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Front Mission (series)

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Front Mission
フロントミッション
Front Mission logo.png
Basic Information
Developer(s) Squaresoft/Square Enix
Publisher(s) Squaresoft/Square Enix
Platform(s) Super Nintendo, Playsatation, Wonderswan color, Playstation 2, PC, Nintendo DS, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4
Release
First Game Front Mission
February 24, 1995
SNES
Latest Game Left Alive
February 28, 2019
Playstation 4
Best Selling Game Front Mission 4
December 18, 2003
Playstation 2
More Information
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The Front Mission series is a turn-based strategy game centered around the use of military mecha known as Wanzers (walking panzers). Set in the near future of the late 21st and early 22nd centuries, the series takes place in a fictionalized version of the real world and concerns the operations of supranational military organizations, mercenaries, and terrorists as various members of each faction utilize the powerful mecha to achieve their political goals.

While standalone titles within the series do exist, one distinct attribute of the series is that there is a larger narrative framework that connects that majority of the games into a single story. This serial drama approach to storytelling and focus on realistic military conflicts is contrary to the majority of Square Enix's games, which are typically fantasy-orientated adventures with self-contained stories. Currently, the series has seven main titles and seven spin-offs.

Overview and design philosophy

Front Mission titles focus on the development, construction, and deployment of walking tanks know as Wanzers, which have become the mainstay units of 21st century military technology. The player is given a high degree of customization over a unit and can decide how to best optimize it for a particular battle scenario. As the player advances further in a game, they are given increasingly higher numbers of wanzers to control, until a veritable platoon is at their command. In addition to military hardware, the pilots that make up a game's cast of characters can be trained to become ace pilots and control their wanzers with deft aplomb.

From a storytelling perspective, the Front Mission series is distinct from most video game franchises in that each main entry contributes heavily to the series' setting. As in real life, military action can trigger dramatic changes in the delicate balance of nations, and movements made against an independent state in one title will have severe geopolitical repercussions in games set afterward. Adding to the precarious tensions are terrorists, despots, civilian riots, and madmen who will damn the world to further their political ambitions within the multi-national unions that comprise the world's superpowers.

History

The Front Mission series was created by Toshiro Tsuchida in 1995, with the first game being developed by his company G-craft and published by Squaresoft. The game received strong sales and positive appraisal by the industry press, leading Squaresoft to offer to purchase G-craft in 1997 during the development of the second entry and the spin off Front Mission Alternative. The purchase was a success, with G-craft becoming Square Product Development Division 6 and continuing to develop the Front Mission series while Tsuchida supervised the titles and performed additional tasks at Square.

In 2000, the series would see it's first western release with Front Mission 3 on February 29th. Reception was less positive than in Japan, citing the few number of options given to the player compared to the previous two games, but the sales were satisfactory to Square's projections. The 2003, Playstation 1 port of the original game would not be localized for overseas, however, as the title received no graphical updates and the three-dimensional mania that struck the marketplace had hit a fever pitch with the release of Sony's Playstation 2 console. Instead, localization priority was given to Front Mission 4, as it was the first fully 3D entry in the series and the first to be published by the newly formed Square Enix.


2005 would be an ambitious year for the series, with efforts to find a new demographic on the recently emerging mobile phone market, an third-person MMO title, and a traditional, numbered entry for the Playstation 2. The former of these two experimental titles saw the series expand beyond standard release for an episodic, three-chapters-per-month download title dubbed Front Mission 2089. 2089 would reused music and sound effects from previous titles and had a non-linear story. The game performed well enough to gain a sequel a year later in 2006, titled Front Mission 2089-II and both games would later be bundled together as a single DS game released in 2008 under the name of Front Mission 2089: Boarder of Madness. Niether version of either title would receive an overseas release. The MMO, Front Mission Online, was released on the Playstation 2 and PC and featured real-time combat in a free-roaming environment instead the turn-based grids of previous games, owing to its nature as an online title. Strategy is still a fundamental part of the game, however, and cooperation with other players was essential to completing missions. The game lasted until May 31st, 2008, and remained exclusive to Japan.

The fifth entry in the series, Front Mission 5: Scars of War, was planned by Tsuchida as the grand finale to the overarching plotline introduced in the original, with loose ends from each previous entry being tied up or addressed openly in the game's narrative. The programming and design team from the fourth game was kept on, refining the skills they developed and resulting in the most tactically deep and complex game in the series to date. Due to the dense, self-referential plotline and high strategic expectations of players, Square Enix decided against localizing the game for the overseas audience. However, an 2009 fan translation was made available online by a group calling itself the Front Mission: Series Translation Project.

With the main plotline of the series wrapped up, the next major Front Mission game was a 2007 Nintendo DS port of the PSX version of the first title, featuring new content to take advantage of the distinct hardware and the first official international release for the seminal story. American reception was generally positive, with the only noteworthy criticism being the lack of an online multiplayer feature. Regardless, it was praised for its unflinching portrayal of war and hardline approach to mecha combat.

With the 2008 port of the 2089 duo not being released outside of Japan, the Front Mission series would enter the HD era with Front Mission Evolved, a third-person shooter developed by Double-Helix games and released in 2010. Reception was very negative, with fans expressing frustration of the abandonment of the series' strategic roots in favor of unoriginal shooting action. Though the story was written by Square Enix staffers Motomu Toriyama and Daisuke Watanabe and supervised by the company, all other aspects of development were handled by the California studio.

The poor sales and worse reception of Evolved lead to a decade of dormancy for the series, until 2019's Left Alive. Though it did not bear the Front Mission branding, it is set in the series' universe and serves as a distant sequel to the fifth game. Directed by Toshifumi Nabeshima of the Armored Core series, the game is a stealth-based title that focuses on the survival of three characters on a wanzer battlefield during a conflict between the Republic of Ruthenia and the Republic of Garmoniya. Reviews were mixed, and it is currently unknown what direction the series will take in the future.

Front Mission logo.png
Main titles
Side stories