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Joystiq presents

DS Fanboy Review: Front Mission

Good things often come in small packages (see also: the DS), and sometimes, they even come in small doses. That's the best way to describe Front Mission, the tactical strategy title that originally debuted on the Super Nintendo, and has now come to the DS. The re-packaged port looks good in its transition to the DS, even without having too much done to it -- not that the series, which hasn't ever achieved major popularity despite being fully awesome -- really needed much more than a spit-shine.

But just what is Front Mission? It's an epic tale of giant stompy robots, known here as "wanzers." The story begins in 2090, and two major powers, the O.C.U. and U.C.S., are about to undertake a war of epic proportions. In this version, you can choose either side in battle, though the game recommends that newcomers not only go through the tutorial, but begin with O.C.U. as well.

Gallery: Front Mission DS

If you choose that first option, you're thrust into the shoes of Royd Clive, a young soldier at the center of what quickly becomes a very engaging story. The tutorial, unlike so many, is blessedly short (though some players may want a little more assistance!), and you get right into the action. Said action is pretty straightforward; move, fight, and kick mech ass. The game itself is not quite so simple, however.

There's a lot to keep track of here when it comes to your wanzers. Not only do you perform extensive amounts of customization to each unit -- giving the game almost an RPG-feel at times -- but you have to keep track of what's happening with each one during combat as well. Suffer painful leg damage? You'll find yourself unable to move. An arm taken out? You're down a weapon, then. And then there's ammo, positioning, terrain ... Front Mission is all about the the details, and it can get brutal at times.

But hey, strategy gaming is all about time, right? Fans of the type will probably eat up the chance to immerse themselves in the world of wanzers, and there's a lot here to love. But the game can get wearing at times, and as you advance, you'll probably find yourself playing in smaller chunks. Only the hardest of the hard will go through multiple missions at once. If you're among these people, we here at DS Fanboy commend you for your hands and minds of steel.

There's a lot to love and a little that's mediocre in Front Mission, but it is not for the faint of heart. If you feel ready to take it on, however, saddle up and prepare to customize your wanzer -- there's work to be done!

The basics (or, the review is in the details):

Controls: Most of the time, the touch screen controls worked well. There are a few moments of frustration when you select the wrong thing or have to fight with the system, but when the stylus fails you, it's easy to switch to the buttons, so no complaints here.

Visuals: The graphics are a little dated at times, but overall the look is quite pleasing, and well-suited to the atmosphere of the game.

Sound: The sound is dated as well, but that seems to suit the DS. None of it is very important, so it's really a take it or leave it proposition.

Story: It's a Square Enix title, so out of the gate, you can expect a real story and characters who are worth giving a damn about. Showing both sides of the conflict adds a lot more depth, and is an interesting approach as well. Characters could have had a little more depth, but really, the game itself has enough to go around.

Difficulty: This is really variable. Most parts of the game are not terribly difficult just to get through, but if you want to be the best you can be (hey, it's soldiering), then be prepared to put in not only a lot of effort, but a lot of time. Working out the best gear for your mech can be a real challenge. Actual combat, however, is more time-consuming than really difficult.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

Front Mission is a very lengthy experience, but suffers a little from how wearing said experience is. Unless you are a major strategy fan, you probably won't want to play in long sessions -- it's just too much. And the game will suck up hours (and hours and hours) of your life if you so let it. With a little more polish, this could have been a truly amazing game, but even so, it's a very solid entry in what is becoming a crowded field on the DS, and the game, despite its age, has stood the test of time well. However, a lack of online multiplayer is a major complaint in a game that just seems built for it. That would have been a huge benefit as an update for Front Mission.

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