aren't so great. It seems like they cut and pasted stage designs a LOT even though the graphics are constantly changing up. So you're getting a variety of looks over the same couple of layouts. Even though you're seeing a lot of cool visuals, you're still constantly feeling like you've done things before.

Quick tangent: the box art for this game is SWEET. I really like playing Super Famicom games that we never got - just to jump into myself circa the mid-90's and figure out how I'd feel about the game then.

Fast forwarding a LOT here. This guy... I bet he turns out to be evil. He's unattractive, and in this game all of the unattractive people are either bad or turn out to be bad.

In other news, I fucking hate that. It's super-common in Japanese things like anime and games (though it can also be found in American media... nearly always cartoons, or other shows for people on a ten year old maturity level) and it's insulting to me. It isn't even that I want to see bad guys who are handsome lads get obliterated by a bunch of unattractive heroes. Though that would echo real life a little more, because the people in power tend to be far more well-groomed than the downtrodden rebels trying to take them down.

No, I just want to see unattractive people who are good guys, and vice versa. Unattractiveness shouldn't go hand-in-hand with badness. Though I suppose I should be used to this kind of nonsense from the land where 20 year old girls are portrayed as old crones.

 There are 91 stages in the game. Some are over in about thirty seconds while some are full-on dungeons. In some stages you get nearly an infinite spawn of enemies heading in your direction, which means it's very easy to just stand at the entrance to an area and rapid fire for a while until either they stop spawning or you run low on health. Then exit the stage, rack up exp, heal up, and repeat. This makes level grinding a snap.

 Those damn Aces and Eights! Who did they get to now? I bet it's that unattractive guy.

 I really like the rare stages where there's pouring rain. Can't say enough about how nice the backgrounds are.

 The black people in this game are INSANE charicatures, and I think they might be the reason we never got an official release of this game.

 What a surprise, the unattractive shady guy is evil.

 Whoa, how about that? The other really unattractive side character in this chapter is also evil!

You know, a while back my schoolteacher girlfriend spent a day teaching kids that they can't "judge a book by its cover" when it comes to other people. Just because someone is unattractive doesn't mean they're bad or can't be trusted; just because someone is good-looking doesn't mean that they're automatically good. Let's hope none of those kids play Front Mission: Gun Hazard and have all of that teaching instantly undone.

Another of the characters is an absolute charicature of a nineteenth century black guy. Holy shit.

 Just when I'm starting to get really annoyed with the game, we get this sweet battle with FFVI-style cranes while the background is full of fire.

These graphics are quintessential 1996 Squaresoft. It's clear that FFVI's magitek armor sequences weren't enough for them to scratch their mech-game itch... 

 In chapter 8 or so, the villain is a hot blonde. Well, that's different! ...and then within five minutes you find out that she is actually a good person who got framed. Of course!

The vehicles in the game are pretty phallic. Before I got the last vehicle, I was going to comment on how I was glad to finally be driving something that doesn't look like a metal penis... only to have the last vehicle be the most penis-esque of all of them.

 The shadowy villains in this game are The Society. They're more or less The Patriots from MGS. Given the game that this is, I bet the villanous Society members are all butt-ugly, and the one who isn't unattractive is the one who means well and wants no part of their schemes.

...spoiler alert, that's all completely correct.

There are also no blacks in The Society, because in this game they're inept bumpkins who speak in jive.

 Sydney is a sort of "secret shop" later on that you need to talk to a certain person to unlock. It has overpriced but potent equipment for your mech, and the merchant is this personality-riffic wrestler-type guy. Sound familiar? If you've played Xenogears, you might remember Big Joe's Secret Shop from that game. Same deal here, right down to the shopkeeper being very Big Joe esque.

As anyone would predict, at one point you climb the Tower of Babil. During the ending of the game, they talk about how this tower would be used by future generations to go to the Moon.

In any case, this wraps up my quick look at Gun Hazard. I beat the game shortly after this last shot was taken, and it was good. As for thoughts...

I can definitely say that had this been released in the U.S., the me of the 96-98 era would have been hugely into it. The only downside is the gameplay. It seems a bit slow and clunky. Reminds me of EVO: Search for Eden and Xardion, and that isn't a good thing. Those games were action/RPG hybrids, i.e. side-scrollers where you could buy and equip upgrades and level up, with very clunky, poor controls. However, some of the music in this game is incredible, and as we all know that brings things up a few notches. It was done by a who's-who of composers that I like, including Yasunori Mitsuda and Junya Nakano.

This seems to be a very rare and forgotten game, which is unfortunate. Aside from the cliches and the shallow proclivity towards "character physical appearance = good/evil", I liked this game a lot.

1 comment:

  1. Way to speak truth to power with the beauty critique. One thing I am glad is beautiful is the graphics. I can really see FF6 in it, especially with that early image of the mech on the mountaintop overlooking a city.

    The tower to the moon looks good but it seriously wouldn't work. For example, you would have to change the architecture and everything as you went into space because gravity and pressure would change so much.