Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Front Mission 3
+++ Excellent storyline
+++ Lukav is extremely badass by the end
++ Moderately Difficult
++ Fairly good gameplay
++ Over 60 levels (with several short branching paths and slight variation in available characters)
++ Around half of the battles have Imaginary numbers involved
++ Great Soundtrack
+ Very impressive CGI for the PSX
+ Tech system is pretty good
+ Liu is much more interesting than he is in Emma's Scenario
-- Accuracy and Techs randomly occurring can make some encounters luck based
- Optimal setups can be obtained fairly early with captured Imaginary mechs
- Somewhat repetitive
Front Mission 3 is probably the rarest underrated yet excellent game I have, VP2 might eventually take that spot but it'll probably be another 5 years or so. I randomly got my Uncle to buy it for me about 10 years ago and I haven't really had a better experience with a tactical RPG since. FFT became much easier to find after it randomly became Greatest Hits, but I do like this game slightly better. They both have excellent storylines but this one is much more plausible and the villain becomes more over the top. Of course, this game has two entirely separate scenarios and the split off point is somewhat obscure, near the start of the game it asks if you if you want to accompany your friend to the mall and that is the point of no return for scenario selection. I imagine most people who played this once through didn't realize there was such a separation and probably picked the worse of the two scenarios as a result.
The whole Front Mission universe is in a fairly realistic vision of the future wherein there are several collective mega-states that unified in order to compete economically with the US, in this game the USN, OCU (Oceanic Community Union), and DHZ (Da Han Zhong) are the major units involved in the action. A few people show up from the EC (European Collective) and some of the characters are from the Soviet Block which is called Zaftra. OCU is Japan/Australia/Indonesia and everything in between, Da Han Zhong is China + Korea and Indochina, and the USN is North and South America unified under US rule.
I imagine eventually at least Europe will economically if not nationally unify to compete with China, India, and the US more effectively, and by doing so will force another such economic unification somewhere else in the world. It might even happen within 50-60 years or so. FM3 takes place in the early 2100s I believe. Wanzers (Mechs) are the primary weaponry following the first two front missions and the entire game is mech based combat in a standard tactical setting. You do still encounter tanks and even basic soldiers but predominantly you fight and always fight with Wanzers.
The Alisa scenario is a harder, shorter scenario, though it will still take you 45-50 hours the first go around. It doesn't drag on all that much at the end and you make a nice circuit of OCU and the DHZ from Japan to the Phillipines to Taiwan to China to Korea to Japan again, with a fairly large campaign at each locale. When I first played I thought the Phillipines was the end of the game as there is this spectacular cutscene and up to that point all you're doing is looking for MIDAS to reacquire it.
Unexpectedly when the shit hits the fan this first set of vaguely bad dudes decide to use it on the incoming DHZ fleet to save the Phillipines from Rebels and also destroy half of the city. It is probably the best cutscene I've ever seen in a game, to this day, no silly action sequence no voice acting just a bigass bomb blowing a hole in the ocean and creating a circular waterfall whilst also annihilating a city. MIDAS is a gold based bomb that does not produce radiation while still producing a similar effect to a Nuclear Weapon, and there are two such scenes in the game though the other is much later. I'd never really scene a climatic scene come that early in a game but it really was and still is awesome. Afterward you just leave the Phillipines behind as the Rebellion is in shambles, the next lead to MIDAS doesn't come along for quite some time though you do run into Imaginary numbers shortly thereafter.
Imaginary (and Real) Numbers are genetically modified and enhanced soldiers who pilot extremely powerful mechs and you fight them for half of the Alisa scenario. The leader of the Imaginary Numbers is Lukav and he is the primary antagonist, you fight Lukav close to 15 times in the game and he just keeps coming back. Naturally the final scene pretty much solidifies him as the baddest motherfucker ever to roam the JRPG verse, only a nuke to the face could actually kill him (he submerges following the final battle in a giant crab mech and you assume he's dead but he pops up and starts to tear apart your ship). The last MIDAS attack takes out Okinawa Ocean City, a virtual Atlantis that is a manmade metropolitan Island off the coast of Okinawa in Japan, and Lukav is barely within the radius of the explosion while your landing craft is not.
Final Score: 9.5/10
++ Decent Storyline
++ Campaign is about 20 hours longer
++ You get to see the whole story from a different angle
+ Mostly different characters and different missions in the same setpiece
-- Lukav only appears twice and the end is not nearly as epic
- Liu becomes an ineffectual opponent instead of a strong supporting character
- Only about 10% of the levels are against Imaginary numbers
- Substantially easier than the Alisa Scenario
I'm leaving out some of the commonalities for Pros/Cons so the final score will look a bit odd comparitively speaking. The Emma Scenario is quite a bit longer and sort of drags on and on right near the end even after the Okinawa explosion occurs. Lukav is fought just a few times and dies relatively easily without any particularly interesting speeches or random nukes to the face occurring. On the bright side you do actually get to see several of the same events from a less personal angle. With Alisa you generally are directly involved in events but Emma follows slightly behind, though the plot does twist a ton regardless. Most of the same events occur but the very end is different and the interaction with the villain(s) is pretty weak.
Additionally some of the more interesting levels are removed and most of the game is much less challenging. You only fight Imaginary Numbers (or Real Numbers in this case as they are now your enemy) about 1/4th of the time and special units from other forces only occasionally encounter you as well. Beam Weapon bearing enemies appear with some regularity in the Alisa Scenario but are only present once or twice in Emma's. The worst part is that the Emma Scenario is the more obvious selection and most people will have seen it exclusively prior to finishing the game off, but it really does make a huge difference which one you play first. It's still enjoyable and the game is still good while the plot holds together well enough even without Lukav, but it's sort of just a long standard tactical RPG instead of something special.
Final Score: 8/10