Review-In-Progress: Front Mission 1st: Remake Is A Slog

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Review-In-Progress: Front Mission 1st: Remake Is A Slog

An illustration shows the Front Mission protagonist pointing a gun at the remake's menu system.

Image: Yoshitaka Amano/Square Enix

Front Mission is a excellent strategy RPG series who deserves to return. It’s the grittier, darker, futuristic cousin of Final Fantasy Tactics that replaces swords and wands with submachine guns and half-erased giant mechs slamming it into a jungle ditch. Some of that charm shows up in Front Mission 1st: Remake, but the revival is mired in decades-old gameplay shortcomings and a lack of new quality-of-life features that don’t do much to help the Square Enix classic. to shine in 2022.

Released today on Nintendo Switch, Mission before 1st: Remake puts you in the shoes of a disgraced soldier-turned-mercenary named Lloyd Clive who searches for his lost fiancé in the midst of a brutal war between two superpowers. In the not so distant future, rival continental powers use giant robots to fight for control of a tiny island in the Pacific. The conflict takes its toll on local civilians as megalomaniacs within the ranks use the fog of war to pursue their own ends.

Each side has its own meaty campaign, and to understand the full scope of the conflict, intrigue, and stakes, you’ll need to play both. It’s not a game you necessarily play for the characters and plot twists, but the story is still compelling and dark and provides a great backdrop for some very granular robot combat. And the Switch version’s overhauled 3D visuals make it look much more modern, even if the gameplay hasn’t aged as well.

Big mechs arrive in a city to commit war crimes.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

As fire emblem Where Advanced Wars, Front Mission 1st: Remake’s combat takes place on a square grid where units move across the firing range, attack, succeed (or fail), then regroup. But unlike many other strategy RPGs, this game spreads the damage over four parts of the robot’s body. Destroy an arm and the target loses access to the weapon it was holding. Break the legs and he won’t be able to move that far. Finish the core and everything will explode.

What makes things even more complicated is the fact that you can’t really target a specific part. Instead, attacks have a random spread and also have a good chance of missing completely. The result can be exciting upheavals when you’re lucky, but more often than not a lot of tedious trial and error. You can take down an enemy unit with two attacks or go several turns without killing blows while they hit you with powerful counterattacks.

GIFs: Square Enix / Kotaku

Between battles, you can customize the build of each robot in your party. Want a long-range threat? Add shoulder rocket launchers and a bazooka. Need a juggernaut to get in there and soak up the damage? Add tons of armor and focus on close range weapons. Each mech has a weight limit based on its parts which affects how far it can move in a given turn, while pilot stats like dodge and melee increase their effectiveness in certain situations. These stats increase based on what pilots are doing in combat, and there’s plenty of room to tinker with group loadouts at the margins. At the same time, just pouring some cash into the latest upgrades is usually more than enough to get the job done.

A configuration screen displays options for customizing mechs in the Front Mission Remake.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

There are a ton of cool ideas here, but all of them feel held back by the limitations of the past. Five hours later, that’s my biggest issue with Front Mission 1st: Remake: It’s a good game that could be much better, but the new version is mainly focused on updating the presentation rather than the underlying mechanisms. Its $35 price tag speaks to that uneven middle ground – more than just a remaster but not quite the premium price of a full reboot. It’s a quiet disappointment.

Like Tactics Ogre Reborn before him, 1st is a remake of a remake. The game was released on the Super Famicom in Japan in 1995 and then came to North America via a PS1 port in 2003, which was later ported to the Nintendo DS. Other than the visual refresh, remixed music, and better camera navigation, most of the game remains as it was decades ago. This means that there are still frustratingly few options for truly customizing units and strategy on a deeper level than choosing between short-range and long-range trade-offs or min-maxing between accuracy and damage.

A scene just before the battle shows how Front Mission's graphics have been massively updated.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

Even at the menu level, things can still feel unnecessarily outdated. You can’t access your inventory when equipping mechs at the shop, and you can’t see how damaged a unit is during battle when deciding to counter an enemy attack with a weapon or shield. There’s no way to speed up the general pacing of battles outside of disabling movement and combat animations, which are actually the most satisfying part of the game. And there’s no way to rewind neither are turns.

It might seem unfair, but it’s hard not to draw a comparison to Tactics Ogre Reborn, which Square Enix also just released a few weeks ago. Yes, Tactics Ogre is a better game, both narratively and mechanically, but Reborn has done a lot to rebalance combat and refine unit progression to focus on what worked in the original game and put side which was not working. It has a 2X speed mode and a rewind function, the latter of which can be a lifesaver when you make an obvious mistake and don’t want to start a long fight over again. Tactics Ogre Reborn also has full voice acting, another feature that 1st Reborn really could have benefited from.

What 1st Reborn has going for it are crisp 3D visuals that retain the tactical view while making rivers, foliage, and cityscapes look dynamic and detailed. Front Mission has never been a pretty series, but it looks decent here, especially compared to the pixelated look we’ve seen from Square Enix’s other SNES remasters. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for how tedious the fundamentals of the game can get, which is a shame because I’ve always liked the more granular detail and calculation that goes into Front Mission’s combat mechanics. I just wish it had the same refresh in 1st Reborn as the graphics.

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Article source https://kotaku.com/front-mission-1st-remake-review-nintendo-switch-rpg-1849836644

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