_hojo:Let’s go get the gold! Front Mission 4October 13, 2009
_Never trust the opinions of people you don’t know and/or can’t name off the top of your head. Case in point – Front Mission 4. I had heard that FM4 was a vastly inferior game to FM3, and not worth playing. But when I think back…I have no idea who I heard that from. If I can’t even be bothered to remember who it was that recommended/derecommended something to me, why am I even bothering to trust their opinion? FM4 isn’t the only time that this has happened, and I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to this trap before. But the fact remains: I shouldn’t have listened to people I don’t know.
_So let’s jump into the game, shall we? Now, if you’ve never played a Front Mission game before, you might be confused as to how the game might play. FM3 had a lone mech on the front cover, while FM4 had two heads next to each other with their eyes closed. From those descriptions, you might think “Oh shit, mech sim!” for FM3 and “Oh shit…dating sim with a ridiculous plot?” for FM4. Actually, I have no idea what one would think from seeing the FM4 cover. The cover is terrible. To think that some companies actually have to wonder why some games don’t sell. Anyways, the Front Mission series is neither of those things. The FM games are Strategy RPG’s with a nice mech [or as the game calls them, “Wanzer”] skin thrown on top. And a rather good one, at that.
_Like most SRPG’s, you’ll start out every mission totally outnumbered by about a fuckton. Unlike most SRPG’s, you’ll also be evenly matched against the enemy. Buy the best available Wanzer parts, and the enemy will actually be outfitted with the same thing, meaning you’re not totally outclassed AND outnumbered! Shocking, I know. But, like I said, you’re still outnumbered. So…the only way to win…is strategy? In an SRPG? Again, shocking. The way to beat the numbers is to use the number of cheesy tactics at your disposal that the CPU doesn’t use. Yeah…another SHOX. But the battle system is done very well, maps are huge, enemies never magically appear in mid-battle to fuck up your plans, and with the exception of a boss or two, you never feel completely outclassed by the enemy forces. It’s an SRPG without most of the genre’s annoying tendencies. Probably the most annoying part about the battle system is that battles take a looooooooong time. Like…”1 hour plus each” long time. And there’s 28 main battles in the games…sooooooo…yeah. Pretty long game even before you count the time it takes to shuffle through menus and read text.
_Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. On one hand, the Wanzers look nice, and most cutscenes are done with the in-game models, meaning that anytime your character’s Wanzers are seen in a cutscene, they will have all the parts and weapons you actually equipped them with. It’s pretty cool. The character portraits are also very well done. The coloring and shading done on the faces are very good. The amount of detail on them is excellent. But unfortunately, outside of the character portraits, there are no actual character models in the game. In fact, there is only ONE actual 3D character model contained in the entire game, and it’s a generic soldier, waving Wanzers on a ship. That’s it. The entire story is told via text in front of the backgrounds that represent where these conversations are taking place. Now, maybe they didn’t want to waste development time rendering models that were only going to be seen talking to one another, considering all battling took place with everybody in Wanzers. And maybe they figured that since FM3 didn’t have character models either that it would be OK for FM4 to not have any. But come on…FM3 was PS1, 4 was PS2. You’re saying that a new console couldn’t give you the juice to handle Wanzers AND people? It just seems a little lazy, and it makes the story seem less interesting when you don’t see anybody moving outside of their facial expressions.
_The soundtrack, composed by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki, is very strong. The menu music is catchy and the battle music gets progressively more epic as the game goes on. There…aren’t really other parts of the game with music XD. But the soundtrack is very solid.
_There are two plots going on in the game that later on semi-diverge. Elsa is a new recruit with the Durandal, and they get caught up in a Europe…I mean, “E.C.” conspiracy where Germany and Russi…”Zaftra” try to incite another World War so they can become a world power by shipping resources to the warring countries. Assholes. Then there’s Darril, a member of the U.C.S. army stationed in South America, who finds 3 tons of gold with his partners and then decides to try to disappear with it. Yeah, the gold is way cooler. But then he gets caught up trying to liberate Venezuela to get a transport to leave with his gold. Eventually these stories have something to do with each other somehow. I’m still not sure how. There’s Zaftran stuff in South America, thus proving that Zaftra is fucking shit up in Europe…uhhhhhh…ok. Taken as two plots, the stories are alright…when it came to stuff I didn’t understand, like that last sentence, I just said “whatever,” and rolled with it.
_Overall, FM4 is one of the best playing SRPG’s I’ve ever played. Anytime I lost, I never felt that it was due to some cheese garbage. I could see what I did wrong and corrected it in subsequent playthroughs, and if I had paid attention to enemy placements before I moved, I probably wouldn’t have lost in the first place. That’s called “strategy,” and FM4 has it in spades. If you’re a fan of the the genre, I can’t recommend this game enough. But if you haven’t played many SRPG’s, be warned that it is difficult, and it’s a kind of difficulty that can’t be made much easier with grinding.
_I give Front Mission 4 a thumbs up.