A challenging SRPG set in the mold of the classic Battletech pencil-and-paper game.

User Rating: 7.7 | Front Mission 4 PS2
As a novice to the world of Front Mission, I was not entirely sure what to expect upon playing the game. The story seemed appealing and having recently played some of the more typical sword and spell SRPGs such as Diagaea, I was looking for a twist on the genre. What I found was a refreshingly challenging game with a decent difficulty level that really emphasized the "Strategy" part of SRPG. The game shifts between Venezuela and the whole of Europe, concentrating on two story lines that never merge into one, but still play off of each other more and more as the game progresses. Playing in Europe as Elsa, a French girl, and in Venezuela as Darril, a U.C.S. pilot, you lead increasingly large teams of wanzer pilots, wanzers being hulkingly large metal exoskeletons with armor plating and equally oversized weapons, into battles to uncover the truth about a plot to seemingly bring the world to war. While the game starts you off gently with fairly easy and forgiving battles, by about a quarter through the game mistakes become more costly. Your wanzers can be customized with a very large variety of bodies, arms, legs. Each has differing armor, evasion and movement attributes, allowing you many options. That level of customization, coupled with a large variety of weapons that do different styles of damage, have different effective ranges, and occasionally splash damage over to adjoining squares on the map, make a strategic mind a must to play this game. Your pilots also have a wide variety of customization, so synching their skills to their wanzer's is a must. Key most of all is mastery of the Link Point system, which allows characters who are close to one another to perform combo attacks, both in offensive and defensive support. That, and managing the system of Action Points, which helps govern the maximum amount of movement + attacks, are crucial to survival. The decision to move one square closer to get only one attack with a better overall hit percentage vs. moving one less square to get two attacks with a lower overall hit percentage can be a tough one. There are a wide variety of options and skills available, but luckily there are a plethora of tutorials to aid you in nearly every facet of the game, so if you're unsure of anything, help is available. The graphics are a little weak, but don't really detract from the gameplay. There are some urban battles where the camera may get caught behind a tall building, but the ability to rotate maps 360° mostly alleviates this. The sound is good and the voice acting, while not top-notch, does a good job of showing emotion. The foreign accents of the European characters even manage to avoid being too stereotypical. The one real negative is in the enemy A.I. and its occasional tendency to fixate on one target until it is destroyed. Even if a character has both arms blown off and cannot return fire, the enemies will sometimes keep attacking until the body is destroyed, eliminating the pilot from that combat (no one really ever dies). This allows you to exploit the flaw by constantly healing that one wanzer while the enemies mindlessly attack it and ignore any other of your characters that attack them. Still, that aside you should expect to lose at least a few battles and have some other very close calls. This is not an easy game, especially for those not strategically inclined. Final analysis: this is a nearly, but not quite, great game. If you are looking for a real challenge that will be fun at the same time, pick this game off the shelf. You won't regret it.
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