Front Mission 4 (PS2) Review

Developer/Publisher: Square Enix || Overall: 9.1/10

Overview:

Recently, I’ve been disappointed with Square-Enix and their soul-stealing Final Fantasy XI (give me back my friends, damn it!), but Front Mission 4 is a nice surprise. Like the previous Front Mission games, the game is turn-based and you battle in Wanzers, which is pronounced, “Vanzers”. I guess Germans make all the awesome mechanical toys still. So, what do you get with you throw in: giant robots, a sexy French voice actor, and guns? Probably confusion, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Story:

Ah, one of the shining points. As the game beings, Elsa, the woman with the sexy French voice, is training with members of Durandal. Zead and Hermes instruct you on movement and combat against Arrow 2 and Arrow 4. Elsa was a former member of the French Army for some time, but apparently, was never in any actual combat in the French Army. Sucker punch to the French by Square. Next thing you know, there will be an in-game browser that links to here in Front Mission Online, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Elsa and the members of Durandal are sent to investigate the attacks on German bases, no one knows why they attacked or who they were. After arriving at the German Base Sachsen-Anhaltm, the search is slow. With the trouble from Wagner, the commander of Sachsen-Anhalt, and Elsa and Zead suggest investigating to the north. Finding the remains of a landing point in Jutland, Denmark, your team is attacked. Finding a chip as evidence, your bring it back, only to be attacked as you get back to Sachsen-Anhalt by the unknown Wanzers. As the battle ends, you bring your physical evidence (A microchip for leg part stabilizers), and are told to go back to the Durandal H.Q. in the United Kingom. Yes, this part of the story involves lots of conspiracy, and that’s what makes it so engaging. Luckily, there’s an even better side to the story:

Darril, Renges and Chaeffer are members of the U.S.N. who are stationed in Venezuela who have horrible records and never really follow orders. Venezuela is currently becoming independent again with the help of the U.S.N. Wanzers. Patrolling one day, Darril and Renges stop to enjoy a view, as Chaeffer is trying to catch up. After much bickering about turning down a radio to relax, Chaeffer gets a distress call from a transport plane. The plane crashes and the trio checks it out to find no one survived, and the cargo was about three tons of gold. Darril and Renges aren’t too fond of the Army anymore, and decide to take the gold, forcing Chaeffer to join in, too. The gold was the governor’s private little stash, and it wasn’t supposed to exist, so Darril explains that it should be smooth sailing to get it out. Much lying and reckless behavior follows. This half of the story is very entertaining, to say the least.

Graphics:

The graphics are superb. The Wanzers look cool (depending on your parts, of course) and are animated nicely; as Wanzer combat is still relatively new during this time period, it gives added feel that the Wanzers are still sluggish in general response-wise. It’s hard to explain it without seeing it in action. The environments are nice, with lots of little bits of things lying around like barrels, pipes and junk. Not very interactive for the most part, but it’s not really a focus in the game with all the things you need to keep in mind during battle. Weapon effects and camera angles look great in general, yet sometimes it leads to the problem of not being able to see if you’ve hit a few times with a rapid fire weapon, but that’s not a huge or common problem. Much like the previous games, you can customize your Wanzers not only in what heat they’re packing, but their general shape and color. I’m disappointed with the limited ability to change the color of a Wanzer, as more options open up for the “camouflage” as the game progresses. The movies are very entertaining as well, done in the Hollywood way of “Tons o’ ‘splosions”. I like that way. The only gripe I have is that you can’t zoom in close enough during the battle! Things look tiny until you get to the battle.

Sound:

Music is consistently good, fitting the mood, which is generally a, “I’s gonna blow up s’more stuff,” kind of mood. Although, some of the easy listening music while customizing Wanzers can get a little boring. Like being stuck in an elevator playing Risk with grandmother and Bob Saget, it can induce sleep if you’re tired enough. Sound effects are clean and appropriate. There are no small guns here that make loud booms as in other mech games I’ve played. The voice acting in this game is great, dorky people sound dorky, hard ass people sound hard ass. Let me emphasize how good Elsa’s voice is. Men will be able to appreciate it, obviously, because it’s a sexy French voice. Probably the same sort of enticement as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft’s grunting noises as she climbed up stuff.

Well, maybe not exactly the same…

Gameplay:

Lots of stuff to do here. Combat is essentially a super supped up Front Mission. Wanzers have four basic body parts that can be damaged: both left and right arms, legs, and body. The loss of arms or legs will limit the function of the Wanzer until repaired, and the loss of the body will destroy all of the Wanzer, regardless of the conditions of the other parts. With many weapons and tactics to choose from, there’s no one way to go. The game sort of sets you up by having characters be more proficient with some weapons (Zead is good with missles, for example), but it doesn’t mean you can’t alter them slightly. As pilots battle more or train more in the battle simulator, they gain levels and EP. EP can be used to purchase special abilities that can add special effects. Some of the effects are passive, while others are randomly activated in battle, depending on the skill. Also, pilots can link in this new Front Mission game, meaning if they have the right links set up before a battle, they can help attack when a linked unit attacks, or defend them when attacked. This is very useful, as setting up partners within your squad becomes deadly. With the right links, your Wanzers can be all the more efficient with taking down enemies.

The maps in the game aren’t very difficult until further into the game, which is nice for any new player, or a returning series player who needs to be refreshed on how to play. While they are detailed, the maps aren’t very interactive, sadly. Most of the battles take place on maps which are much like arenas: large open areas with few, if any, obstructions. This isn’t entirely true for every single map, but many of them aren’t too different. Also, the map size stacked on to the unit health to damage ratio often makes for long battles, so be prepared. Just keep in mind that splitting up your forces is not such a good idea if you want a short battle.

Overall:

Front Mission 4 is a great title, especially with Square-Enix’s recent ventures that have been somewhat disappointing. The gameplay is very good, and there’s even an option for the ever-popular “New Game+”, so you can replay the game and get everything eventually. The graphics, story and voice acting are very tightly linked together, and it can be a very captivating experience depending on your tastes in games. Just don’t let it run your life like another Square-Enix game that rhymes with “Spinal Bantasy will-leven”.

 

Front Mission 4 (PS2) Preview

Developer/Publisher: Square Enix ||

Square’s Front Mission series isn’t one that many will recognize… The first game in the series, simply titled Front Mission, had been a strategy game similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, and the second a unique side-scroller where mechs called Wanzers jumped around and shot at each other. These first two Front Mission games had only been released in Japan, and were average games at best. However, the third Front Mission succeeded where its predecessors could not, with the PlayStation’s Front Mission 3.

Front Mission 3 is an amazing game. It has huge mechs blowing the crap out of other mechs (called Wanzers), the ability to elaborately customize your own Wanzer (or even create one from spare parts), and a story that is actually good enough to keep you playing. On top of that, there are two different stories you can go through. A huge part of Front Mission 3 is an “internet” type of feature in which you could go to different “web sites” that are in-game, and an email system. Unlike any other game, the vast in-game history of the world (and a little bit of actual world history) is a big part of understanding the game and why things happen.

Front Mission 4, also a strategy game, looks spectacular. It is set in 2096, and takes place in Germany and South America six years after the original Front Mission’s Second Huffman Conflict. Front Mission 4 intertwines the stories of two Wanzer pilots Elsa and Damil. In the world of 2096, there are 3 main economic powers: the OCU (which is made up of the countries between Japan and Australia, along the coast), the UCS (the U.S., Canada, and South America), and the EC (basically all the countries in Europe).

The game starts with Elsa’s story in Europe. Elsa is formerly a wanzer pilot in the French army, and is now in an EC team that tests and researches wanzers, called the Durandal. When an EC German base is attacked by an unknown force of wanzers, the Durandal is sent to investigate the attack, and uncovers a dark plot. The story switches over to Damil in South America. The UCS Venezuelan governor declares independence from the UCS, and deploys troops to blockade the country. UCS troops are sent in to repress the Venezuelan forces. Damil and his unit are among those deployed, but they have no interest in war. Damil’s story starts when he and his unit witness a plane crash in a Venezuelan jungle. What they find inside the cargo plane shapes their destiny.

The battle system in FM4 has been changed a bit from FM3. The main addition for actual battles is a new system called the Link System. Utilizing the new Link System allows you and your team members to use particular maneuvers against your enemies, whether they are Attack or Defense Links. With the Link System, you can have more than one friendly unit attack an enemy unit at the same time, obviously giving more damage to that enemy unit, or decrease the amount of damage given to a friendly unit.

Another noticeable change is in the Pilot System. Instead of having skills randomly become obtained like in FM3, it appears that you can get skills more freely by using “Enhancement Points” your pilots earn after a battle. The skills you are able to obtain increase with your computer’s rank. When you upgrade your computer, you can choose from more abilities to acquire. There are three types of skills that give you advantages during the game. There are Battle Skills (randomly activated during battles), Passive Skills (in effect as long as they are equipped), and Command Skills (available from a pilot’s list of commands).

Front Mission 4 is set for a release on June 15, 2004.