R.I.P. Front Mission

By Darryl Kaye on March 9, 2011, 7:46PM EDT

It might be a massive generalisation, but it's safe to say that while the Front Mission franchise is one that most gamers know of, it's also one that most have never touched. It's not surprising either, since, if we're excluding the most recent entry, Front Mission: Evolved, only three games from the franchise ever saw the light of day in North America and Europe only received one. Now, that might not seem too bad until you realise that Japan has had ten.

In many ways, the franchise bears a distinct, albeit more reserved, similarity to another of Square Enix's franchises, Dragon Quest. Up until Dragon Quest VIII, the franchise had an almost non-existent appeal in the Western market, especially when compared to Final Fantasy. They've since turned that around though, and it's a shame they didn't take the same approach with Front Mission; that approach being sticking with what they think is best for their key audience and selling that idea to consumers. Instead, they decided to try and cater for the Western audience by hiring a sub-par developer to make a third-person shooter - because that's what all Western gamers like, guns and action. We'll forget that Front Mission is a franchise based around deep, turn-based strategy because apparently Square Enix did too.

Toshiro Tsuchida, the man who created Front Mission, recently left Square Enix. He had directed or produced every main game in the series, the last being Front Mission 2089: Border of Madness in 2008. He had no involvement with the other Front Mission 2089 projects though, which surrounded Front Mission 5, and his departure from the company may well see the franchise buried for good.

It's true that Front Mission: Evolved may have had Square Enix scratching their heads a bit, I'm sure they believed they were on to a winner. But even the release of the game, in the way they did it, suggested that they were running out of ideas about what to do with the franchise next. Clearly they weren't happy with the revenue it was generating in Japan, otherwise why would they need to branch out to the West? However, given Front Mission: Evolved's reception, both critically and commercially, they may decide that nothing can now be done.

It's a shame, because Front Mission was one of those hidden gems. Only Front Mission 3 was released in Europe, but I still remember having a great time playing it on my PSOne. It was a Tactical RPG with a twist, but apparently not a twist that many other Westerners appreciated.

So with that, I would like to say R.I.P. Front Mission. I enjoyed the brief experience I had with your true form, and I won't let the recent decline sour that memory. Here's hoping that if Square Enix do decide to make another game in the franchise, it goes back to the series' roots - what helped it become what it was in the first place.

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