Monday, November 29, 2004

Front Mission 4

Genre: Role Playing Game / Tactics
Platform: Playstation 2
Credits: Square Enix. Screenshots and images courtesy of RPGFan.

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Skysenshi's Description:
2096 - Six years after the Second Huffman Conflict (Front Mission 1), a new situation arises. With an army of powerful mechs known as wanzers at your command, you set yourself in the shoes of two talented pilots, Darryl of the USC Army and Emma of the French Military.

A wee bit disappointing. >>> by skysenshi
I must admit that I have never been a fan of tactics games, have never liked chess or Games of the General as a kid, and have never played Final Fantasy Tactics. But I have played Front Mission 3—was addicted to it, was overwhelmed by it. I spent sleepless nights playing it twice, and would have played it four times had it not been time for me to move on to the next game. Everything that the reviewer said of it, I concurred with.

So what happened with Front Mission 4?

Ah, this isn't an area I could complain about. The graphics are absolutely lovely, especially for a game that doesn't kill your PS2 with its loading time. Well, they're definitely an improvement from FM3. I've forever been in love with wanzers and could almost imagine myself driving one. The sounds are crisp, nothing exceptional, but they don't fail to capture the atmosphere. I'm not asking for anything realistic in this case, as that would mean having my ears blown to pieces by the sounds of machines firing holes into each other.

Battle System
Where Front Mission 3 excelled, Front Mission 4 exceeded. Like with the previous FM, you can customize your wanzers and expect to spend hours getting the right equipment and the right skills. FM3's skills are randomly activated. FM4 still activates them randomly, but at least you get to choose which skill you think should be applicable in a given situation. For instance, if "Snipe" activates, you get to choose which part of an enemy wanzer you wish to take down. You can also "buy"—with BP, which you gain after each completed mission—skill sets depending on what kind of wanzer you're setting up.

The system is heavily dependent on a stat called AP, which determines how many blocks you can move in and how much attack power you can muster. FM4 also features the new link system. It's something you'd have fun experimenting with. Now you can do attack combos with members of your team as long as there's AP to go around.

One downside to the battles is that most of them take hours to finish, which may sometimes cause migraines. I think this is because the maps here are bigger than in FM3 and it takes a lot of scrolling (up, down, sideways) to get an idea of how you should deploy your teams. Considering that you should be studying your maps carefully, so as not to overlook any opponent's location, you'd have to go over them repeatedly. The battles swing from mind-numbingly easy to frustratingly difficult. There are no moderately easy or moderately difficult missions. They're either just too easy or too difficult, but all of them take too much time either way. I usually wouldn't mind playing 3 days straight and I'd really love for an addicting game to be long, but I'd often find myself bored in the middle of combat.

Another downside is the AI. You're really just battling your PS2, not intelligent generals who might have varying tactics up their sleeves. It's also quite unrealistic the way you could run out of ammo but your enemies seem to never lose turns in reloading.

This is where most of my disappointments lie. Whatever happened to sparing a wanzer by killing its pilot and harvesting its parts? In this game, you obliterate everything. That's why you have to spend more on parts, unlike in Front Mission 3 where you can get lucky picking up something in the aftermath of combat.

And I would like to ask Square, "Why oh why did you take out the internet surfing scheme???" It was the one thing in FM3 that I loved! Imagine catching baddies over the internet and earning rewards for their heads. You can also get tips and news about wanzer parts that you may find extremely useful. Now all you do is go through dull dialogues and that's it.

There's really not much to explore here, which is why I don't consider FM4 to have high replay value at all.

While there are two scenarios to go through, like in Front Mission 3, FM4's storyline is much much similar to Suikoden III's Trinity Grid. You alternate scenarios instead of choosing if you prefer to go through one path instead of the other. With FM3, you get to select whether you want to do Alyssa's or Emma's missions. With FM4, you are forced to see both Darryl's and Elsa's sides.

Is there a story? Well, suffice to say it's not as engaging as FM3. You go through a series of boring dialogues, of old men making incoherent diatribes, and younguns trying badly to outdo each other. Every time I find myself progressing through the next part of the story, I feel like experiencing déjà vu—like this is the most unoriginal concept I've already gone through before. Heck, even the unbelievably idiotic epic premises of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits seem preferable to this one. None of the characters are endearing. And though some have their own little sob stories, their personalities are so bleh that you don't really find yourself caring.

Heck, I still remember the names of some FM3 minor characters, but I had already forgotten most of FM4's main ones.

I still believe FM4 is a fairly good game, just not as compelling as FM3. Rent to test if it's to your liking. Otherwise, you'd be better off replaying Front Mission 3.

COMPLETION TIME: 40-50 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 9; Story 10; Visuals 10; Characters 8; Sounds 7; Replay Value 9

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