they're mechs. and they fight.

Anyone who’s read my ranting on other mech combat games knows that I like ‘mechs, and I like to make them fight. Front Mission 3 gives me these things, and a lot more. Fortunately, the “a lot more” doesn’t seem to be getting in my way, so far.

mdxi suggested FM3 when I started talking about FFT again. To be fair, he probably had mentioned it a number of times before that. He told me I would love it. I saw: tactics, Squaresoft, battlemechs, and the JDF. I knew he was probably right.

I’ve played through about two hours of FM3, and my impressions are mixed. That is, they’re mixed between “this is totally awesome” and “this is great, but not for me.” The good thing is that I care about the awesome stuff and I don’t really care about the other stuff.

I’m really enjoying the tactics of the game. It’s simple, so far, although there’s clearly a /lot/ of stuff under the hood that I just haven’t learned about yet. There are melee weapons, close-range weapons, and long-range weapons. I just finished a few missions in which I got to use all of these tactically, and it’s done well. The battlefields are just large enough to keep things interesting and not so large as to make me forget where units are. I’m also happy with the battlefield display and camera. FFT’s display frustrated me to no end, but FM3’s has been just fine. I see the same problems, but they’re much less obnoxious.

I’m willing to admit that this may be related to the fact that ‘mechs excite me more than chocobos, blinding me to game flaws. I just don’t think that’s really the case, here.

Visually, the game is a lot like FF7. It’s much more real-world, and I haven’t seen any evidence of painted settings yet (and I don’t expect to), but the whole game looks a lot like FF7 combat. There are large, low-polygon units with the same white damage counts popping up during combat. I feel like the whole game is set in a Mako reactor, and this is a good thing.

The combat gameplay also reminds me of FF7, and of Xenosaga, both visually and in another less tangible way. I feel like all the guys at Square were really on the same page – or maybe on the same two pages – and they borrowed ideas from each other freely, but then weren’t constrained by those ideas.

What I’m trying to say is that the /accidental/ form of Square games is often similar while the /transcendent/ form is radically different. (Yes, I just explained my feelings about video games by comparing them to the Eucharist. That’s got to offend /someone/.)

While FM3 seems to have taken a lot of the things I like from a lot of games I like, it’s not any of those games. It’s not FFT, it’s not FF7, and it’s certainly not Xenoanything. It’s late and I’m tired, but I can see a future in which FM3 replaces FF7 as my pick for best Square game. I see this future because FM3 doesn’t seem doomed to be bogged down in plot.

See, the plot is the thing that I can take or leave. When I’m playing a game about giant fighting robots, plot is pretty unimportant. Forget the dialog and scenery, I’m just there for the money shot. Unless that plot is totally awesome, it’s going to be a waste of my time.

I think there is the potential for greatness in the bits of plot I’ve seen so far, but that potential better explode into actual greatness pretty soon, because there is a metric ton of stuff to go through to find the plot. The game has (like XENO1) a complete simulated “Internet” in which you receive email, browse sites, and collect URLs. It’s cool, and I like the very real-worldy aspects of the system. It reminds me (strongly) of A Mind Forever Voyaging, a classic Infocom game, in which you became immersed by reading some current magazine articles and news reports on your computer. FM3 seems to be shooting for the same thing, but the interface to its “forums” is slow, and a lot of the information is just boring. Maybe someday the troop deployment levels all over Japan will be fascinating. For now, it just wasted my time as I searched for nuggets of useful information.

In the end, though, the game is a tactical ‘mech fighter, and I’m enjoying that aspect immensely. From what mdxi tells me, I haven’t seen anything yet.

Written on September 10, 2003
games   gamesite   mecha   rpg   videogame