The world of video games is game of archaeology. Some games arrive once and are revered for years. Those particular games are remade or remastered for newer generations. Other games are left to collect dust in the dustbowls of time. For some of the lucky few, these games have a second chance at life. This year, for the first time in over 15 years, Front Mission has returned in Front Mission 1st: Remake. Developer Forever Entertainment succeeds in bringing the famed strategy RPG back for a new audience. It does everything right, but it might be too good of a remake.
Front Mission 1st: Remake is a full-fledged remake of the first remake of the first Front Mission game. The original Front Mission originally released exclusively in Japan in February of 1994. A remake released in America in October 2007 for Nintendo DS. Front Mission 1st: Remake is a full remake of Front Mission 1st with modern enhancements and options for play. This also includes two campaigns for play. One campaign puts players on the side of OCN as a mercenary. The other puts players on the side of the enemy in the backdrop of a top-secret weapons project.
Come Heavy or Not at All
Front Mission 1st: Remake gives players the chance at several different options to suit their playstyle. Several difficulty settings: easy, medium, and hard, are the first options for players. New to Front Mission 1st: Remake are the choices for modern gameplay settings or classic gameplay settings. Modern settings bring the Front Mission experience to the modern era. This includes the ability to freely move the camera, play with a Perspective of Camera view, and a newly arranged soundtrack.
Classic Mode puts the Front Mission experience as close as it can to Front Mission 1st. This includes a fixed orthogonal view and the classic soundtrack. This mode goes further by making the experience as close to the original Front Mission 1st in terms of gameplay as well. The environments are painted and fixed. This gives Front Mission 1st: Remake a more old-fashioned feel. However, there is no attempt to replication the pixelated visuals of the original game. It is a strange omission, especially when it could have been easily done.
The Tools of War
Front Mission 1st: Remake plays just like how veteran players remember. The key to this game is the Wanzer. Wanzers are essentially giant tanks. Players outfit and customize their Wanzers through a fairly deep customization system. Wanzer parts are fully customizable. Arms, legs, body, and targeting systems can be customized. Various variables, from weight to defense, are displayed to give players the information necessary to make the best possible Wanzer. Wanzers can be heavily armored and slow, light and fast, or a combination of the two.
Players in Front Mission 1st: Remake are assigned to a Mercenary outfit with the goal of making the most money out of the ongoing conflict. During missions, players fight enemy Wanzers. Every enemy felled will lead to currency that can be used to acquire new weapons and parts. Alternatively, players can enter the arena and fight to earn more money to afford better hardware.
Strike First, Strike Hard
Gameplay in Front Mission 1st: Remake sticks specifically to a tried-and-true turn-based formula. Players enter the battlfield and map their actions to a title. Players move their Wanzer and take action depending on the situation. Some attacks can be done out of range, specifically if a Wanzer has a long-range shoulder rocket. Melee attacks can be used in close proximity to deal blows to the enemy. Short and medium range attacks will be the most common occurrence in combat.
Unique to the Front Mission games are the targeting of body parts. Each body part on a Wanzer can be damaged and eventually destroyed. This gameplay attribute changes the tactical and strategic thinking significantly. Every encounter feels like a risk that can either be victorious or devastating to the player. Fighting a single enemy with multiple units can increase the offs of survival. However, the risk still stands that the enemy can damage a body part. Destroying legs limits mobility, making a Wanzer slower but still mobile. The biggest risk stems to damage to the arms. Destroying the arms destroys weapons as well. Of course, destroying the body means total destruction to the Wanzer.
Think Before You Move
Destroying parts is a random affair. Weapons will hit based upon range, attack power, and the targeting system. Missiles can miss on one attack and can strike hard on the next attack. Later in the game, players can use a special targeting system to specifically target certain parts. Switching to a first-person perspective, players can optimize their target selection. This makes combat much easier and smoother, especially when planning what vital systems to take out first. It pays to eliminate body parts. Additionally, certain parts can be salvaged to be used in a later mission or sold.
Front Mission 1st: Remake does an excellent job recreating the combat fans and newcomers have come to expect. Every battle feels engaging. Every moment is an unpredictable test of might and skill. The music underscores the ferocity and seriousness of combat. Visually, Front Mission 1st: Remake appears almost as if it were a miniature mech table-top game. These further compliments the strategic nature of the action. The game is great for those that want to remember a different era in RPGs, and a rewarding time for those that are new to the series.
As a remake, Front Mission 1st: Remake gets the job done, but it also falls short of what a remake can do. Make no mistake that this is the golden age of remakes and remasters. With the multitude of such releases, the definition of what a remake is and can be becomes wider and broader. This is where Front Mission 1st: Remake falls into two different categories. One category is being a point-for-point remake of a game to recreate a true experience. The other category is remaking a game and adding attributes that enhance an experience and build upon a foundation.
As a true remake, Front Mission 1st: Remake succeeds greatly. The gameplay is as close to the original as players will ever get. The new visual presentation compliments the atmosphere of the battlefield. The music is certainly a more distinct vision of Mecha combat. Even the static cut scenes and character illustrations all evoke an RPG experience form 1994. With the inclusion of the two riveting campaigns, Front Mission 1st: Remake is excellent.
What you do is up to you
There have been various examples of strong remakes. This year saw the remake of Live A Live in the Octopath Traveler visual style and Tactics Ogre Reborn received a full-fledged remake from the ground up. Remakes usually add more to a foundation but maintain a focus that stays true to the roots of the game being remade. This is a cautious line to cross. Adding a feature could make a game stray far away from what made the original so great. Alternatively, it can add to and bolster what made the original so good. Front Mission 1st: Remake falls short here.
There are various areas where Front Mission 1st: Remake could have improved. More could have been added, including general quality of life improvements. This includes earning credits to acquire new parts and weapons. As it stands, the existing system is a grind. There is no training ground between missions to level up pilots or parts. Alternative activities that add XP, or level up a character, could have benefitted players. Four save slots exists for player to save their battle midgame. It can be argued that is too few spaces for saving.
Stay on target
Early on, weapons randomly damage various parts. The ability to specifically select a part to destroy does not arrive for players until much later in the game. Alternative defenses or moves could have given players a better chance at preserving parts in battle. Special attacks or team-coordinated attacks could have also been benefiting in taking on the harder, more skilled Wanzers. Voice work would have been a strong addition to the game, both in battle and between missions during cut scenes. It feels strange to have a degree of silence, given the chaos of the game.
Having compared and contrasted, Front Mission 1st: Remake is an excellent remake on one hand. The game remakes the exact experiences from 1994 but with a newer presentation. On the other end, the game falls short of what a remake can do and the some of the more archaic parts of the experience have come along with it. This makes Front Mission 1st: Remake a polarizing recommendation. However, for this reviewer, it was a joy to revisit something as classic and impactful to JRPGs and gaming in general.
This is a golden age of RGS and JRPGS. This year saw the release of games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Valkyrie Elysium. Players put off by the more archaic aspects of Front Mission 1st: Remake may look elsewhere for their strategy needs. Players satisfied with an older-fashioned strategy game will certainly sink their teeth into an enjoyable tactical adventure. Front Mission 1st: Remake is an incredibly strong remake, recreating the look, feel and gameplay of the classic mech RPG. Front Mission 1st: Remake does a fine job celebrating what made the original so memorable. With plenty of Wanzers and two full campaigns, there is a lot to dive into here. As this is the first in a trilogy of remakes, the future is looking bright for the series. Welcome back, Front Mission. It’s damn good to see you again.
Front Mission 1st: Remake is available on the Nintendo Switch.
Front Mission 1st: Remake was reviewed thanks to a key generously supplied by Forever Entertainment.