Front Mission 1st: Remake Review (Switch)
Release Date: November 30, 2022
File Size: 6.175GB
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
Shigeru Miyamoto once said, “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Except he didn’t actually say this, it was a misquoted statement made by Jason Schreiber about the development of Unreal. History lesson aside, this was clearly a statement delivered prior to the widespread implementation of patches and DLC in the video game industry. So why are we so quick to decry a title upon its launch, when it could potentially be good?
Well, the developer or publisher needs to make good on that promise. Until they do, of course, that game is bad forever, because the present is an infinitely occurring instance. But what does this have to do with the review in question? Well, Forever Entertainment released a pretty substantial patch for Front Mission 1st: Remake that fixed a number of issues and added more options to improve overall quality of life. While I don’t necessarily think much of it impacts the overall game experience, it does make specific interactions more consistent, which helps the front half of the game much more than the rear. So, with that in mind, this review is of the current version of Front Mission 1st: Remake, and why this first foray into mech-based tactics strategy should definitely be on your radar and get you excited for future remakes, as well.
Front Mission is a strategy RPG with a focus on wanzer combat. Wanzers are the name of the robots you’ll find your whole squad piloting across two campaigns. For those uninitiated, this is a remastered version of a Playstation 1 remake of the original Super Nintendo Front Mission, so it’s got quite a bit of heft to it, adding in a campaign for the opposing faction and offering up a whole lot of mech gameplay to experience. You’ll follow the stories of particular faction protagonists as they fight over the fate of Huffman, an island that is hotly contested by rival factions OCU and USN.
There’s plenty of dramatic cutscenes to be experienced, but the meat of this game is the tactical skirmishes on large battlefields. Because you’re fighting in mechs, you’ll have to contend with the imprecise nature of mechanized warfare on organic terrain. You’ll have to factor the kind of surface you’re standing on into your accuracy, but this will also affect the likelihood of taking damage, as well. Selecting the right weapon for a specific range is important, made even more impactful by the limited ammo that some weaponry will possess in order to balance overall utility.
Even then, your weapons will often not deal direct damage to particular parts of an enemy chassis, which can make engagements a bit of a toss-up in the early game. As your party gains experience and starts learning skills, however, you’ll find that their effectiveness when piloting wanzers and dealing damage only increases. Don’t let the game’s opening moments and battles fool you into thinking Front Mission is a perpetual coin’s toss- even if you have a chance of hitting the wrong parts of an enemy, you should always consider prepping and positioning your units for favorable strategic scenarios.
In between battles, you’ll have the chance to manage the myriad, minute details of each wanzer on your team, which can max out at a decent number. This means making sure that your team is properly equipped for the next skirmish, which is mainly accomplished through the purchase of wanzer parts and consumable items. Money isn’t necessarily a scarcity, especially in the OCU campaign, as you can use the game’s Arena matches in order to win valuable prize money and deck your units out for success.
However, the number of different parts and weapons a player can equip is expansive and daunting, so non- or first-time tactics players might find the game to be more than a bit intimidating. If you take the time to pool your resources, however, you can circumvent just about any tactical scenario the game throws at you, or challenge yourself by limiting the kinds of upgrades and compositions you want to form. It’s a very open-ended tactics experience, and the capacity for customization does offer much more flavor than a unit- or class-based experience.
Aesthetics and Narrative
Although it is a remake, Front Mission 1st does what it can to give a grid-based strategy title as much of a modern glow-up as possible. The different environments found on Huffman are given a fair bit of life with clean HD textures and modern effects, the use of lighting and shadow adding a sense of toylike wonder to the maps. Despite this, there’s just no avoiding the blocky nature of the game’s environments, which might feel a bit too retro for some people’s taste.
The real star of the show are the combat animations, which can be fast-forwarded for a time-efficient player’s tastes, but offer high-quality models of the fully-customized wanzers letting loose on one another. My favorite animation has to be the melee attacks, where zoom up close to their enemy and jab them in a brutal, mechanical fashion. It’s sometimes just as fun to watch these models completely miss their target, as their utter lack of personality is both a chilling reminder of the inhumanity of war as much as it is a silly-yet-stoic indicator of the pilots who are likely sweating their brains out behind the wheel of these things.
The menu screens also possess rich detail and depict hangers where wanzers dominate human attention. The sound design in the game allows for both remastered and original tracks to be freely accessed and appreciated, and although I did find some of the modern versions of tracks to be a bit grating, their shrill instrumentation suitably communicates the tension of battle. When in-between missions, there are some more laid-back tunes to appreciate, which do achieve a nice, late 80s to mid 90s vibe. The work from veteran Square Enix composers definitely feels a bit less refined here, but that isn’t to say it is bad.
As much as I like these aesthetic touches, I’m a bit on the fence about character designer Yoshitaka Amano’s remastered character artwork. A staple of Square since the days of old, his portraits have a unique and delicate appeal, depicting the fragility and softness of the human characters behind the hard, metallic wanzers. Some of the remastered art just veers into garish territory, which I suppose could be considered evidence of Amano’s range, but doesn’t sit well with me, for some reason. Deliberately unsettling? Perhaps.
The narrative is one of war and its horrors, which should come as no surprise to dedicated Japanese tactics fans. Similar to some of the more modern mecha titles of its era, it uses its robots to show the destructive tendencies of war and makes their vulnerable fleshy pilots the center of the drama and intrigue. It is dramatic, which might further justify some of those haunted HD character portraits we see, but the combination of Amano’s art and the harsh reality of combat and the lore of Front Mission results in something captivating. Seeing both sides of this conflict play out is pretty satisfying and tied together rather neatly, and witnessing the bonds of the pilots and their motivations factor into the larger narrative is honestly peak mecha content. If you’re a fan of these sorts of stories, you’ll find plenty of intrigue here. However, it all plays out within the context of the game’s maps, character portraits, and text boxes- even this remaster doesn’t add much of a cinematic flair to this storytelling. That isn’t to say the narrative isn’t compelling, but it’s more for literary fans than visual enthusiasts.
Impressions and Conclusion
I will state that I feel any unfavorable impressions of Front Mission’s combat likely found its customization and early-game experience grating. There’s plenty about the opening hours of the experience that might make one question if they’re missing some vital information. The truth is, just like your protagonists, you’re meant to feel inexperienced, and both your wanzers and your strategies will improve with time. The game is not for the faint of heart- it’s got a great deal of micromanaging and down time between missions, and if that sort of thing doesn’t sound like it will appeal to you, I’d be wary of slapping down the money for this game.
I will say that, in its current state, everything about Front Mission seems to operate more smoothly than it did at launch. I could get into specifics about the additions, fixes, and improvements the developers made, but I’ll list a few that drastically impact the player experience: one can fast forward through combat animations, enemy statistics are now displayed prior to initiating attacks, movement on the strategic grid can be done with the D-Pad, and a number of odd enemy and weapon functions have been fixed to work with far greater consistency. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you’ll be one-shotting or even consistently hitting enemies in the first few skirmishes, but to put it into perspective, it used to be even worse.
With all of that said, Front Mission is a unique kind of strategy game that combines the best and most ambitious kind of storytelling from Square’s heyday with highly customizable mech combat. Outside of the rest of the series, there’s few games that manage what Front Mission does, so if you’ve found yourself bouncing off of other tactics games, this might be the right entry point. I am not going to argue that it is my personal favorite, or that I think it’s perfect, but it does depict mech-populated battlefields in a way that feels genuine. The percentage-based hit rates work much better here because, well, these are machines you’re dealing with, and both they and their pilots are far from perfect. If this sort of gameplay can help one wax poetic about the fragile nature of humans and the tortures we put ourselves through, then I think it’s at least worth a look.