Front Mission 1st

But the real first mission was on SNES twelve years ago

Japan Import: For anyone getting disheartened with the slew of impenetrable Japanese language RPGs and action adventures, whose insurmountable and squiggly language barriers have you weeping katakana tears of frustration, fear not. While you'll be scrolling through some screens of kanji dialogue between the stern-faced early-'90s action-style heroes of Front Mission 1st, every single drop-down menu command is written in English. Finally - an import game that's actually importer-friendly.

This isn't a new game, though. It's essentially a remake that's built on the original 1995 SNES Front Mission, a turn-based strategy game that involves giant robots fighting against the backdrop of politically conflicting nations - Oceana Community Union (OCU) and United States of the New Continent (USN).

Don't go breaking my legs
Quite aside from the simple joy of being able to understand what you're doing immediately, this is also a very satisfying strategy game. You know the score - you need to build up experience and levels in your piloted mecha by getting good all round battle experience, whether that's at close range (physical punching), or longer distance (missile launching). With careful thought required as regards positioning, weaponry and attack technique, it feels far less like a statistics battler, and more like a real robot-destructo simulation. Well, apart from its ye olde gamey isometric look, that is. Having seen amazing 3D robo-pounding on DS, in something like Custom Robo Arena2 for example, we do feel a tiny bit disappointed.

Overall, though, it doesn't matter, because the strategy element is so strong. The fight cutscenes that play out on the top screen are pretty amusing too - with enemies losing their body parts as you shoot them away. If there's something more satisfying in this world than seeing a disgruntled giant robot with only one arm left, we'd like to know.

There's also a really nice Colosseum mode which lets you pick opposing mechs to battle against, so you can come up with some sort of attack plan - not to mention a dead fiancée, frenetic battles and enormous robots fighting in water that comes up to their knees. Well worth a play, this.

The verdict

Lovely old school turn-based strategy with robots whose arms fall off when punched too often. With English language support for non-Japanese speakers, it's a great import.

Nintendo DS
Square Enix
Square Enix
Action, Shoot 'em Up