Title: Front Mission 1st: Remake
Developer: Forever Entertainment
Release Date: November 30, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Genre: Strategy RPG
In the Fall of 2022, Square Enix would reveal remade versions of two Super Famicom strategy RPGs. One of them was lavishly redone with full voice acting, rebalanced gameplay, and a ton of quality-of-life upgrades to bring it more in line with what we expect from a modern title. In addition, it was heavily marketed, given a full day-and-date physical release, and clearly had the full weight and attention of the publisher behind it.
The other was Front Mission 1st from publisher Forever Entertainment.
Announced during a Nintendo Direct along with a remake of its sequel, Front Mission 1st was given a nebulous “November” release date, ultimately being November 30th, the specific day having never been publicly announced beforehand. It was developed by Forever Entertainment, who had released The House of the Dead Remake just prior to this announcement, which was received poorly by critics and fans alike. The deck seemed to be stacked against this release, so how did it end up turning out?
The best parts of this rerelease are the things that worked well about the original – a unique approach to tactical combat, a dark and heavy war story, and the excitement of getting to play with and customize your robots. While Front Mission has been fan-translated before, if you’re looking for an experience that sticks as closely to the original as possible, just in 3D, that is what you’ll find here. Although I admit that the trailers were not giving me much hope, the finished game looks alright for a Switch release, and there was a suitable amount of work put into making the Wanzers look cool.
Unfortunately, that’s really all that this remaster delivers. It plays exactly as the original did, for better and worse. Each fight will see you take on a small army of enemy mechs with four separate health bars – one for the body, one for the legs, and one for each arm. Destroying the legs will make the Wanzer less maneuverable, destroying each arm will disable the corresponding weapons, and destroying the body will take the unit out for good.
The problem here is that you have no control whatsoever over what body part your mech targets for a while. Big melee attacks seem attractive until you realize how often they’re wasted on attacking your stationary opponent’s legs, which won’t help you – and the computer is irritatingly capable of targeting your body specifically. Fights get dragged on and on as you slug it out round after round, just trying to hit the only thing you need to. It’s common for the body to be the last thing to go after being forced to focus fire for minutes at a time just to take out one enemy. You’re frequently outnumbered, too, which does not help matters.
The lack of quality-of-life upgrades is also notable here – you’re presented with the bare amount of information you could possibly get in any given situation. For example, in combat, you have a vague number representing your weapon’s power, the odds of it hitting, and potentially how much ammo you have.
The sluggish combat would be more tolerable if the player were, for example, told which body parts they were most likely to damage, but it ends up feeling like you’re just bashing your head against the enemy more often than I’d like.
The presentation is also a mess. While the 3D paint job looks okay, the character portraits are inexcusably ugly and, in my opinion, at least look machine-upscaled rather than redrawn. The main character’s name has been mistranslated, so while most characters in the game have ordinary English names, your hero is named Royd instead of Lloyd. There’s even an obvious text error in a graphic you will frequently see where a single word is broken into two lines. In general, the entire game feels dated.
There’s a ton of deep diving into boring menus to get things done outside of battle, the animations look clumsy and break the immersion, and the game itself feels cheaply made. The polygonal “upgrade” feels unnecessary when it’s in service to a game that was much more in need of creative liberty taken elsewhere to bring it up to the standard of a modern release.
Front Mission 1st’s lack of attention from Square Enix makes a lot of sense now that I’ve played it. Unfortunately, the publisher’s decision to license the games out to a developer not particularly known for elevating their work has resulted in a product that feels like it was made to get the minimum passing grade from their teacher.
A list of boxes was checked, but the soul here is missing, and players will most likely pick up on that and stay away. This franchise has long been neglected by its owner, and while a trilogy of remakes ought to be a sign that Square wants to reignite interest in Front Mission, 1st is, unfortunately, the exact opposite. You wanted Front Mission; here it is, now go away.
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