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6 Years…

December 17th, 2013 18 comments
Tetsuya Nomura's sketches of Royd, Ryuji, Keith, J.J., and Driscoll.

Tetsuya Nomura’s sketches of Royd, Ryuji, Keith, J.J., and Driscoll.

…is a lot of time for things to change. And change they have!

Back then, the PlayStation 2/Gamecube/XBox era was still kicking around. Japanese gaming hadn’t completely gone mobile, but then again the whole world wasn’t into the mobile scene yet. And for those of us who grew up playing Japanese games (80s kid right here!), you probably are reminiscing about how good they used to be right now. But we digress.

6 years ago, we were a bunch of hardcore, passionate Front Mission fans who really wanted to see Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ in English. We were also fans who really wanted to understand what defined the franchise, as we believed there was far more to Front Mission than what any of us outside of Japan knew.

6 years later, we honestly can say that Front Mission is truly one of Japan’s best-kept secrets. It’s almost criminal how roughly 80% of the franchise never saw the light of day outside of Japan. There’s so much to like and to learn from about Front Mission that we believe could profoundly change the lives of others like it has for us. It’d be great if we had all the time in the world to bringing the rest of the Front Mission brand out here, but we don’t have that kind of time these days. More resources would be nice as well, but then we’d be in big trouble if we made a Kickstarter project out of this!

Nevertheless, we’re happy that so many of you fans have supported us throughout these 6 years and for that, we thank you! From the emails we’ve received, it’s nice to know that our efforts to educate all of you on Front Mission have worked and are still working. Front Mission never was just a bunch of turn-based strategy (TBS) games, or just some generic mecha-based franchise. If it were, we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to “enlighten” about what the franchise really is! We just think all of you fans should be more vocal about your support for Front Mission online haha!

Six 6-year anniversary tidbits:

Visitors – 794,106
Game Downloads – 241,109 (overall) / 203,788 (Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~) / 37,321 (Front Mission 2)
3 Most Viewed Articles/Analysis Pieces – Front Mission: An Analysis of a Transmedia / An Analysis of the Overseas Handling of Front Mission / The Developers of Front Mission
Most Common Fan Response – “Wow, I didn’t know all of this about Front Mission. I thought it was just a series of TBS games and nothing else!”
Most Common Fan Request – “Can you translate EVERYTHING Front Mission? I’ll donate to you or support whatever Kickstarter you come up with!”
Most Common Fan Question – “Do the Front Mission developers or Square Enix know about your projects?

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September Musings about Front Mission

September 10th, 2012 1 comment

And it is official – Front Mission Dog Life & Dog Style will be ending on October 5, 2012, with the release of the tenth and final omnibus volume shortly after on October 25, 2012. The critically-acclaimed series began back in March 2007, so it will have been in circulation for a little over five-and-a-half years. And once it’s all done, Front Mission will finally come to a close.

Aside from that, please check out our newest patch updates on the Front Mission 2 project. As promised, we found a solution to the compatibility issue between the original, History, and Ultimate Hits versions of the video game. I would highly recommend any users who own physical copies of the original Front Mission 2 to do the data conversion. As mentioned earlier, there are some significant changes from the original to the History version (which the Ultimate Hits version is based off of) that make the latter the definitive Front Mission 2 experience.

  1. The addition of a Quick Battle option, a feature also seen in the PlayStation version of Front Mission First, to skip the battle sequences.
  2. Programming changes for loading time optimization, ensuring faster load times.
  3. Several game crashing bugs fixed.
  4. Gameplay data naming conventions fixed (ie. the wanzer Heil is renamed Hayle).

Also, there are new dialogues or event scenes which only occur in the History version. Without getting into too much detail, we noticed that many event scenes had new dialogue sections in the coding. A lot of these dialogues are character-related and further fleshes their personalities. The team didn’t get to test out where all of the triggers for these dialogues occur, but we found it intriguing how there was a fair bit of new content that wasn’t announced in public. In terms of the event scenes, they’re not really “new”…rather, they were “blocked” from being seen by the player. In a series of interviews with Dengeki GAMES in February 2004, the developers admitted to deliberately crashing parts of the video game so certain plot details would remain secret until they had released more pieces of the puzzle. These glitches were then “fixed” in the History re-release. It’s a bit of a long story, so we’ll explain this some other time. Speaking of Front Mission, it’s been interesting reading up the comments on the “The End” and the “Testimonials” sections. Keep those comments and opinions coming, everyone!

Unlike say Suikoden, Xenosaga, or Shenmue, all Japanese franchises with ambitious storytelling designs that unfortunately will remain incomplete, Front Mission achieved its original vision. However, did you know that there were some Front Mission stories which were supposed to be released, but never made it into fruition?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have Gun Hazard 2 and a hybrid TBS/RTS spin-off ala Ring of Red?

Front Mission hybrid TBS/RTS spin-off – After Front Mission 3, there was supposed to be a third genre spin-off set between Front Mission Alternative and the main Front Mission storyline. This spin-off would combine turn-based strategy (TBS) and real-time strategy (RTS) elements, as the team noted in the same Dengeki GAMES interviews. Why didn’t it happen? Well, Square Co., Ltd. diverted a lot of their resources into the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie and their PlayOnline service in 1999. A part of that meant laying off their employees…and that included the Front Mission team. While the concept was explored by some developers who were hired to make Ring of Red, the spin-off never materialized. A shame too, as it would have made it more obvious to people that Front Mission video games should be embraced with an open mind because it’s not just “turn-based strategy”.

Gun Hazard 2 – A perennial fan request in Japan, there were always intentions to create a Gun Hazard 2. No one, including Toshiro Tsuchida, knew when to make this a reality though. This video game was a huge possibility after the “end” of the main Front Mission storyline, and according to the Japanese Front Mission Evolved strategy guide, it was indeed in the works. Shinji Hashimoto also hinted at this in an early Front Mission Evolved interview in a Gamespot video…which I hope wasn’t taken down because I can’t find it. What happened to it? Well, the original idea of Gun Hazard 2 being developed by the Front Mission team wasn’t deemed feasible according to management so it became…Front Mission Evolved.

It would be nice to read more novels about the Front Mission world…

Video games aside, there should have been more Front Mission novels as noted in the said Dengeki GAMES interviews. One novel was meant to act as a bridge between Front Mission 2 and Front Mission 3, and was supposed to be published around the latter’s release. According to Hideo Iwasaki of the franchise’s writing team, there were scheduling conflicts with the novelist who was assigned to it. Iwasaki noted that someone else could have taken the reigns, but Tsuchida doesn’t like it when work is entrusted to someone he doesn’t feel is the right person suited for the job. There was also another novel set between Front Mission Alternative and the main Front Mission storyline. Iwasaki gave this reason as why it never got made – it was linked to the story of that planned hybrid TBS/RTS spin-off, so no go.

That about sums up what kind of Front Mission things the world could have gotten, but were never made. There were other ideas that Tsuchida and the writing team thought up of, such as a live-action television miniseries in the style of 24, but these ideas hinged largely on Front Mission achieving its desired impact on the world…and that never happened. Luckily, they had planned the storyline to have contingencies, or “trap doors” as J. Michael Straczynski of Bablyon 5 fame would say, in case the original vision couldn’t be fully completed. It just stinks that there could have been more to the whole transmedia than there already is!

And on more random musings, the team learned a little bit more about the man behind this grand vision. We already noted a lot of the things Tsuchida has taken an interest in through our transmedia analysis, but did you know he’s a huge fan of Red Faction and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six? Or that his film tastes vary from thrillers like Deja Vu and Conspiracy Theory to dramas like I Am Sam? Or that he’s rumored to be lurking around somewhere in Battlefield 3?

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July Cometh

July 22nd, 2012 4 comments

First off, check out the new page titled The End and read it. Don’t forget to comment on it, and we highly recommend that you do!

Anyhow, onto the July stuff. If anyone’s been playing around with the new Front Mission 2 patch, we uploaded a new zip file which includes a full script of the story event…in English! You can pretty much play through the video game now and not get lost in the story! Of course, we do intend to get that last 30% into Front Mission 2 so you don’t need to read a novel-long script. There are some things we are tinkering with about the three versions of the video game, so we can update our patch conversion tool to work with any of them! Long story short, there’s some new technical issues we have to deal with regarding the video game’s releases. If you ask me, you’re better off with the History or Ultimate Hits versions. Why? There’s more than enough that was changed from the original aside from loading workarounds (this will be detailed in a later post) that it’s kind of pointless to play the original Front Mission 2.

A different kind of mock-up (a spoiler-y one at that) for the Declassified Documents!

As you can see, we’re not simply doing a translation of the reference book, Front Mission World Historica – Report of Conflicts 1970-2121. We originally planned on doing that back in 2009, but after our eventful journey in discovering the truth behind Front Mission (read our Front Mission as a Transmedia article for more details), we changed our objective. Now, instead of being left out on the 30% of the story that wasn’t covered in the video games, Front Mission: The Declassified Documents was changed to cover the whole picture instead. The teaser above talks about the piloting interface known as the S-Type Device as seen in Front Mission First and Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~. It’s also shown in the other video games, but we’re using these two examples because we imagine everyone outside of Japan is familiar with them. Those who played the latter should know that the S-Type Device has some severe drawbacks to using it. A bit disturbing when it’s described, but you don’t see how messed up it really is…until you dive into the expanded universe (go read the transmedia article)! It is only here that you realize what Lynn Wenright says “Only his basic vital functions and instincts remain.” when she reveals the dangers of the S-Type Device! We’ll have more of these kinds of spoiler-y material released soon!

Lastly, here’s a list of things we’ve worked on, or are working on, since this whole project started on December 2007. We would like to remind everyone that the video game stuff aren’t the only things we have worked on. Remember, Front Mission is not just about the video games alone and is one transcendental creation known as a transmedia (seriously, go read our article on it)!

  • Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~, complete localization
  • Front Mission 2, partial localization (70%)
  • Front Mission Alternative, partial localization (user interfaces, game data)
  • Gun Hazard Radio Drama Series, complete translation
  • Gun Hazard Commercial Film Documentary, complete translation
  • Front Mission video series
  • Front Mission: The Declassified Documents
  • Compilation of scripts for recurring cast in the video games (excludes several entries due to lack of accessibility)
  • Articles: video games, developers, localizations, transmedia, merchandise, and advertisements
  • Packaging: Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ (cover/label/manual), Front Mission 2 (cover/label), and Front Mission Alternative (cover/label)
  • Spreadsheets: wanzer data and miscellaneous information about the video games

Aside from the Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ stuff, nearly all of the above things were worked on since early 2010. Everyone on the team wishes that we could produce more things, but alas, this isn’t a full-time job for all of us. But hey, at least we try our best. If it weren’t for us stepping up and trying to translate Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ in the first place, Front Mission would have remained a complete and very misunderstood mystery to the rest of the world, wouldn’t it?

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June 25, 2102, meet June 25, 2012!

June 25th, 2012 8 comments

Today marks a pretty big day for the Front Mission brand, both officially and for the fans!

Even though 09 has debuted at slightly less sales than 08, it still places well among all comic releases in Japan!

Officially, Front Mission Dog Life & Dog Style 09 was just released today. And in predictable fashion, this omnibus volume was gobbled up by hungry fans! Even Kyle, who’s back in Japan for a while, raced to get his copy before it was sold out at a bookstore…and that’s just today! It may not be selling faster than the earlier omnibus volumes, but Front Mission is still beloved by the Japanese! And the series is still on-going with Young Gangan so a tenth volume is guaranteed…and it’s all but assured that the story will continue into 2013!

And for things that are not official, we have finally released Patch 2 for Front Mission 2! And as a bonus, we have also released Prototype Patch 1 for Front Mission Alternative! That’s right, the team hasn’t forgotten about this nifty genre spin-off! Patch 2 for Front Mission 2 pretty much covers the most our programmers have been able to decipher in terms of re-inserting back the text assets. You can read our earlier blog posts on this matter…I’m not rehashing it again! And the Prototype Patch 1 for Front Mission Alternative is bare-bones, but hey, it’s a start!

Our development of Front Mission 2 from our last prototype build is worth a shout because for whatever the reason, all of us decided to really go for it and get things done. While it doesn’t match our heroic 4-month effort to work with the 1,000+ page tome for bases section in Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~, nearly a month’s worth of working with at least 100 pages of dialogue was heroic enough.

There’s a few other new updates, but none of them really compare to the above two patch releases. On a parting note, this day and month is significant in the Front Mission universe. Why? Because it’s the day that the Alordesh coup d’etat in Front Mission 2 officially ends! Neat coincidence, eh?

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