Front Mission 1st Remake review: Strategy RPG classic feels right at home in 2022

key art of Front Mission 1st RemakeForever Entertainment

Front Mission 1st Remake is the initial chapter of the franchise and sets a solid footing for the upcoming sequels.

Square Enix is known for many things, and while Final Fantasy and its various sequels and spinoffs may have dominated much of my PlayStation 1’s playtime, there was one franchise that came close to my time in Midgar – Front Mission.

Offering a tactical RPG with giant mechs, we’ll have to wait a while for a remake of Front Mission 3 (a game I played so much I’m almost glad I don’t have an exact hour count), but in the meantime, the first two games are coming to the Switch.

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The first one, handily titled Front Mission 1st, has set the franchise back on track after some ill-advised third-person shooter entries, and if the sequel remakes are anywhere near as good as this, strategy RPG and mech fans are going to be very happy indeed.

Front Mission 1st Remake – Key details

  • Price:
  • Developer: Forever Entertainment
  • Release date: November 30, 2022
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Front Mission 1st Remake – Trailer

What a Wanzer-ful World

This first Front Mission title kicks off in the year 2090, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s conflict brewing. The Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU) and the Unified Continental States (UCS) share a single land border on Huffman Island, and while investigating a UCS base, our protagonist Royd — yes, Royd — watches as his fiancee’s mech (known in the Front Mission universe as Panzer’s) is blown to smithereens.

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Front Mission 1st Remake screenshot showing movementForever Entertainment

What follows is a journey to get to the bottom of what happened to Karen across a pair of campaigns, with one for each faction. The UCS campaign is tougher, and while it’s full of melodrama and some amusingly Western names (it’s not often you find a character in a strategy RPG called Kevin, let’s be honest), it’s great to have the full story here after the UCS campaign was previously added to the re-released PlayStation and DS versions.

Both storylines intertwine nicely, and are a great excuse to get giant robots to smash into each – and make no mistake, the Wanzers are the star of the show here.

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Landing closer to Mechwarrior than Gundam, these hulking war machines engage in turn-based combat with ranged and close-quarters weaponry, meaning you can be punching a giant robot one moment and unleashing a volley of rockets the next.

Mech it your way

Mech customization in Front Mission 1st RemakeForever Entertainment

This shift to the future from the traditionally fantasy-led genre contemporaries like Triangle Strategy allows for customization of individual Wanzer parts (while adhering to a range limit), and building your dream death-dealing machine is crucial for not only Front Mission 1st Remake’s tougher fights, but also for the unlockable difficulty levels.

However you kit your mech out, the designs are great. There are four weapon slots, as well as body parts to switch and even the internal CPU, and in the heat of battle each stat matters – take too much damage to your legs and movement slows down while having weapons blown off can make it hard to fight back.

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Melee and standard weapons have short ranges, meaning positioning yourself is important, and enemies have a chance to counter if they have a capable weapon. Still, you can lean on shoulder-mounted launches to do plenty of damage at range. You can test your setup in the Arena in one-on-one combat to earn additional cash to outfit your mech between fights.

A full parts refit

As a remake, there’s plenty of heavy lifting for the Front Mission 1st Remake to do, but it shoulders the burden across its mechanized shoulders well.

Playing in the Classic mode, the visuals remain updated but the camera remains orthogonal in nature, while Modern allows for a perspective view. Being able to spin the camera for an additional view of the battlefields is great, but regardless of viewpoint, you’re treated to some impressive visuals.

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An urban battle in Front Mission 1st RemakeForever Entertainment
Maps look more like dioramas now.

Whether you’re fighting among ruins, in an industrial complex, or in the middle of nowhere, Front Mission 1st Remake looks great. It’s small details like the cracks in the pavement, the damage to buildings, and the intricately detailed Wanzers that look as though they’re genuine military hardware at times.

Animations can be stiff, but that’s largely down to the turn-based nature of the machines moving in close, dealing damage, and then waiting for their opponent’s comeback like an overly aggressive rap battle.

Front Mission 1st Remake screenshot showing combatForever Entertainment
Combat plays out in Advance Wars-style split screen.

Upon first running through with the Modern soundtrack, the core compositions of Front Mission still hold up nicely, but it was not until I switched to the game’s Classic soundtrack that I could tell how far things have come. Forever Entertainment has done a great job at translating the audio to modern audio sensibilities while retaining some retro fare and that classic TRPG pomp.

The Verdict – 4/5

Front Mission 1st Remake is a faithful adaptation of a franchise I’ve been desperate to see get a second chance. Alongside the likes of Triangle Strategy and Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, the Switch is becoming a bastion for strategy RPGs – and Front Mission 1st rightly earns a spot alongside them.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch