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Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Genre: SRPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 06/04 - Japan 12/18/03

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"Time to bring out the big gun."
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"It's a team effort."
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"One sexy mecha."
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"What a wonderful world."
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Mark P. Tjan
Preview First Look
Mark P. Tjan

Front Mission 4, the latest installment of Square-Enix's giant-mecha SRPG series, is about to hit North American shores. Front Mission has the unique identity of being the only post-modern military SRPG series to date. The series began on the SNES with Front Mission 1 and 2, but never made it to Western shores. Then in 2000, Front Mission 3 was translated and released on the Sony PlayStation, giving North American gamers their first taste of SRPG heavy artillery.

Four years have passed since the release of part 3, and Front Mission 4 has been announced for a domestic release. Players will progress through the game's battles using Wanzers, giant mechanoids that fight alongside tanks, helicopters, and other forms of military machinery. Wanzers can move and act according to how much AP they possess; which is modified by the Wanzer's parts, such as legs, as well as the talents of the pilot. Basic commands include attacking, ending the Wanzer's turn, and checking its status.

Wanzers will also be able to equip backpacks to obtain new abilities. These include the ability to call for air support, use items, and repair other Wanzers. Another special ability of the Wanzers will be Linking; before battle, players will be able to set connection Links between characters that enable them to support one another. When an attack Link is activated, the camera will zoom in on the action and showcase all the Wanzers involved in the attack. With consecutive attacks, the level of damage dealt multiplies allowing players and their enemies to deal out some devastating combinations, similar to the team-up system found in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. There are also defensive links, which allow Wanzers to help each other when an enemy begins attacking. Such functions include the ability to evade missile locks and launch counterattacks on the enemy.

Unlike the units in most SRPGs, Front Mission 4's Wanzers won't take damage to their entire frame. Rather, damage will be dealt to a specific part of the Wanzer's body, such as the arms, legs, or torso. Where a Wanzer is damaged also affects its abilities, if a weapon or even an arm is put out of commission the Wanzer loses the abilities associated with that part. This will be especially vital in regard to a Wanzer's legs; as a unit receives damage to its legs, its mobility deceases, often rendering it completely immobile. Keeping each part in working order will be integral to maintaining a strong Wanzer.

When guiding their characters through the game, players can also spend EP to upgrade their forces. EP can be used to upgrade Pilots and Wanzers alike, allowing them the use of new abilities and statistical enhancements. EP can also be used to purchase new parts for the Wanzers, including new weapons and replacements for damaged or obsolete appendages.

The game will feature two protagonists with separate plotlines which eventually cross over. The first of these is Elsa, a female French soldier working for the Durandal military group in the European Commonwealth (EC). Generally positive and honest, she commands a Wanzer unit, but often questions the fact her profession calls for her to harm others.

Daryl is a member of the United States of the New Continent (USN) stationed in Venezuela. An optimist with exceptional abilities in his field, he was demoted after disagreeing with one of his superiors and currently heads up Wanzer unit in the field strategy research sector. Both characters are involved in a global military conflict which takes place between Front Mission 1 and 2, and both will follow separate paths until certain events bring them together. Fans of the series can also expect cameos from characters in the first Front Mission game.

In keeping with the times, Front Mission 4 will be the first game in the series to feature voice acting, much of which is English even in the Japanese version. The game's music has been scored by Hidenori Iwasaki, known for his work on the Bouncer, Threads of Fate, and more recently, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. The artist responsible for the portraits is Yusuke Naora, also known for his work on Vagrant Story, The Bouncer and Unlimited: SaGa.

Combining giant mecha style combat with military detail and tactical gameplay, Square-Enix's Front Mission 4 may prove to be a unique experience for SRPG fans. The game, already released in Japan, will be available for the Sony PlayStation 2 in North America around June 2004.


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