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Front Mission (known in re-releases as Front Mission First) is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed by G-craft and published by Square in 1995 for the Super Famicom. 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.
Players can progress through the game in the following manner: watch plot-related scenes, clear missions, upgrade and configure wanzers 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 setup their units for the upcoming mission. Battle zones are where the missions take place, though they become inaccessible upon the completion of a mission.
Front Mission units are wanzers, a term for mecha derived from the German "wanderpanzer", or "walking tank". Wanzers differ from the typical combat unit in that it has four separate parts: Body, Right Arm, Left Arm, and Legs. Each part has a specific function and its own Health Points (HP) bar. The Legs enable movement and evasion, the Arms are necessary to use hand and shoulder weapons, and the Body maintains the wanzer's operability. Should the Body be destroyed, the wanzer is destroyed completely. The only forms of damage reduction are a wanzer's Defense stat and Shields, which boost its overall defense. While the player fights mostly wanzers, vehicles and mobile weapon platforms also feature. These enemy units only have one part, the Body, but they have greater Defense and HP values.
Weapons are classified under three categories: Melee, Short, and Long. Melee weapons consist of Rods and a wanzer's free arm (no weapon equipped) that strike only once but deal high damage. The advantages are that Melee weapons often have a tendency to strike a wanzer's Body part and ignore the Defense stat. Short weapons are used at close range and consist of machine guns, shotguns, flamethrowers, and rifles. Machine guns are fully automatic weapons and its rounds target a wanzer's parts at random. Shotguns, flamethrowers, and rifles are semi-automatic weapons that do not focus on a specific part of a wanzer. The advantages with these weapons are their high accuracy, they take priority over melee weapons in battle sequences (Short weapons attack first), and they often destroy wanzer parts if the shot hits.
Long weapons are used from a distance and consist of missile launchers and rocket launchers, which fire either multiple rounds or just a single round. Long weapons have limited ammunition, and must be reloaded when a weapon has used up all of its ammunition. Hybrid weapons that specialize in both Short and Long are present in the form of bazookas and grenade launchers.
Provided a wanzer's total weight does not exceed its Power Output limit, a player can configure a wanzer out of almost any combination of parts. A wanzer can be equipped with up to four weapons. Wanzers can also use weapon arms, which are arms with built-in weapons that are considerably lighter than equipping an arm with a weapon. A wanzer can also equip a backpack that grants additional power output, increased item storage capacity, and raises the effective range of support weapons. In regards to movement, the player can equip a wanzer with a variety of leg types such as tread or hover that have specific uses in terms of movement.
Front Mission has a few other features incorporated into the game. Players can purchase or sell wanzer parts and weapons at the Shop, which can be visited at any town. Front Mission also sports a Colosseum, which is a gameplay feature where the player chooses one of their pilots to fight Colosseum combatants and win additional money. Furthermore, Front Mission sports a briefing feature that details the basic information about the enemy composition for the next mission. Missions in Front Mission are standard strategy RPG fare, however, since most can be finished by destroying all enemies or protecting a particular unit from the enemy forces.
Set in 2090, the story of Front Mission takes place on Huffman Island, a fictional Pacific island roughly the size of Oahu, created by volcanic activity south of Mexico's west coast in 1995. In 2002, the land mass was classified as an island, and was ceded to United Nations control. However, in 2020, the United States of the New Continent (USN) made a bid for control of the island after withdrawing from the UN.
The plot revolves around Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU) officer Royd Clive. The OCU, a coalition of Asian nations, was formed in 2005 as the Bangkok Economic Alliance, and its name was changed after the addition of Australia. An OCU squadron led by Royd Clive and Ryuji Sakata enters a special USN ammunition dump in the island's Larcus District. Royd's fiancee, Karen Meure, is already inside. However, the uneasy quiet is broken when a USN Wanzer squad led by a captain named Driscoll ambushes Meure on the premises, destroying her wanzer and capturing her.
After the player defeats the rest of the USN force, Driscoll escapes, but not before he detonates bombs inside the complex. The entire incident is pinned on Royd and Sakata, who are summarily dismissed from the OCU Ground Defense Force. The fiasco also broke a peace treaty between the OCU and USN, setting off the Second Huffman War. One year later, OCU Colonel Guri B. Olson seeks out Royd, who has become a Wanzer fighter in the western town of Barinden, to work with the Canyon Crows mercenary unit. Royd joins after Olson dangles the prospect of killing the USN officer responsible for Karen's apparent death.
In the PS1 remake, the game has a second scenario, 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 despite the additional gameplay. These elements later play a significant role in Front Mission 5: Scars of the War, more so than any other backstory elements of other installments of the series found in that game.
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.