Front Mission 1 is the first game in the Front Mission series by Square Enix (known before as Squaresoft). It was released in Japan via Super Famicom on February 24, 1995 with further releases on Wonderswan Color on July 12, 2002, the Playstation in October 23, 2003 (as Front Mission 1st), the Nintendo DS on March 22, 2007 and as a PSOne Classic on November 12, 2008. It was released officially in English via the DS on October 23, 2007, and again on the Nintendo Switch on November 30, 2022 (as Front Mission 1st: Remake). A PC port via Steam, Epic and GOG was published on June 30, 2023.
It takes place in the year 2090 on Huffman Island, an island created in the Pacific Ocean via volcanic activity in the Ring of Fire in 1995 from the southern direction of the Mexican West Coast. In 2002, HI was classified as an island and the United Nations was involved in mediating its future. But in 2020, the United States of the New Continent (USN) has made plans to annex the island under its sovereignty. The Oceania Cooperative Union has disputed USN claims even before the island was annexed in 2065. The 1st Huffman Conflict in 2070 resulted in the division of the island under both USN/OCU control. An uneasy peace was in place until the Huffman Crisis in 2086. Tensions flare up again and the OCU is accused for being behind the Larcus Incident on June 3, 2090.
Players take control of an OCU soldier named Royd Clive. An OCU Army unit is tasked to conduct on the eastern part of HI to check on a USN-managed munitions plant in Larcus District. USN wanzers led by Driscoll opened fire and killed several OCU wanzer pilots including Royd's Karen Meure. This resulted in the 2nd Huffman Conflict and blame was placed by the public on Royd. Royd was later forced to leave with a dishonorable discharge. However, he was secretly sought out by Guri B. Olson, a colonel in the OCU military in order to recruit him to a mercenary group known as the Canyon Crows.
In the PSX/DS remake, a second story arc takes place from the perspective of USN military officer Kevin Greenfieldnote , who's working under a special forces unit known as the Black Hounds to investigate the activities of a terrorist group known as The Star of Freedom. During the operation, Kevin made a serious error that he's arrested by USN MP officers. Kevin is seconded to HI to work at the Nirvana Institute, which is managed by Driscoll. When the 2nd Huffman Conflict starts, Kevin is recruited to work with the Silver Lynx.
The game would have a sequel in Front Mission 2.
Yoko Shimomura has composed part of the game's OST.
Front Mission 1 provides examples of:
- Absurdly High Level Cap: The maximum Job Level is 48... requiring 9,999 EXP in one of the four Job classes: Melee, Short, Long, and Dodge. Any EXP gained in these Job classes influences Pilot Level. Pilot Level maxes out at Level 50, requiring 37,500 EXP to reach.
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The original SFC/WS version of 1st lets player sell items for 75% of their actual values, whereas the remake has you selling them for... only 25%. This leads you to a miserly scenario in which you simply cannot afford new equipment for every single unit you have, as the parts salvaged in missions are generally inferior to what you may already be using, and the only other ways to earn money are completing missions or competing in arena battles.
- Badass Crew:
- The legendary Canyon Crows. Sure, the USN can boast about the Hell's Wall all they want, but at the end of the day, the crows just blow them into bits and march straight into Freedom City anyway.
- The Silver Lynxes are pretty awesome.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the Canyon Crows overthrow the plot to make wanzer control devices from the brains of kidnapped soldiers—called the B-Type Device—and they expose the plot. The problem is, they are now wanted "terrorists." Factions from the OCU and the USN, as well as Zaftra's PMO, all control Huffman Island, and are sending assassins after them. Further compounded as shown in Kevin Greenfield's story, in which the deaths of Driscoll and the Sakata Industries bigwigs throw a wrench into the court martial of Patrick S. Winger.
- Corrupt Politician: Some leaders of empires endorse a project which involves soldiers being kidnapped and having their brains extracted, in order to research technology that will enable the creation of Super Soldiers and Super Computers. Plus the real reason why the armistice and peace treaty was signed to end the 2nd Huffman War was to stop the OCU from reaching the destroyed factory and the Nirvana Institute facility.
- Dark Is Not Evil:
- The Spirit of Huffman's members are all in the typical dark masks and helmets which terrorists wear, though all their targets are the Sakata Industries villains, not civilians.
- 1st's OCU campaign generally portrays USN soldiers in a grim light - the prime example being the Hell's Wall unit full of scarred freaks. But the USN campaign shows that they are not really bad once you get to know them.
- Disc-One Nuke: You can begin farming for free EXP in a mission that has an enemy force with at least one supply truck and a character that has either the Duel or Guide skill. The trick is to use the Duel and Guide skills to target and break the legs and arms of an enemy wanzer and then allow them to move next to a supply truck which will restore their broken parts. This is because every time you break a part on an enemy wanzer, you get a significant EXP bonus. And by using the Duel and Guide skills to avoid hitting the body, which would result in the enemy wanzer being destroyed and ending the trick prematurely, you can collect an infinite amount of EXP in the early part of a story and effectively set yourself up for absolute success later on.
- Dump Stat: The only reason to invest any EXP the Fight stat is if a character can't learn most or any of the Short skills.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In the original SNES version, EXP from the normal missions is plentiful but hard limited; battling in the Arena provided an infinite source of EXP but only at a very slow trickle. Because of this, you had to make some hard choices on who would go during the missions or else they would become underlevled near the end of the game, leaving you with an unbalanced roster. The DS remake resolves this issue with "New Game +" which allows all acquired experience and equipment to be carried through on a new playthrough.
- This is still the first and only game where you could deploy the most characters in battle (18 characters). Later games after Front Mission 2 (which allowed 12 characters in battle) reduced the player's party size to make it feel less awkward on the logistics of both the story and gameplay.
- There was very little distinction between Short and Fight as both types of attack required being adjacent to an enemy. Not only that, but Short battle skills have so much more value and utility that they made the Fight class seem largely redundant and unnecessary. So unless a character was exclusively designed to be a Fighter, there was no incentive towards tailoring their skills and builds towards the Fight class when a Short specialist has both a larger variety of weapons to choose from and would do much more better than a Fighter.
- Enemy Chatter: In a bit of a twist, one of the first hints that Guri B. Olson is not all he seems to be (aside from the Anvilicious cutscene a few missions earlier) is the chatter from a random person at a bar that the OCU isn't entirely a hopeless cause and that their tank squadrons are competent enough to win against the USN.
- Every 10,000 Points: A character's job skill will increase with every 200 points that are earned through actions that satisfy one of the four job classes. (i.e. Using Short weapons increases Short skill)
- Friendly Enemy: Handled more realistically than most examples; the USN and the OCU are sworn enemies since the First Huffman Conflict, but the USN frequently ends up helping the OCU with the latter's domestic conflicts. Foreign intervention or salvation, these two world powers become quite friendly by 2112.
- Half-Truth: The Pilot Status screen is rather confusing and hard to understand due to a discrepancy between the one you see during battle, the one you can only access during the intermissions, and the one you see in the arena battles.
- In Medias Res: You begin 1st as the commander of a small unit, in both campaigns.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: In the OCU campaign, OCU and later the PMO are the "good"; the USN and the Spirit of Huffman are the "bad"...
- Meaningful Name: In the DS port of 1st, the wanzer of Hans Goldwin is named Trojan.
- In fact, most characters' wanzers have... interesting names.
- 1st: Frederick Lancaster's machine is called Witness.
- Also from 1st: Ghetta Cedric nicknames his wanzer... Nothing.
- Poor, Predictable Rock: A melee build without the skill First can easily have their arm(s) rifled off before they can do so much as glare at you. Even if they initiate the attack.
- Rage Breaking Point: One has to ask: Is it wise for soldiers to wander out of towns against orders and constantly try the patience of their colonel?
- Save Scumming: If your team's equipment is not up to date but you're strapped for cash, you'll have to do some grinding in the Arena to spin a profit.
- The DS remake features a quicksave option that is convenient for players on-the-go but nastily averts this trope: The hit ratio of an attack is always pre-determined before the battle begins, making it impossible to manipulate the RNG to get a different result.
- The Scapegoat: The lead protagonists of both stories are forced to suffer the ignominy of being discredited for an incident in which they neither had control nor responsibility for the outcome.
- Royd is disavowed for a covert reconnaissance mission that went horribly awry and resulted in the start of the Second Huffman War. As it turns out, Royd was completely set up from the get-go.
- During the mission to destroy the Star of Freedom Headquarters in the Andes Mountains, Captain Maria Paredes gets hung up for some reason during her infiltration of the base interior. This delay proves to be very costly as it allows the resistance leadership to avoid the orbital strike which then spurs the Star of Freedom to continue their efforts against the UCS. Although Maria is clearly at fault for the embarrassing failure, Kevin Greenfield takes the blame instead as Maria is too important to be removed from the Black Hounds.
- Scratch Damage: Any attacks with a weak weapon and a low job skill against an enemy wanzer with high Defense will only yield 1 point of damage.
- Shout-Out: In the DS remake of 1st, one of the OCU missions has you detonating a trio of charges under a number of bridges to destroy a supply train. The codenames for each are those of the female protagonists of Bubblegum Crisis.
- One of the scientists working for a cabal of war profiteers using cybernetic technology is named Gilmore.
- The Final Boss starts out as a gigantic, experimental mech with no legs controlled by a Brain/Computer Interface. It also bears a strong resemblance to the God Warriors in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, particularly the scene of a partially revived one embedded in a wall. It's final form, meanwhile, is remarkably similar to the Gryphon from Patlabor.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Glaringly obvious in 1st, when you realize that the USN has had some of the best parts in the game just sitting in stores in their capital city, while you're stuck with your oh-so-impressive Zenith.
- Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: In arena battles, Short takes precedence over Fight, Fight takes precedence over Long, and Long takes precedence over Short. Although in the meta perspective, Fight ended up being the underperforming class.
- Time Skip: Happens a few times on both campaigns in 1st; what happens in the time skip of one campaign is explored in the other. When Royd Clive and Ryuji Sakata are excommunicated by the OCU GDF after the Larcus Incident, the OCU story jumps from 2090 to 2091. The USN story after the Larcus Incident covers the events that occur afterwards, up until it catches up to the OCU story. Later on, there is a time skip in the USN side which happens when Kevin Greenfield is arrested towards the final stages of the Second Huffman Conflict. The events that take place afterwards are explained in the OCU side, up until it catches up to the USN story a few months later.
- Tropical Island Adventure: The first game involves all of Huffman Island.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: In the OCU campaign, we have a fairly large cast that doesn't fit too well into a Five-Man Band...
- Choleric: Alder Weiss and Gentz Weizer.
- Melancholic: Royd Clive and Dr. Mizette Brown.
- Phlegmatic: Paul C. Grieber and Yang Yeehin.
- Sanguine: Frederick Lancaster and Gregorio Mainas.
- Chol-mel: Natalie F. BlakeWood and Molly O'Donnell.
- Mel-phleg: Bobby Hopkins and General Willas E. Blakewood.
- Phleg-sang: Peewie Richburg, Joynas Jeriaska, and Hans Goldwin.
- Sang-chol: Keith Carabell and Porunga.
- Eclectic: Ryuji Sakata, Yang Meihua, and Ralph Dian.
- As for the Big Bad quartet, we have Driscoll (sanguine), Guri B. Olson (choleric/melancholic), Patrick S. Winger (phlegmatic), and Koichi Sakata (leukine).
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Canyon Crows consists of a Byronic Hero leading a gang of Hired Guns, about half of whom jump onto the boat at the said hero's apathetic "Do what you want."
- Red Shirt Army: In Olson's words from 1st, the OCU "couldn't fight its way out of a paper bag", so they need mercenaries to do all the heavy fighting for it. This turns out to be subverted. The OCU supposedly wins the war because of its tank squadrons, not any of its Hired Guns.
- The Reveal: In the OCU campaign of 1st, Guri B. Olson's... lack of gratitude for the crows' rescue attempts is explained far later in the story. Driscoll's scheme, with the Grey Rock hospital raid as part of it, has been a big secret agenda that Olson is trying to protect from the "nosy but innocent" crows.
- He apparently takes care to make sure that the Nirvana Institute does not run into the Canyon Crows from then onward, especially after what nearly happened.
- You Shall Not Pass!: In the OCU campaign, General Willas E. Blakewood plays just this when the Canyon Crows are about to take off from Rupidis. See Four-Star Badass above.
- Cutscene Power to the Max: In the USN campaign, we have wanzer parachutes before the invasion of Freedom City.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: Kevin Greenfield, Johnny Sanders and Matthew D. Lorenzo in 1st start off as members of the elite Black Hounds, before being posted to the equally renowned Nirvana Institute. They are temporarily "demoted" to regular grunts in the USN Army during the Second Huffman Conflict, but end the story under the employment of the top-class USN Military Intelligence.