After almost seven years and four games, Squaresoft has finally decided to let U.S. gamers play the latest entry in possibly the best console strategy series ever. Not that I'm ungrateful or anything, but I have to ask: WHAT TOOK SO LONG?! Front Mission 3 is an incredibly deep strategy RPG, and anyone calling himself a true gamer who passes this one up is missing an excellent game experience. FM3 is designed to draw you into its futuristic setting with its great looking mechs, glorious CG and strategic battle scenes, but as you make your way further into the story, you'll find yourself hooked by the many twists and turns there, as well as the unique gameplay. There's so much packed onto this one disc, that about halfway through, you'll wonder how the hell they got it all in there. First of all, the excellently translated and paced story has two different paths through it, depending on which decision you make early on in the game, but there are a few other paths that will have you wanting to replay the game in order to find out the whole storyline. It's very subtle, and sometimes you won't realize how much a particular choice will affect the game's outcome until you get further along. Always save when asked, is my advice- there's supposed to be 150 hours of gameplay here, and that's a minimum, kids!
FM3 makes some references to earlier games in the series, so its universe is a lot more solid than the one in the Final Fantasy games, where only the spells and weapons carry over (yeah, and Cid). There's a really fabulous "Internet" system in the game that allows you to access new weapons, missions, and a few other surprises, and you'll soon get into the habit of checking your "e-mail" account in the game, just like in real life. The game's story combines drama, political science (!), humor and a bit of romance in a near seamless package. As the heart of the game lies in its dozens of turn-based battles, there are no random battles (yes!) or overly huge towns to wander around. Instead, dialogue is handled through assorted portrait screens overlaid atop a detailed backdrop of whatever location you're in. This speeds things up a great deal, and allows for the game's designers to concentrate on the battles, and the almost endless mech customization.
Although the in-game graphics are fantastic and quite detailed- they're not even close to the amazingly realistic CG movies, and show how much the PS2 is needed for Square to show off what it can really do with the next game in the series. There's a bit of pixelization here and there, but you'll be so swept up in the action that you won't notice. Besides, the in-game cinemas are top-notch, and definitely drive home the point that Square is the best at what they do. Front Mission 2 had some of the most incredibly long load times in existence between battles, but that's all taken care of this time out- you'll find however, that the game's difficulty is super-hard, especially if you don't pay attention during the tutorials. The enemies in the game start out on the easy side, and just when you think the game is going to let you waltz through it, you end up facing some incredibly tough mechs, and have to start rethinking your battle plans. You can even jump out and steal an enemy mech, which is great on those occasions when you're not doing too well, and need a new ride!
I'd go into more detail, but I'd rather each player discover all the intricacies of the game on his or her own. Like any great game, playing Front Mission 3 will eat up loads of your time, and become another good reason not to leave your house this spring. As I said above, I think that the Front Mission series are the best strategy games around, even better than Final Fantasy Tactics (there, I said it!). Too bad that Squaresoft didn't release any of the other games in the series, but I have a feeling that this game will sell well enough that the next one will make an appearance on a certain next-generation system.
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