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Front Mission

Entry updated 14 October 2019. Tagged: Game.

Videogame series (from 1999). Initially Square (SQ), later Square Enix (SE). Designed by Toshiro Tsuchida.

Front Mission is a series of Console Role Playing Games (see Computer Role Playing Games) which emphasize turn-based tactical combat and strong, often multilinear, plots (see Interactive Narrative). To date, only three members of the main series have been released outside Japan: Front Mission (1995 SQ, SNES, 2002 rev vt Front Mission 1st SE, WS; 2003 PS1; 2007 NDS, vt Front Mission outside Japan) designed by Toshiro Tsuchida, Front Mission 3 (1999 SQ, PS1) designed by Toshiro Tsuchida and Front Mission 4 (2003 SE, PS2) designed by Toshiro Tsuchida. All of these works use a combination of three-dimensional action sequences and overhead views to present what are unusually serious narratives for Japanese CRPGs, focusing on conspiratorial politics and the futility of war. Their visual designs tend to be dark and industrial, reflecting their military themes. Parallels can be drawn with the Anime series Gundam Wing (1995-1996) (see Mobile Suit Gundam) and Gasaraki (1998-2000) (see Mecha), though Front Mission depicts a realistic near future world that lacks both the space travel of the former and the mysticism of the latter. The most significant feature of this future is the use of Wanzers, "wandering panzers" or human piloted walking tanks, in warfare (see Mecha). Gameplay in the series alternates between Wanzer combat scenarios, including story development through prescripted events, and scenes focusing on character interaction, during which the player's conversational choices can trigger different plot paths. While several of the games employ branching plots, the available paths will frequently split temporarily and then recombine later. Role-playing elements include the ability to improve the player characters' Wanzer piloting skills and select and upgrade the Mecha they use. As is conventional in CRPGs intended for games consoles, players are assigned characters with detailed backgrounds, rather than creating their own.

All of the Front Mission games are set in a shared Future History; characters from one game may later reappear in another. In this future, the world is divided between the Oceania Community Union, the United Continental States, the European Community and several smaller power blocs, most of which are intermittently (though not very intensively) at war with one another. In Front Mission 3 two entirely separate storylines are available, depending on an early, apparently insignificant, choice made by the player; both focus on a military industrial conspiracy in Japan. The linearly plotted Front Mission 4 also has two storylines, but the player follows both simultaneously, switching from one to the other. In one, the player adopts the role of a European Community Wanzer pilot working with advanced military technology; in the other, that of a United Confederate States soldier in Venezuela who is contemplating desertion from a "police action". The two stories eventually merge, revealing a global conspiracy to intensify the world's endemic cool war.

Related works: Front Mission: Evolved (2010 Double Helix Games, PS3, Win, XB360) designed by David Verfaillie, David Hall is a spinoff from the main sequence with the gameplay of a Third Person Shooter; there are some similarities to the BattleTech game MechAssault (2002) and its sequels. The setting is the twenty-second century, later than the games in the original series; Space Elevators and advanced Mecha appear.

Several other Front Mission games have never been translated out of Japanese. Front Mission 2 (1997 SQ, PS1) designed by Toshiro Tsuchida is the second game in the main series. Front Mission 5: Scars of the War (2005 SE, PS2) designed by Toshiro Tsuchida has a storyline which follows the same group of characters over many years; its narrative is primarily concerned with the dehumanizing effects of high-technology warfare and with its allegorical depiction of the contemporary War On Terror. Front Mission 2089 (2005 SE, Phone; 2008 rev vt Front Mission 2089: Border of Madness NDS) and Front Mission 2089-II (2006 SE, Phone) use broadly similar designs to those of the original Front Mission to present the linear story of a group of mercenaries who are investigating the actions of a secret military organization. Other Front Mission-related games, unreleased outside Japan, include Front Mission: Gun Hazard (1996 SQ, SNES), a two-dimensional action game, Front Mission: Alternative (1997 SQ, PS1), and the multiplayer only online Third Person Shooter Front Mission Online (2005 SE, PS2, Win). [NT]


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