A best selling Super Famicom game in Japan, Front Mission is a turned-based strategy game where you play the role of Roid Clive, the young leader of a mercenary force of "Wandrung Panzer" robots, the Canyon Crows. Equipped with state of the art weaponry, you must pilot your 18-foot, 25-ton Panzers across 30 interconnected battlefields and destroy a horde of enemy Panzers and Boss Units. This is one of those games where you'll find yourself saying, "Square has done it again!" as you look up at the clock and notice that you have been playing all night.


     The story of Front Mission is one of loss, betrayal and intrigue. Roid becomes the fall guy in a complex struggle for tiny Huffman Island, located in the neutral zone between the near-future superpowers, the Oceana Community Union (OCU) and the United States of the New Continent (USN). Sent on an illegal mission to scout a USN factory, Roid watches helplessly as his fiancée, Karen, is captured in an ambush set up by Driscoll, the sinister USN commander. Driscoll destroys the factory and disappears with Karen, leaving Roid to take the blame. A year later, the disgraced Roid is recruited by Olson, the shadowy leader of OCU's "Canyon Crow" mercenary unit. Along with a ragtag band of Panzer pilots, Roid takes on mission after mission and slowly unravels the secret of Karen's disappearance and Driscoll's true plans.  


     Unlike most other war simulation games, you have complete control over the weapons, parts, items, and skills of your individual units. Using the money earned by successfully completing missions and destroying enemy units, you can customize your Panzers with a wide variety of body parts and weapons, each with different hit points, attack and defense strengths, and weight. You can build fast-moving units with short-range machine guns, close-combat units that rely on their armor and fists, or long-range stand-off missile units which can blast the enemy from a safe distance. Add battle computers, flash grenades, chaff launchers, and repair kits and you get an idea of the complexity of the game. In addition, your pilots gain special attack skills as they increase in level, such as first-strike, stun punch, or a guide option for short and long-range weapons.

     Front Mission is played on small-scale tactical map for moving units, and a close-up, 3/4 view battlefield for the one-on-one duels between Panzers. Although you are always outnumbered, the AI of your computer opponent is rather limited and you can usually out-maneuver the computer with careful planning. This is one of the strongest points of the game: you must choose the correct balance of robot types and use them effectively to win.

     The Panzer's weapons get larger and more imposing with each increase in firepower and the sound effects are very effective. I was impressed by the little details like flying shell casings and the ominous whirring sound of a Vulcan cannon before it blasts away.

     Front Mission is a "must play" for diehard strategy fans who want a complex, challenging war game. Building your own unique robot force is a lot of fun and the incredible variety of weapons, parts and items, and pilot skills make each game different. Get to an import game shop and look for a copy of Front Mission.