Saturday, January 17, 2015

Front Mission (Super Famicom, 1995)

Front Mission is a once-daily SRPG for the Super Famicom that may lower blood pressure. It never got an American release because Squaresoft and Nintendo were dicks because of localization costs or something. We did get later games in the series over here, but according to nearly everyone on the internet who has played this series, the first game is the best of the lot. I tried Front Mission 4 and couldn't stand it, but I did enjoy Gun Hazard. Let's see what the original brings to the table.

Great title screen. For whatever reason it sorta reminds me of FFVI's. Similarly dramatic and warm-colored.

Vince Corp, eh? Looks like in the future WWE has evolved into an weapons company. Damn you, Military-Industrial Complex! Must you absorb our wrestling too?

Here's our protagonist, Lloyd. I wasn't going to rename him, but then I realized the letter limit here is eight. Could it be? Finally? A game where I can name the hero "Cockburn"?


 Here's the overworld. Not sure what part of Earth this is (presumably it's the same planet as ours, ala Gun Hazard)

Here's Karen, our hero's fiance. She's spearheading some sort of secret operation. She isn't the weak-looking blonde cowering behind Lloyd in the cover artwork, so I'm guessing she'll get killed quickly to give Lloyd something to seek revenge for. Man, it's great to see such well-developed women in games.



You move square-by-square ala Tactics Ogre, and fight using big mechs called Wanzers (pronounced Van-zer). There's a lot of information onscreen at any given time, and I'll readily admit to being confused by it. I wonder if this is why it didn't get a U.S. release... they thought it was too complicated for American audiences. That was an excuse for a number of RPG non-releases back then.

Here's the villain of the game, Driscoll. He gets cool points right off the bat for looking like Edgar from FFVI. Unfortunately, he's basically a Nazi, which takes all of his cool points away.

Driscoll quickly kills Karen, causing Lloyd to yowl like he burned something.

Encounters take you to a separate battle screen, where your mech and the enemy mech attack each other one-on-one. Reducing Body HP to zero defeats an enemy, while taking out the legs keeps them from moving and taking out the arms keeps them from attacking. It's a cool design, but unfortunately I don't think you can choose what your characters are targetting. As a result, it's common (and irritating) to see your units attacking the arms and legs of an enemy repeatedly while the body has like 3 HP left.

This game takes place in roughly 2090, with the Military-Industrial Complex running amok. In this time period, everything is a secret. The news media must be even worse at reporting than they are now.

After losing Karen, our hero retires from secret missions and ends up fighting in an arena to numb the pain. It's sorta like Gladiator, except he goes willingly.

The leader of a covert ops unit shows up to recruit Lloyd. Our hero responds by dipping his cloth-wrapped hands in sticky resin, then broken glass, as he prepares for Mortal Kombat.

Moments later, Lloyd gives in and joins the paramilitary unit. Here's the base of operations, where you can do stuff like train, shop, and micromanage. This game, like many games of this style, is pretty much battle-base-repeat.

Here's the hero's wanzer, at least in starting form. Interested to see if it transforms into a more streamlined beast, or if it'll remain stocky and slow for the duration of the game.

All of the NPC dialogue sounds vaguely snarky due to the name. Since I'm going back and forth with what I call the guy, I think it's safe to say that both names are accurate. Cockburn is just his last name. That's right, he's Lloyd Cockburn, the world's manliest pilot.

Speaking of his name, I've noticed that online guides frequently refer to a super-OP character named "Roid". It took me a while to figure it out, but I think they're referring to the Lloyd of this translation. Here I was looking forward to getting a super-OP character... when I had him already! Turns out the Schwartz was within me all along.

Continuing to the first real battle, I'm joined by a couple of very tough new characters. Here's Kiros from Final Fantasy VIII. And his partner in crime...

...Guile from Street Fighter 2, who lets us know that shit happens. That's right, other Japanese games by Squaresoft were swearing YEARS before FFVII broke that ground in the U.S. with Barret.

Like many SRPGs, this one is all about customization. At first the customization is very limited and a bit tedious as a result (after the first battle your best bet is to painstakingly upgrade all of your Wanzers with Tempest parts across the board), but I expect it to get more interesting as things continue.

Back on the overworld. We can venture from one set location to another, Final Fantasy Tactics style. 

Here's the Sassy Male Reporter of the game, who will stop at nothing to get to the truth.

This truck driver isn't anywhere near as cool as ol' Jack Burton.

Check out my rainbow-colored array of mechs. I went with gold for my main dude. I wanted his mech to resemble Wyvern and Vendetta from Xenogears as much as it'd let me.

Paul here looks like Howard Stern mated with Dennis Rodman. Despite that, he's a pretty bland character, so it's just as well that I totally failed to save him when he suicide-charged into the enemies. I'll give the game props for not Game Overing me every time an NPC refuses to let me save them like some games do.

Natalie expresses misgivings. ::Eddie Murphy voice:: What a silly woman!

Newcomer Yang (Gender TBD) has some information on Karen. It seems that Roid's lady is still alive, but she's in a hospital somewhere. Luckily, it isn't the one that has been burned to a crisp in this screenshot. ...Oh My God! That hospital was burned to a crisp! All those people!

Lloyd: "Don't care, bro. Where Karen"

I take advantage of the Arena to have Lloyd OP his way through some one-on-one fights for huge profits. It's a good way to grind up money extremely quickly, but unfortunately the fights seem to give very little exp.

Whoa, is that Mark Ruffalo? Don't get him angry, Lloyd!

Cockburn's Wyvern Shrike is turning into a badass fighting machine.

That's all well and good, but why is Genius Hacker Hans wearing a Virtual Boy on his head? At least he got it to stay on, thanks to the magic of duct tape.

A squad of bad guys accosts our heroes. Where the hell is his mouth?

The next battle takes our heroes to this awesome-looking town. I like how it isn't totally in ruins!

This is where we fight the first real boss: The Clinton-Type. It did not have sexual relations with that woman... or any woman. I hope.

I was worried that character death might be permanent like in Fire Emblem, or that unrevived characters might be gone forever ala Final Fantasy Tactics. Luckily, neither is the case. If a character falls in battle, they simply warp back to the base. This means no revives, so it's important to keep everyone healed.

At this point, a guy joins us just so he can see Lloyd pay for his sins. Specifically, "starting" the conflict that destroyed the town that this guy is from. ...wait, that IS a guy right?

He then proceeds to whine a lot. All I'm hearing is "Mehhhh!"



Oh, now he's getting obliterated by enemies. Oops.

After setting us up to get ambushed, he repents and joins the party for real. Also, he's apparently an "old lady" according to the other characters. ...Huh.

In her first battle as a controllable character, Maury gets literally one-shotted.

Our group being called "Carrion Crow" reminds me of the similar protagonist faction Raven's Nest in Armored Core. It had one of the greatest menu themes I've ever heard.

The first third (or so) of the game culminates with our morally ambiguous faction blowing up a bridge to slow down the bad guys.

More on this ethical quandary game soon. So far, it's awesome.

Read the next exciting Front Mission post HERE.


  1. "Commander Cockburn" is AMAZING

    Ooh, this area with grass and forests looks like something right out of Tactics Ogre. Me likey.

    Your rainbow army of robots is awesome.

    No permadeath? I'll almost certainly play this someday then.

    1. Indeed. It's a very simplified proto-FFT with no classes (aside from equipping people to be melee or ranged fighters) but it's short enough to be worth playing even if it brings nothing new to the table. My only real complaint about it is that it's super-tedious to buy new stuff and equip ten or so characters at every new town (which is after every two battles, on average). This game needed an "optimum" in the equipment screen like nobody's business.