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Front Mission (known in re-releases as Front Mission First) is a turn-based tactical role-playing game developed by G-craft and published by Square in 1995 for the Super Famicom. It is the first game in the Front Mission series and the second piece of media released under the Front Mission brand, the first being Front Mission Zero.
An enhanced remake of the game was released for the WonderSwan Color in 2002, PlayStation in 2003, and Nintendo DS in 2007. Of all the game's releases, only the DS version was released outside Japan, though an emulated English-language translation of the original Super Famicom version is available.
Game progression in Front Mission proceeds 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 point-and-click 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. Battle zones are where the missions take place, though they become inaccessible upon the completion of a mission.
In Front Mission, players use playable units called wanzers, a term for mecha derived from the German word Wanderpanzer, or "walking tank". A wanzer differs from the typical combat unit in that it has four modular parts: body, left arm, right arm, and legs. Each part has a specific function and its own health bar. The legs parts enable movement and evasion, the arm parts are necessary to use hand and shoulder weapons, and the body part maintains the wanzer's operability. In the event the body is destroyed, the wanzer is removed from play completely. Destruction of arm and leg parts does not remove the wanzer from play, but it severely cripples its performance. While the player fights mostly wanzers, vehicles, aircraft, and mobile weapons platforms are also featured. These enemy units generally have only one part, the body, and are much stronger than wanzers themselves.
In the customization aspect of Front Mission, wanzers can be customized with a variety of parts, computers, auxiliary backpacks, and weapons. The player has full control over customizing their wanzers and can do so as long as its total weight value does not exceed its given power output. To field a wanzer in battle, it must have a complete frame of parts: body, left arm, right arm, and legs. Parts with built-in weapons in the body or arm sections can also be equipped on a wanzer. Computers improve the accuracy of the weapons equipped on the wanzer. Auxiliary backpacks and weapons are not mandatory equipment to use wanzers, but are crucial in order to progress through the video games. Auxiliary backpacks serve to give a wanzer special features during combat; they allow a wanzer to carry support items such as ammunition reloads and increase the power output of the unit, allowing it to carry heavier gear.
There are four classes of weapons: melee weapons, short-range weapons, long-range weapons, and support fire weapons. Melee weapons are weapons used at melee range and have a tendency to strike the body part of its target. Tonfas and rods are examples of melee weapons. Short-range weapons are weapons used at close range and deal damage to all parts of a target. Machine guns and shotguns are examples of short-range weapons. Long-range weapons are weapons that have long firing ranges and are ideal for avoiding counterattacks. Bazookas are examples of long-range weapons. Support fire weapons are indirect fire weapons; they can never be counterattacked, but have limited ammunition supply and minimum firing ranges. Missile launchers are examples of support fire weapons. Lastly, shields can be equipped on wanzers to absorb some of the damage taken from incoming attacks.
Front Mission has other notable features incorporated into the game. Arena is a unique feature in which the player can fight AI-controlled enemy combatants, or face another player to earn monetary rewards. Likewise, Front Mission sports a briefing feature that details basic information about the composition of enemy forces for the upcoming mission. Missions in Front Mission are traditional tactical RPG fare, ranging from destroying all enemy targets or protecting a particular allied target.
Set in 2090, the story of Front Mission takes place on Huffman Island and revolves around OCU captain Royd Clive. An OCU reconnaissance platoon led by Royd is assigned to investigate a USN munitions plant in the Larcus District, located on eastern Huffman Island. Upon reaching the premises, the platoon is ambushed by USN wanzers led by an officer named Driscoll. He quickly ambushes Karen Meure, Royd's fiancée, and destroys her wanzer. As the two forces engage in battle, Driscoll detonates explosives inside the plant and escapes. The USN accuses the OCU of the attack, later known as the Larcus Incident, but the OCU insists that the incident was a set-up. Both sides soon declare war, setting off the 2nd Huffman Conflict. The OCU pins the blame of the incident on Royd's platoon, discharging them from the military and classifying them as MIA during exercises. One year later, OCU colonel Guri B. Olson seeks him out at a wanzer arena in the town of Barinden. Using the prospect of killing the person responsible for Karen's death, he manages to recruit Clive to the Canyon Crows mercenary outfit. With the Canyon Crows, Royd is assigned to help the OCU military reverse its fortunes and win the war.
In the PS1 remake, a second scenario was added, with the player assuming the role of USN Black Hounds officer Kevin Greenfield. A number of mysteries and plot elements shown in the OCU campaign are examined further from the USN's perspective, as well as featuring tie-ins from Front Mission 4. However, numerous plot elements remain unresolved that later play a significant role in Front Mission 5: Scars of the War.
In the DS remake, the connections with Front Mission 5 are fleshed out further through expanded and new scenes and the appearance of characters such as Glen Duval, Walter Feng, Randy O'Neill, and Hector Reynolds. The tie-ins with Front Mission 4 are also expanded, with additional material and equipment, such as the Zelt wanzer, and the inclusion of Darril Traubel and Billy Renges.
Front Mission was first re-released on the Japan-exclusive WonderSwan Color in 2002. The following year, the game was released as Front Mission 1st for the PlayStation. This version included new material and the ability to play from the USN's point of view. This content was used in the Nintendo DS version, which was released in Japan on March 22, 2007, and in North America on October 23, 2007, simply titled Front Mission. A mobile phone incarnation has also been released in Japan.
In the Nintendo DS version, battle sequences are tuned to use the console's dual screen setup for an easy view of the action, and can be sped up. The DS version also includes a number of changes and additions. Playable, large mobile weapons platforms previously seen as boss units in Front Mission's SNES and PlayStation versions, as well as Front Mission 4, can be unlocked. The player can control Front Mission characters from other installments, such as Darril Traubel and Glen Duval, in a select number of missions. New parts and weapons were added, some from other Front Mission installments, including the Numsekar from Front Mission 5 and the Dragon Hand part, which could previously only be obtained by cheat devices. New secret missions and areas were added, which grant the player bonuses, such as new mobile weapons or wanzers. Difficulty settings and other bonuses can be accessed through repeated playthroughs of either side.