For years, the Front Mission series has delivered an intriguing combination of strategic gameplay and nerdy mech customization for giant-robot enthusiasts. The series is now set to return with a new game, Front Mission Evolved, which will break new ground as a third-person shooter (with nerdy mech customization). Producer Shinji Hashimoto explains.
GameSpot: Give us an overview of Front Mission Evolved. What are the more important new features in the game?
Shinji Hashimoto: One of the most important features is that the game is a third-person shooter. Players will pilot robots called wanzers to defeat enemies and fulfill their objectives. Depending on [which level you're playing], you can play as a human as well. There have been a few scenes in past games where this was possible, but this is the first time [in the series that] playing as a human has been built into the main system.
There is also a new system called "E.D.G.E." In previous Front Mission games, bioneural devices, or "fenrirs," were introduced as "core weapons" (systems), but players either couldn't use them at all or couldn't really experience anything out of the ordinary when using them. The E.D.G.E system is a major aspect of Front Mission Evolved's storyline and is something that players can actually use.
GS: What aspects of previous games in the series are you most looking to build or improve on?
SH: We gave the agility backpack more power in order to heighten wanzer mobility. The agility backpack from the previous games could be used only as a means to travel to high places, but in this game, we've strengthened the skate mode, making it possible to glide across the ground.
GS: Why make the next Front Mission game a third-person shooter?
SH: The fact that we created this game in collaboration with a Western developer and also our goal to introduce the world of Front Mission to as many people around the world as possible were some of the reasons behind our decision to make this game a third-person shooter. We chose the shooter genre because it's something that many people are familiar with and has a strong compatibility with the style of the game itself, in terms of controlling wanzers. We also felt it would be a shame if players couldn't see their customized wanzers in action and chose the third-person view so that they can see themselves (or their backs, at least) onscreen.
GS: How will the strategic elements from the previous game affect the gameplay in Evolved?
SH: The genre is different, so [you might not see all the] strategic elements from the simulation-plus-role-playing Front Mission games. However, by choosing your backpack, you can take on different roles: an assault trooper with high mobility, a healer, or a defender that hinders enemy attacks. The strategic experience is more prominent when playing online. In the single-player game, you can explore optimal ways to clear a level by customizing your machine based on enemy placement.
GS: Tell us about the role your character plays in the game's story. Who is your character, and where does this character fit in the Front Mission timeline?
SH: The main character, Dylan, is a newly appointed wanzer pilot. Because his father is involved in the construction of wanzers, these mechs have been a part of his life since childhood. Thus, he possesses wanzer knowledge, techniques, and control skills that would put a veteran pilot to shame. He is very cheerful and honest and acts like a young boy at times.
GS: How does your character eventually end up as part of the war among factions?
SH: New York City is suddenly attacked while the main character is operating a test model. In order to rescue his father, he heads to New York in the test model and begins coordinating with the military amidst the confusion. He must now stand up against the enemies who attacked the city.
GS: One of the most enjoyable aspects of previous Front Mission games was customization of wanzers. How much customization will be available in Evolved?
SH: I can't give away the actual numbers yet, but over 10 wanzer models and several dozen weapons will be available. Battle skills are customizable, and there is now more freedom in camouflaging and coloring the wanzers.
GS: Can you give us any hints on what's planned for multiplayer?
SH: The experience is very close to that of the standard shooters. Deathmatch, team deathmatch, and domination are some of the [modes] that players may be familiar with.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Front Mission: Evolved?
SH: I'd like to assure existing fans of the series that they shouldn't be concerned about the change of genre. The world stays true to what it has always been, wanzers are still a major component, and you can even become a pilot yourself. There is also an easy mode for people who aren't very familiar with action games.
For those who are playing Front Mission for the first time, you can enjoy Front Mission Evolved as a stand-alone action shooter, even if you aren't familiar with the rest of the series. It would be great if newcomers could give this game a try and get to know Front Mission and its world.