Doomeru was still in high school when PC games were worth mentioning, and you always knew he was playing Mechwarrior by the footsteps pounding from his subwoofer. Before our folks split dad bought him zoids from Forbidden Planet, which he assembled using instructions written in Japanese while watching Tootsie and The Great Dictator on Betamax. I, on the other hand, couldn't even manage a lego truck.
I've never understood the appeal of giant robots. They're slow, clunky, and make a lot of noise. I expect their insides have less leg room than tanks and smell like sweaty farts. But robots require even more love and care than cats or dogs, and nothing puts a smile on my face more than a good session of inventory management, so how could I say no to Front Mission?
Even though it was ported to the DS last year, I don't feel this SNES classic can be fairly comared to present standards- Perhaps if they'd thought to let you skip animations this time around, but they didn't. Front Mission was all the rage in its day though, as was stock footage, so to judge it fairly, let me take you on a trip back through time...
...1995...A new era of global prosperity begins with formation of the World Trade Organization...Microsoft empowers a generation with the open-ended flexible information platform Windows 95...Justice prevails as a wizened jury of his peers acquits OJ Simpson...
Yes, it was a period of great enlightenment in our history, far ahead of its most current games: Command & Conquer, Jagged Alliance, Worms, Warhawk, Warcraft II, Descent, Dark Forces, Chrono Trigger, Zoop, Tekken, Twisted Metal...Truly a simpler, more backward time for gaming...
Front Mission added a few new layers of complexity to typical turn-based combat. Players must make the difficult choice between developing their skills in short or medium-ranged weaponry, which are effective but allow for enemy counterattacks, or long-ranged weaponry, which are equally effective but don't allow for enemy counterattacks.
Characters learn how to "aim" attacks from either medium or long range, but you get no control over which range they'll master, and no sign of which range it will eventually be. After spending the first half of the game firing blindly at your enemy, with no sense or strategy as to where you'll hit them, you get another tough choice of shooting at a target's legs, left or right arms, or body. Destroying a mech's legs makes it less mobile, but not immobile. Destroying a mech's arm makes it unable to use the weapon in their hand, but not the weapon in their other hand, or the weapon on their other shoulder. What was the other choice to shoot at? Oh, right, the "body." Destroying a mech's body makes it dead.
Then you have to choose which weapon to use. Every mech can carry an acceptable gun with infinite bullets in each hand, and a long-ranged launcher on each shoulder with superior firepower but limited ammunition. This might be an issue if you weren't accompanied by an ammo truck, and the combined arsenal of your eleven-mech squad didn't outweigh that of the entire Republican Guard.
The real fun comes between missions. That's when you take the constant supply of money you could never possibly exhaust and discerningly upgrade your mech by comparing a vast array of body parts to see which one is more expensive. You then repeat the process for every other character worth dragging along. Successively more decadent parts become available after each mission, but cheaper ones never drop off the list and there is no way to scroll through more than one item at a time, so this process only worsens with each passing day.
Continue buying progressively stronger bodies, or keep the one that makes you look like a big daddy? Oh the choices, the choices!
While your mechs are in the shop, you can also give them custom paint jobs to express their unique personalities. And considering they'll probably all have the same expensive parts, it'll be the only way to tell them apart. Until you run out of colors. Then it gets a little tricky.
My trip through time reminded me that it doesn't matter how big or shiny your suit is, but what's inside it. And if we are made up of the choices we've made, how do we begin to look when constantly presented with only one conceivable option? Much like all the other robots, I suppose.