Front Mission 3

   Front Mission is hardly a household name among North American gamers -- and with good reason, as none of the games in the series ever received an English translation. The most recent installment in the saga, Front Mission 3, is no exception -- hopes of an English translation were quelled when Square announced the series will continue to remain exclusive to Japan.
FM3 demo
Two Wanzers square off

   Despite its title, Front Mission 3 is actually the fifth Front Mission title -- two spin-off games, side-scroller Front Mission: Gun Hazard and real time strategy game Front Mission Alternative, were released outside of the main series. Those two games have little bearing on Front Mission 3, which retains the same core gameplay of the mainstream Front Mission games. Like its predecessors, it focuses on urban warfare between giant robots (known as Wanzers), all played out through a series of tactical turn-based missions. As in all the games, the mechs' arms, legs, and body can be fitted with various parts to improve attack and defense. Each Wanzer part also has its own HP meter; doing enough damage to an enemy's legs immobilizes it, while taking out the arms leaves a Wanzer unable to attack.

Smokey will not be pleased

   But the Wanzers aren't always the focus time, however. Pilots can evacuate a damaged mech and battle on foot with their own weapons. While humans are considerably weaker than Wanzers, ejecting from a damaged mech gives you a second chance at survival -- and if you can force an enemy pilot out of his or her Wanzer, you can hijack it and turn it against the enemy forces (or scrap the mech itself and use the parts to upgrade your own vehicles). Helicopters, tanks, and other vehicles can be stolen as well; you aren't limited to just "mech-jacking." Some missions may even be based entirely around such Wanzer-less combat.

   Such strategy may be important, but luck also plays a role in determing your battlefield fate. Each Wanzer has its own special skills; new skills can be learned by capturing and disassembling enemy Wanzers. Some of these skills can be quite powerful -- one reduces an enemy mech's HP to 1, while another guarantees you the first move -- but they are activated at random and can't be depended on. Conversely, negative "skills" -- a loss of morale that sends your troops fleeing, or a mechanical malfunction -- can turn a sure victory into a defeat.

Cinematic camera angles

   Other changes include a more active camera -- movement is handled in the traditional isometric perspective, but when the mechs start battling each other and other vehicles, the camera swoops down to capture the action up close. A brand new character designer is also featured -- Akihiro Yamada, whose work is also seen in Dracula X and the anime Record of Lodoss War. Despite these changes, Front Mission 3 marks not only salvation from the horrendous loading times of Front Mission 2, but a return to the gameplay style of the original.

   Front Mission 3 continues at least one another Front Mission trend, the background story enveloped in futuristic world politics. The focus this time has shifted to the Asia of AD 2112. A mysterious explosion in a Yokosuka military base sparks a war between Southern Asia's Oceana Community Union (OCU) is at war with the United States of New Continent (USN), which spans all of North and South America.

   Two Yokosuka youths step forward as the main characters: Kazuki Takemura and Ryogo Kusama, both Wanzer test pilots for Kirishima Heavy Industries. After the explosion at the Japanese Self Defense Force base, Kazuki embarks on a search for his sister Arisa, who worked at the base. He's aided by Ryogo and the USN's Emir Kramskoi, a female scientist who seems to know more about the explosion that she wants to reveal.

 Bombs away!
FMV appears between missions

   And because not nearly enough recent RPGs feature two different main characters, Front Mission 3 offers players the choice of two different main characters, each with their own adventure. Together, the two quests will span over 100 missions, ranging from standard "kill all enemies" skirmishes to desperate escapes from enemy ambushes. Your battle prowess is rated after each level; consistently achieving the highest grade (Platinum) will open up secret missions necessary to see every single scenario.

   All the elements are in place for a solid and enjoyable strategy RPG -- but with no North American release planned, is Front Mission 3 worth importing? The demo wasn't terribly well received; many reviewers complained that the game offered little new, as well as bland graphics. There's probably other, localized strategy RPGs available that can offer similar features, but fans of the series may want to give Front Mission 3 a spin anyway.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Front Mission 3
Developer Square
Publisher Square
Genre Strategy RPG
Medium CD (1)
Platform PlayStation
Release Date  09.02.99
 Spring 2000
PSX IGN and Gigex release new Front Mission 3 trailer
Promotional English movie / 40 English screenshots
4 new character designs / 4 emblems / Area maps
U.S. box art