Front Mission: Gun Hazard
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Platform:
    • Super Famicom
  • Developer:
    • Omiya Soft
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 02/23/1996
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/28/2007.

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The Front Mission series is known for its tactical battles involving giant mechs that you arm to the teeth. Gun Hazard, however, differs in that it isn't at all tactical: instead, it is a side-scrolling mech shooter, littered with RPG elements and a rather interesting plot. Neither of the Front Mission games on the SNES were ever released outside of Japan. I'd be lying if I said I knew why, but I assume it's due to the fact that both of these games were released rather late into the SNES' lifespan. Of course, Front Mission 2 for the PlayStation was never released outside of Japan, either, so there may be other factors involved here, such as the unpopularity of the genre in the West. It is quite a shame indeed, but luckily the game has been translated by a ROM hacking fan translator (or two), so those of us who are into the scene can very well take part in enjoying it.

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Gun Hazard plays very similarly to Assault Suits Valken (or as some may know it, Cybernator) in that you control a giant mech through various side-scrolling areas. In fact, the similarity between the two games may just be more than coincedence or the copycat syndrome; from what I've read, it seems a person (or persons) who worked on Assault Suits Valken (or Cybernator) took part in the development of Front Mission: Gun Hazard, as well. That's not bad at all, considering that Assault Suits Valken/Cybernator is also a rather enjoyable game, though perhaps not as much as Gun Hazard.

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Learning to control your mech with skill can take some practice, and is akin to controlling Samus in Metroid or other such characters in a space environment, just a bit slower. Some may not quite like this, but I felt that it was handled rather well and got the point across that you're, y'know, controlling a giant mech. In addition to this, you have rather precise control over what direction you shoot. Holding the L button locks your aim in place, so that you may move around while maintaining your aim, (quite useful, so remember it well) as moving usually resets your aim to left or right, depending on the direction you move to. Admittedly, aiming can be an annoyance in certain parts of the game. Interestingly, you may have your character leave his mech by pressing the "select" button. Obviously, you are far more susceptible to death like this, but it can actually work in your favor, as certain optional portions of some areas are only accessible without your mech. In some (very few) missions, it's even required. I found the controls to be rather atrocious while your character is going it on foot. It seemed ridiculously slow, even slower than riding the mech. However, this was probably done on purpose to make you appreciate your giant mech.

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The story takes place in what seems to be "our" universe, only in the fictional future. As such, you can make out the two major continents in the game's world map, which is where you choose your destination. Upon choosing a country, you enter a sort of sub-map, which has interconnecting pathways, similar to Super Mario World. It is within the sub-maps that you are to choose your mission. Certain missions are optional and carry little in the ways of story driven dialogue or interesting level design. However, the majority of the missions aren't optional. As such, the level design for most of the missions is quite pleasant. The story driven, mandatory missions also happen to have fairly varied objectives; protecting a certain figure of importance, destroying a certain amount of enemy units, defeating a menacing boss, disabling the enemy's equipment, and sometimes simply reaching the end of the area alive. You are allowed to revisit most (but not all) missions to repeatedly gather cash and experience until you're satisfied. As you progress the game, you will befriend a few others whom you can take with you into most of the missions. These allies all have their own unique ability in which to aid you with. Unfortunately, they tend to be more of a burden than practical help.

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As previously mentioned, there are a few simplified RPG elements at work here. Completing missions, especially those that have special objectives, earns you experience and cash. The experience you earn will level up your pilot, which consistently adds 30 points to your HP (Hit Points), and opens up new equipment for you to use. The cash, of course, is what you'll be using to purchase weapons and parts for your mech. The mech custimization here is somewhat limited when you compare it to most of the Front Mission series, but it is still there to some extent. Additionally, your pilot will become more proficient at using certain weapons or parts over time, and this progress is denoted by a percentage number by the name of the respective part or weapon. As such, using certain weapons or armor consistently will have its various parameters improved. You can purchase equipment for some of your allies, as well, although their management is far more minimal in comparison to the main hero.

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The game has a fairly long and involving plot, with much in the way of dialogue. The plot has its fair share of twists, as well. It may not exactly be up there with Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, but it still rates in at above average. Even in more recent times, it's rare to find games of this type so packed with story, so it's an extremely refreshing experience. In any case, the story really adds a lot to the game, moving it above and beyond a regular side-scrolling mech shooter.

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The music here needs special mention, as it's really quite good. It's rather similar to Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, which is no surprise, considering the musical masters of those two lovely games worked on the soundtrack of Gun Hazard. The track of the final level is even similar in style to the "Dancing Mad" track from Final Fantasy VI. That alone won me over, but there were plenty of other good tracks, as well. On the graphical side, Gun Hazard also happens to be quite a beauty. Its environments are varied and well drawn, with a lot of interesting mechanical and industrial designs. Towns, cities, factories, forests, mountains; the game has it all.

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As a whole, Front Mission: Gun Hazard is a great game, no doubt about it. I would most certainly recommend it to anyone, whether they are fans of the Front Mission franchise or not. However, for those of you who are Front Mission fans, be warned that it's nothing like the other games. The only similarity are the "Wanzers," the mechs, so to speak. This shouldn't stop you or anyone from playing it, though.

Word Count: 1,162

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