Review – Front Mission 2: Remake
When Forever Entertainment released Front Mission 1st: Remake last year, it was a great exercise in a publisher bringing a series to the West in a new light. While there had been the DS version of Front Mission years ago, many people never experienced the series in any real capacity. Plus, the already existing updates to the original Super Famicom title made for successive stepping stones in bringing this port about. Square Enix had already done the heavy lifting with adding a lot of additional content, such as the updated graphics and secondary story line, so then polishing it and adding it to the current generation of consoles was a more fluid progression. I’m not trying to undersell what went into the 1st Remake ports, but there was a good framework.
With the next iteration, Front Mission 2: Remake, Forever Entertainment had less of a blueprint with which to work. There hadn’t been any work done to the second game in the Front Mission series since its release on the Playstation back in 1997. Fans, therefore, were eager to see what would happen with this sequel. The tactical wanzer combat is deeply engrossing and the customization for both combat and defense was essential to keeping players hooked for hours at a time. Forever Entertainment, to their credit, seems fairly confident about this next game, as I’ve been getting targeted ads for it on Reddit for months now. We’re all going to have to have a serious talk about the algorithm and it invading our brains at some point, but today we’re chatting about vidja games.
With Front Mission 2: Remake, players once again return to the world of the Oceania Cooperative Union and the fighting mechs, along with a whole new plot of political subterfuge and guerilla fighting. While we would all love Dan Carlin to tell us twelve hours of what happened here (to be honest that would be amazing), let’s boil it down to the basics. We’re in Alordesh, and the local people no longer want the OCU ruling over them, so they stage a coup. The OCU military bases are all decimated, and survivors scurry off to try and escape. You, a trio of wanzer pilots of the OCU, are trying to help POWs captured by the insurgents, unmask a grand plan orchestrating all of this fighting, and figuring out what the mysterious FENRIR is and how it can change the face of war forever.
The previous Front Mission suffered a great deal from overly imperial ideas baked into a terrible 80s action movie plot. Thankfully, we dismiss all of that noise this time around by giving equal screen time to all of the stereotypical characters you might encounter in a war themed piece of media. You’ve got the grizzled veteran with the heart of gold, a young maverick trying to fix his past, the charming playboy who is actually a decent guy when given an opportunity to sacrifice himself, and women who are badasses and take no chuffs from the males. It’s pretty cookie cutter in terms of characters, but it delivers for what the game needs in terms of driving the story forward.
Like many great tactical combat games, I completely gave up on trying to follow the plot after the first few scenes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there and well made. It’s genuinely fascinating how much time and thought went into the lore of Front Mission 2: Remake and keeping it connected to the events of the first game. Knowing that you can only have so much exposition between skirmishes, the developers created The Network, a sort of fake Internet you can explore at your leisure. The Network, when you put in the clicks, tells a fascinating amount of information about the creation of these different countries, the reasons why the fighting is happening and how the OCU was formed and its global impact. It’s like a tabletop campaign gone military, and I’m here for it.
Graphically, I’m quite pleased with the markup with Front Mission 2: Remake. While there was charm in the original PSX release, the graphics were already dated at the time, and only degraded further. Pixel-adjacent sprites were acceptable on the Super Famicom and other cart based systems because of limitations, but the first Playstation was a juggernaut at the time, boasting 3D images and polygons that could make your heart skip a beat. Battle Arena Toshiden wasn’t a great fighter but it was magnificent to look at. So to see a Playstation game with mechs and battlefields that were clearly last generation affected the scores from even the most fanboy publications.
The updated Front Mission 2: Remake gives a whole new dimension (literally) to the world and the objects therein. While I would argue that the color palette is a tad washed out, that almost seems to be on purpose, like how you run a movie through a sepia filter when you want to insist it’s vintage or old. There’s an air about Front Mission 2 that wasn’t present in the first of something very tired and grim, much like war itself. By toning things down but still allowing for there to be mood lighting, the atmosphere hangs heavy as wanzers, tanks and aircrafts all trade blows and missiles, determined that they alone are on the right side.
The combat, naturally, is the crux of the entire game, and here I’m a bit divided. On the one hand, I do enjoy the new leveling system that’s baked into Front Mission 2. You get EXP, sure, but you also get Honor Points for successfully destroying an enemy, and the Honor leads directly into new passive skills, like increased critical attacks or better damage modifiers when at the front of the party. Unlock enough skills and you can do dual attacks with fellow wanzers, which can do devastating damage under the right conditions and the right weapons. I know your instinct is to just give everyone two massive melee weapons because then it looks like a mech dual wielding baseball bats, but versatility is the key to survival.
On the other hand, it’s been a bit visually altered. Though I had no control of things, I still enjoyed the previous title zooming in during fights, having the wanzers be centerpieces in a sort of Bloodsport display. Now, everything remains zoomed out for the purpose of showcasing the next moves of other troops. Yet it removes a bit of the fun of things, and it creates more a of a board game atmosphere. Additionally, I still cannot target a piece of the enemy to attack individually, though some of the passive skills do allow for uncontrolled targeting under certain conditions. I would have liked to be able to have my troops only go for the legs of everything to help stop mobility so I can take care of the incredibly frustrating tanks that make or break every combat.
For those looking for a challenge, Front Mission 2 brings a much heavier AI response, and it can be quite a sweaty ordeal. Even on the lower difficulty, there’s a fantastic amount of coordination from the opposition to keep you on the ropes with both the big mechs and the nameless soldiers. I almost got completely decimated in the second battle because the tanks simply outnumbered me, surrounded me and got lucky with picking off the weapons from a majority of my troops. Pro tip from a player: your wanzers can’t use items unless you specifically equip them with backpacks, so be sure to add that during the customization as early as possible.
Which brings us to the Arena, a practice area that allows for player versus player combat in order to help train you in the ins and outs of fighting. This new section, which only becomes available after over an hour of gameplay, is essential to long form game success. It teaches players a lot about weaknesses and typing, which might not be clear from the initial firefights, so players who have the time should absolutely take a spin in here and fight against themselves to see what’s what in terms of combat.
Still, this is a grand step forward in the series, and I’m pleased to see Forever Entertainment continue bringing the Front Mission games to modern consoles. They’re expertly crafted for battles and sequencing, and captivate the SRPG fan who isn’t into overly anime presentations. The fighting is great, the characters are decent and the soundtrack has a delicious 90s vibe that has been updated but not overhauled. If you’re looking for a game with an easy 30-50 hour play ahead, then suit up: the Alordesh are ready for you.
An improvement from the original and from the previous remake, character portraits are solid and the mechs, usually, look great. Combat can be visually muddy in the dark and in crowded cityscapes, but wanzers of different colors will pop and allow for easy visibility.
Excellent turn-based strategy, plenty of weapon choices and modifications, but still no ability to target specific regions, just chance and happenstance. New skills system attempts to balance things out, but can create unwieldly scenarios. Quite challenging, even on lowest level.
Repetitive but atmospheric. No voicework, plenty of explosions and some good electronic synth from the time period. It’s enjoyable but not something I’d actively seek out.
Less visually stimulating for combat but more exciting for leveling and skills customization, plus the game seemed to move quicker. Not feeling like I was helming a propaganda film helped my overall enjoyment.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Front Mission 2: Remake is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Front Mission 2: Remake was provided by the publisher.