Mecha fans and tactical fans rejoice as a Square Enix classic makes its way to the Nintendo Switch in the form of Front Mission: 1st Remake, marking the first time the game is available worldwide.
The story of Front Mission 1st is set in the year 2090 on Huffman Island, where you find yourself in the role of captain Royd Clive of the Oceania Cooperative Union (O.C.U.), whose team is sent on a reconnaissance mission that quickly begins to feel off, before rival Unified Continental States (U.C.S.) forces attack, leaving Clive’s fiancée MIA and sparking a large-scale conflict between the two powers. Clive and his team are blamed for igniting the already loaded powder keg and find themselves discharged from the army, doing what they can to survive until they find themselves drawn back into the conflict for money, fun, or love. However, it’s not long before they’re all fighting for much more as the truth behind the conflict reveals itself to be much more than any of them could have expected.
To be honest, while there are certainly some interesting plot points throughout the game’s main narrative, I could probably run off all the key points coherently, telling the full story in a paragraph or two. Most plot points are drawn out to the point that when the reveal finally comes, you sit there with a sarcastic “gee, you don’t say,” and most other times dialogue consists of fleshing out the main characters.
While admittedly lacking much meat to chew on, however, I never found myself so disinterested that I completely stopped caring. There were most definitely highs and lows throughout, but as a rule I found myself wanting to see the story through and found the conclusion satisfying enough to feel happy with the time I put into it.
One of the best things about the remake is the updated visuals. While I don’t think I can say the original is ugly, the remake simply does it better in all the right ways, and I would highly recommend the updated work as the better visual experience.
The audio in the game works well overall, and the sound effects gave me little to write about one way or the other. One pet peeve I did have however was the BGM that loops and fades out before replaying. Honestly, it’s not a huge deal; it’s just bizarre that it doesn’t seemingly loop or at the very least do a better job at doing so because it’s most definitely noticeable. Who knows though, perhaps it will be patched.
Piloting these massive war machines loaded down with armour and massive weapons felt incredibly satisfying, whether in the early stages when your characters are still rookies with limited gear and equipment just trying to survive, or late game when your pilots’ skills improve and you’re ploughing through enemy drone pilots in a mobile fortress.
The game’s main loop will see you arrive in a new town or outpost that serves as a location to get your next mission briefing, upgrade and equip your team, as well as participate in arena matches that essentially function as money farming and stats building battles so you can facilitate outfitting your team outside of the arena. However, there’s not all that much to be done during these sections as small story segments play out and your briefings are very basic.
Despite this, you’ll most likely spend a significant amount of time outfitting your pilots, mixing and matching your machine’s arms, legs, torso, weapons, and other gear. While options are initially limited, you’ll soon have more options than you can shake a stick at, allowing for a significant amount of customisation not only in the machine’s appearance and specifications, but a variety of main weapons ranging from melee to flamethrowers or multi-shot rifles.
Speaking of which, to circle back around to the arena, missions pay fairly well; however, as you acquire more units, costs will soar, and participation in the arena will be extremely helpful in getting shiny new guns. Unlike the main combat of the game, the arena combat works more like a typical one on one turn-based battle with each unit taking turns to destroy the other until one of you gives up or destroys the other as normal, you and your opponent have your usual four health bars, one for the main body, one for each arm, and finally the legs.
Finally, we get to the main game and the roughly 27-30 missions, which play out pretty much the same with generally increasing scale and work like almost every other tactical based game with your units and your opponent taking turns to move around a gridded map to position themselves and attack opponents. Surprisingly, depending on the map and your units build, there can be a fair amount of planning involved in each move, especially on the higher difficulty levels.
As mentioned, the title features multiple difficulty levels and promises new parts to collect when starting a new game, plus some level of replayability; however, the title also includes a new second campaign for you to play through, seeing the story from another perspective (new if you didn’t play it on DS).
Mostly, I did enjoy combat and found it equally challenging and rewarding, with some tense moments as the enemy got some good hits and took out my best unit with some consecutive body hits. While I did enjoy the challenges the game posed, the fact that you could drop the difficulty mid-game means it should be accessible to even new or rookie tactical players.
As someone who played the original quite some time ago but remembers very little about it, re-experiencing the title was a joy, and the visual upgrades only served to make it more so. Add in the extra campaign, and this is the definitive way to play Front Mission. Admittedly, the Bear Bones story is a bit lacklustre despite having a lot of interesting points; they simply aren’t fleshed out enough in my opinion (at least as far as this game is concerned). That being said, the core gameplay loop really digs its claws in deep. I enjoyed building my machines and having my pilots test them out in the arena before taking them into battle, and for that reason alone, I feel safe recommending the title to TRPG fans.
Not perfect, but the best way to enjoy the original.