Square Enix's strategy classic comes to the DS in its original form. How does it hold up?
Front Mission is a turn based strategy game that was originally released on the Super Famicom in 1995 by Squaresoft. Front Mission for the DS is more or less a direct port, with some added content from the 2003 PlayStation version for veterans of the series to enjoy. In Front mission, you command mechs called wanzers and lead them into battle against your enemies. These wanzers are also completely upgradeable and customizable, making each wanzer you customize unique.
Front Mission gives you the choice of fighting from either the Oceania Community Union (OCU), or the United States of the New Continent (USN). On the OCU campaign you assume the identity of Royd Clive, a former O.C.U. Ground Defense Force (OCUGDF) captain who joins the OCU-backed mercenary group called the Canyon Crows. In the USN campaign, you play as Kevin Greenfield, a Second Lieutenant and the leader of the B-team platoon, the Silver Lynx, for the Black Hounds in the USN army. Fans of Front Mission will be happy to know that the original script is accurately translated, bringing a well written, engaging storyline and interesting characters to English-speaking players without the embarrassing mistakes that often come along with ports like these.
The Super Famicom-era visuals translate nicely over to the DS's twin screens, featuring a decent amount of detail, just about what you would expect from a game released so late in the fourth console generation. Unfortunately the game's graphics are marred by what one would call "sliding pixels", meaning that on any scene that has a sizable amount of movement, there's minimal animation. Also, some newer gamers might find themselves turned off by the decidedly retro look and feel of this game, which will, on the other hand, appeal to older gamers, particularly those who lived during the days of Sega vs. Nintendo.
With controls, Square Enix has given the gamer a choice on how they play the game. You can either use the touch screen to deal with everything, or you can play the game the old fashioned way, with the directional pad and buttons. For a game with menus as small as this, I continually found myself frustrated while using the touch screen, constantly pressing on the wrong options by accident, but with the traditional controls, Front Mission plays perfectly.
Sound is also a direct translation from the Super Famicom game, having seen absolutely no changes or enhancements at all. The music changes with the progression of the battle, changing over to heavier music as the situation becomes more desperate or the deadline for an objective approaches. For a game like this, the music does its job well enough but is neither outstanding nor disappointing.
There is a ton of content to go through, which includes the extra USN campaign from the PlayStation port, the total customizability of the mechs, the ability to face off against combatants in the arena, and even a feature to battle your friends in multiplayer. The main game alone will keep you occupied for quite some time, with battles lasting 45 minutes at the beginning and lasting four or five hours by the end of either campaign. Luckily, Square Enix foresaw this problem and has included a quick save function, so you can save in the middle of a battle and start where you left off when you have more time.
For fans of the strategy genre, this is your definitive game on the DS; go and pick this game up without a second thought. For those not so enamored with strategy games, this game is worth at least one rental, but beware of the game's length and complexity. Front Mission may not seem like much, but looks are deceiving, because this game has a lot to offer for those who enjoy strategy games. Mature, involved games like Front Mission don't appear every day on Nintendo's handheld.