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Front Mission 3 is a tactical role-playing game for the PlayStation, created by Square and released in Japan on September 9, 1999, and later in North America on March 22, 2000. It is based on the near-future of the real world, circa 2112.
It was the first title in the Front Mission series to be released in North America, courtesy of Square Electronic Arts.
The mechanics of Front Mission 3 are a radical departure from Front Mission and Front Mission 2. While it is a tactical role-playing game, there is a stronger emphasis on the role-playing elements as opposed to strategic elements. The game progresses in a linear manner: watch cut-scene events, complete missions, set up wanzers during intermissions, and sortie for the next mission. The player travels to locations on a world map. As the player progresses through the plot, new locations are revealed on the world map. Towns and cities act as intermission points where the player can organize and set up their units for the upcoming mission. New to Front Mission 3 is the Double Feature Scenario – this allows the player to experience two different scenarios that exist independently of one another within the game's storyline. In other words, the player can play through two stories; while they may share common events and environments, the stories are largely unique and in essence are fully-fledged games.
Front Mission 3 missions are traditional tactical RPG fare, ranging from destroying all enemy targets to protecting a certain allied target. Where the game differs significantly from its predecessors lies mainly through a new combat feature – the ability to attack the pilots themselves. During any attack, the pilot can be damaged or forcefully ejected from their machines. The player can also have a pilot eject from their unit to fight on foot, or hijack another machine on the battlefield. The game also changes how skills are learned; instead of gaining experience to improve a pilot's proficiencies, they are now learned by equipping wanzer parts and using them in battle. When certain conditions are met, there is a random chance that a pilot may learn a new skill from one of their wanzer parts, which can be programmed into the wanzer's battle computer. Many gameplay features from Front Mission 2have also been removed, greatly simplifying the overall structure of mission play. Missions are now much smaller in scale, limiting the amount of strategic options the player can use.
There are some returning features from Front Mission 2 that are used for mission play though, namely Action Points (AP) and Links. Action Points (AP) is a feature that dictates how much actions can be done with each unit. Actions such as moving and attacking require a certain amount of AP to use. At the end of a full turn, which is one Player Phase and Enemy Phase, a set amount of AP is replenished. A unit's AP amount value depends on how many combat ranks its pilot has earned; these are earned by destroying enemy units. Links is a unique ability that allows multiple units to provide offensive support to each other during Player Phase battles. Links operates differently in Front Mission 3; a unit's pilot must have a Link-class skill and the appropriate weapons (which also acts as their linked actions) equipped. Once this condition is met, a linked battle will commence if the skill activates. Up to three units can be linked together to form one "link".
Other returning features that appear in mission play include mission rankings and mission branching. As in Front Mission Alternative, players are graded on how well or poorly they clear missions. While there are incentives to perform well, the game does not reward the player with new parts or weapons as it did in Alternative. Mission branching returns and now allow players to choose what type of mission to play next. Aside from these, the Network feature from Front Mission 2 returns and is greatly expanded upon. Players can now browse through the pseudo-Internet, send and receive e-mail messages, tinker with online files and wallpapers, or use the new Battle Simulator feature. The Battle Simulator is a game mode where the player can participate in VR training exercises. These drills can be used to increase the fighting proficiencies of the player's pilots and can be taken as many times as needed. Lastly, players can strengthen their parts with the return of the remodeling feature. Through this, the player can augment a wanzer's armor coating (known as "Def-C"), the accuracy of its weapons, increase its jumping power to scale buildings, or equip it with rollers to dash on flat surfaces quickly.
On October 31, Kazuki begins testing a new prototype wanzer at a Kirishima Heavy Industries test site near Okinawa. Upon completing the test, he is informed that some construction wanzers need to be taken to the JDF base in Yokosuka. Ryogo asks Kazuki if he can join him in delivering the wanzers. If the player chooses to go with him, they will play the Emma scenario. If the player does not go with him, they will play the Alisa scenario.
In either case, Kazuki and Ryogo are eventually tasked to deliver the Kirishima prototypes to the Yokosuka base. As they ready the wanzers for delivery, an explosion leads Kazuki to attempt going inside the base itself. The two test pilots are eventually forced to leave the base. Realizing that his sister Alisa was recently transferred to the base, Kazuki and Ryogo eventually find themselves back inside the complex.
The two are then forced to escape the base and their JDF pursuers under different circumstances. In the Emma scenario, Kazuki and Ryogo are aided by Emir Klamsky with help from her USN allies. In the Alisa scenario, DHZ agent Liu Hei Fong saves the two and Alisa from being captured. In either case, Kazuki and Ryogo are framed as the terrorists behind the Yokosuka base attack. Wondering why they are being chased, Emma or Liu tells the two that the JDF stole a top-secret USN weapon called MIDAS from a base in Alaska, and that the explosion came from a failed attempt to reproduce it.
The group pursues MIDAS to an OCU base hidden inside Taal Volcano in the Philippines, but the OCU uses it against a DHZ-aided rebel force conducting an amphibious landing in Batangas City. With MIDAS apparently gone for good, the group moves to the DHZ where they become involved in the government's battle against the USN-aided Hua Lian Rebels.
As the battle escalates, the group encounters the "Imaginary Numbers" and "Real Numbers," the results of a genetic engineering program intended to create the perfect human. Developed in Ravnui, Bal Gorbovsky, the head of the program, had secretly continued his work with the DHZ government masquerading as the Ravnui Ambassador. However, the Imaginary Numbers turn on Bal and reveal that the MIDAS used in the Philippines was a successful duplicate. Their leader,Lukav Minaev, also reveals that Emir and Alisa were both created by the project, and that two scientists who adopted them as family helped them escape before they were killed.
The Imaginary Numbers flee to Japan where they support a coup d'état hatched by Masao Sasaki, an ultra-nationalist JDF chief-of-staff who ordered the Alaska raid. Kazuki's group follows them to Japan, where he is reunited with his estranged father Isao Takemura. They manage to defeat the coup forces, clear their names and pursue the Imaginary Numbers back to Okinawa Ocean City. Although they finally defeat the Imaginary Numbers and safely detonate the original MIDAS out at sea, the game's ending will either be resolved or left ambiguous depending on the scenario chosen.
It is not known which of the two scenarios are canonically related to Front Mission 5: Scars of the War, as parts of Front Mission 3's intro cutscene are recycled late in Front Mission 5 as security camera footage.