Look no further for a great turn-based-strategy-RPG mech game.

User Rating: 8.8 | Front Mission 3 PS
The turn-based-strategy genre isn't exactly bursting at the seams, and mech games are far and few. Thankfully, Front Mission 3 is one of the prime examples of the species.

Set in an alternate and not-too-distant future, Front Mission 3 starts pretty fast, quickly throwing the protagonist headlong into the story. There should be no reason for complaint here, the pacing is fast enough for the impatient, yet contains enough story to invite the thorough to investigate the optional sections.

Starting can be a tad frustrating since the tutorials, spliced into cutscenes, kick only after the first few battles, so if you're totally clueless things may seem a little bare-boned. I'm not really a fan of "limit the newbie" school of thought myself, so the first couple of battles should just be plowed through - don't worry overmuch.

Setting up, once you get a little into the game, is pretty interesting, although I was slightly peeved at the lack of a sorting function for your inventory - if you're the packrat type you will run into trouble somewhere near midgame and be forced to jettison those spares. So don't horde too much redundant items.

The stuff is typical Front Mission, so you'll have more choice than in most "good-better-best"-style of game inventories, but still, there could have been more. It tantalises you with the feeling that there will be a huge selection - and there is, compared to other games - but it isn't really all that large.

The battles are fairly challenging, although the low activation rate of your skills can be annoying - imagine spending several battles in the simulator to gain a skill, equipping it, and then having it lie dormant in the subsequent story fights. The upgrades for the computers will be a LONG time in coming, so you'll have to put up with this and rely on your own skills more. However, don't let these little niggles detract from the main selling point of the battles: they're great fun.

Presentation-wise, FM3 isn't bad. Although you can tell from the 3D that it's obviously a PSX game, they stand well, and the character portraits are distinctive, and change to reflect speech and emotion with the dialogue. The music, sadly, isn't top notch and sounds mostly played up. It's not bad, but not what you'd expect from a top publisher like Squaresoft. Sound effects are decently serviceable, but nothing special here either. The background art - and most of the 2D - however is really nice to look at.

As I mentioned above, if you're thorough you can explore the network section quite a bit, which expands as you progress through the game, revealing additional pages and more information. Unfortunately exploring through it is a tad cumbersome; it could have been faster and more enjoyable. It isn't counterintuitive, but it's not easy to make quick associations - you'll be backtracking quite a bit.

I have no complaints about the story. The few who nitpick at it can't seem to write to save their lives if they depended on it, so I'd discount those reviews. Let's face it, nobody can write something 100% original. FM3 may not be totally rad, but it isn't a cliche-ridden disaster either. In fact I found the story quite enjoyable to follow, and the characters done fairly well; there weren't many forgettable cardboard personalities. Stop thinking with your guns - this isn't a shooter, it's more of an RPG - and you'll have no problems.

It's a solid game, with engaging characters, a decently paced plot, interesting inventory setup options, and fun battles. What's not to like? If you don't have it, and are a fan of mech games, you won't regret buying it. Heck, since it isn't new, any price for it will probably be awesome bargain - shop around, don't eat the inflated eBay bait :)