Front Mission Alternative is a real time strategy game, the second spin-off entry and the fourth entry overall in the Front Mission series. Unlike other Front Mission titles, Front Mission Alternative is the precursor to the serialized storyline and features a completely standalone story and cast of characters.
As a real-time strategy spin-off, the gameplay of Front Mission Alternative differs from the tactical role-playing game entries of the numbered Front Mission titles. Rather than being played out on a grid-based map and using a turn-based structure, battles takes place in real-time on full 3D maps. The player controls up to three platoons, each platoon consisting of three mecha - the wanderwagen, or WAW. During missions, they have complete control over where their platoons move, and what enemy platoons they can attack. Movement on the battlefield is done through waypoints; the player must select preset waypoints on the map in order to move their platoons. Player-controlled platoons can attack enemy targets along the way to the waypoints, or if they are ordered to attack the aforementioned targets.
A unique feature of Alternative is the ability to control the AI of the player-controlled platoons; their offensive and defensive tendencies, as well as their targeting priority can be changed at any given time. Player units set to offensive maneuvers prefer to attack with ranged weapons. Player units set to defensive maneuvers, on the other hand, will use shields to block enemy fire and prefer to fight at close ranges. For targeting priority, player units can either focus on one target or attack any targets within range. On certain missions, players can request aid from a supply platoon to restock on supplies or a support fire platoon to rain artillery bombardment on the enemy. Lastly, the player can choose to withdraw their platoons from battle at any given time.
Unlike most Front Mission titles, failing a mission does not result in a game over. Players are allowed up to four attempts to complete a mission. Furthermore, players are allowed up to 20 mission failures overall before they receive a game over. Upon completing missions, players are graded on their performance through a new mission ranking system. Based on how well they met the mission objectives, the player can receive monetary and part rewards. The money earned from missions can then be used to purchase new parts to be used by WAWs in combat. Mission rankings are tied to another new feature - mission branching. Based on how well or poorly the player performs in specific missions, they can unlock new story scenarios to play and new endings to view.
Missions aside, Alternative boasts other new features seen in future Front Mission entries: a range system, new auxiliary backpacks, and Cockpit Mode. The range system affects battles in that distance is factored into weapon accuracy and a unit's evasive maneuvers. The farther away a target is from the attacking unit, the less likely its weapons will hit it. Likewise, a unit will be unable to evade incoming fire if it's attacked at close ranges. Auxiliary backpacks are no longer restricted to storage and generator types; there are new backpacks which possess unique features. These include: anti-missile guns, night vision sensors, vernier packs, flare dispensers, radar antennas, and ECM devices. Cockpit Mode allows the player to view battles from inside the WAW cockpit; this mode grants greater control of the action and operates similar to a first-person shooter.
Game progression in Alternative is done in linear manner: watch cut-scene events, complete missions, set up WAWs during intermissions, and sortie for the next mission. Briefings from Front Mission and Front Mission 2 can also be reviewed during intermissions. Alternative expands on this feature significantly: briefings now reveal enemy threats, mission objectives, and topography conditions, using pictures to illustrate these details. The player can also run simulations of their strategies on a 3D map of the mission. The player travels to locations on a world map. As the player progresses through the plot, new locations are revealed on the world map.
Set in 2034, the story of Front Mission Alternative takes place in Africa. In the early 21st century, nations around the world form regional entities to combat a global recession and other crises. While many regions thrive under their newly formed supranational unions, the nations of Africa fall deeper into environmental, racial, and ethnic conflicts. In an attempt to help them, the European Community (EC) and the Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU) assisted the African countries in forming a continental alliance called the Organization of African Consolidation (OAC). Although it initially thrives in the first three years, various disputes flare up either between or within the OAC's five regional blocs - the Union of Northern African States (UNAS) invades the West African States Community Union(WA) allowing the Guineana Independence movement to form, the South African United States (SAUS) assists the Community of Central African States (CA) in fighting the Zaius Independent Government(ZAINGO) also attempting to break away, the East African Communities (EA) fear spillover and civil unrest. Tensions rise and diplomatic efforts fail, the nations proceed to conduct a series of proxy wars and begin the Africa Conflict.
The plot of Front Mission Alternative revolves around the International Mobile Assault Company (IMAC), a joint operations unit comprised of soldiers from the OCU and SAUS led by OCU Ground Defense Force 2nd Lt Earl McCoy and their actions throughout Africa. The SAUS government deploys the IMAC to quell civil conflicts in CA territory with ZAINGO and repel the UNAS invasion of WA. Piloting a new bipedal weapons platform called the Wanderwagen or WAW, the IMAC successfully quiets violence across the continent. As they travel north towards Fort Zaus and Tourba plant crippling the ZAINGO's fighting ability in CA; continuing, the IMAC moved to support the Western African Liberation Front in defeating the UNAS occupation of WA. However, once entering WA territory the company starts encountering unknown WAWs, and WAW-vehicle hybrids known as "mobile weapons" being used by UNAS Army, ZAINGO insurgent forces, and mercenary group Sinsemilla. The IMAC decides to unleash it's full arsenal and deploys the TCK to retake WA capital Lagos; with the expectation of heavy fighting when traveling north.
The EC then publicly intervenes through the deployment of an elite anti-terrorism unit known as Cerberus Garde, however they initially seem ineffectual but actually appear to be aiding the UNAS in prolonging the war. As the IMAC starts fighting their way into UNAS territory, plans of a peace treaty are made between all states. Meanwhile IMAC can uncover connections between the terrorist uprisings, civil conflicts, the true cause of the war, and how the EC factors into the situation using Cerberus Garde as a cover for funneling weapons into Africa. From here the game has one of four endings(canon being Real McCoy):
The Main Suspect Edit
IMAC fails to find the true culprit behind the conflict and decides to instead destroy the ZAINGO movement seeing it as the original objective and belligerent that made the OCU deploy the IMAC in the first place. With their destruction the IMAC withdraw from Africa having not really handled the subtext of the conflict.
A New Time Edit
The IMAC decides Liberating the West African Community from the UNAS would bring long term peace to the continent by handling the main issue behind the civil war. ZAINGO is destroyed, the WALF declare their independence and begin developing an energy sector completing the "Africa's Light" infrastructure project for all of WA. the North continues to rely on weapons from Cerberus Garde and the EC though the nature of their trade is kept secret; continuing to grow in power by developing an indigenous heavy industry and WAW production therefore losing the need to invade. A new era is ahead one in which Africa walks on it's two feet.
The Continent of Disturbance Edit
IMAC conducts the decisive battle of Gitt Dunes and militarily annihilates the UNAS. UNAS Chairman Jevar is then forced to accept a return to the status quo having no more units to fight with. Though the UNAS' need to militarily exercise as a means of avoiding economic collapse to survive hasn't been handled, the EC publicly withdraw from UNAS and ZAINGO collapses. WA rebuilds itself and conducts the same Africa's Light Project, however the tentacles of a shadow organization continues to loom in Africa, and unrest continues to be armed. One will have to wait and hope for the best.
The Real McCoy Edit
IMAC discovers the Cerberus Garde and Gustav Zelman, their mirror unit from the EC and technical allies, are the true culprits of the war. Gustav Zelman, Having convinced Chairman Jevar to conduct the invasion of WA as a means to get UNAS out of crippling recessions and secure resources, agreed to supply ZAINGO with the weapons they need to invade and destroy the CA, and orchestrated an attack that nearly killed all four African Union State presidents at the peace conference. McCoy and IMAC destroy the factory and expose the EC to the OAC and international community. Africa is infuriated at learning the EC were playing both sides to profit off their suffering and continue the conflict, in reaction the OAC expel the EC from Africa and cease all trade with them. McCoy stays behind in Africa to continue helping it move to a long term peace and succeeds before leaving, becoming known as 'THE REAL MCCOY', meaning authentic, throughout the continent.
International Mobile Assault Company (IMAC) Edit
- Earl McCoy the player character, an O.C.U. lieutenant and a commanding member of the IMAC as leader of Platoon 01 (IMAC-01) in the years 2034 to 2035. McCoy was sent to the O.A.C. to fight in the African Conflict and secure the situation and discover the truth behind it.
- Furphy Dal Supporting playable character, a Mechanic from Jade Metal-Lyman loaded to round out the initial squad. Officially he is considered a Warrant Officer in the IMAC. Furphy is killed by Buds soon after the unit enters West Africa when the IMAC are ambushed by Sinsemilla.
- Bruce Blakewood a playable main character, an O.C.U. lieutenant and a member of the IMAC in the years 2034 to 2035. Bruce was sent to the O.A.C. to fight in the African Conflict. He is the father of Willas E. Blakewood, and the grandfather of Natalie F. Blakewood. Bruce is also referenced in Front Mission Online.
- Peter Liquin - Playable character and commander of Platoon 02 (IMAC-02). An amicable person with a knack for calm judgement in battle. He's a Lieutenant in the SAUS Army.
- Manny Benisado - Playable character and second pilot in Platoon 02. Very intelligent and eats anything; Manny is a kind young man who has changed from his wild past ways, He's Sergeant in the SAUS Army
- Joe Onosai - Playable character and third pilot of Platoon 02, Joe is overly confident and matches it with his skill in a Wanderwagen, however his problematic behaviour can become conspicuous but rarely gets in the way of field action. He often jumps at targets the first change he gets in the field. He's a Corporal in the SAUS Army
- Norman Lights - Trainee Captain of the third Platoon (IMAC-03),whose squad is known for constant infighting. Norman is plagued by the two constantly and come's last to join the IMAC but at a valuable time. SAUS army affiliated first lieutenant.
- Braham Magnuson - Second member of third platoon, constantly squabbles with Max for almost no reason. He adores the blues and goes by the nickname Magnus, He's a Sergean in the SAUS Army.
- Max Baxternack - Third member of third platoon, Max is fowl mouthed and courageous, commonly hurling insults at his opponents. He frequently picks fights with Braham before the beginning of operations. He's a Corporal in the SAUS Army
- Chamili Philiita - First Lieutenant in the SAUS Army, Chamilli is incharge of the IMAC's helicopter support corp. Dedicated to resupplying them in the field of whatever necessary. Chamili takes immense pride in her ability to fight better than she can cook.
- Ide Sangohr - Commanding officer of the IMAC, Sangohr provides the team with briefing before every mission and words of encouragement to the unit. he is something of a father to his subordinates.
West African Liberation Front (WALF) Edit
- President Enco - President of the WA disposed when the UNAS invaded the country. Enco fights to retake WA from both the UNAS and Guineana, a small coastal country formed by the UNAS that eventually becomes a military regime, puppet of the north, and enemy of the OAC. He fights alongside Ireo, a loyal army commander and friend.
- Colonel Ireo - Head of WALF Military forces, Ireo pilots a Mobile Weapon with President Enco in tow, Ireo rescued Eugen and reveals he is key to turning the situation around politically.
- Eugen Borchest - playable character, pilot, engineer, and Warrant Officer in the IMAC, Eugen replaces Furphy in McCoy's squad. Initially delivering the TCK to IMAC forces in WA supporting the WALF's liberation of WA from the UNAS. He describes himself as an Ex-Schnecke engineer though quiet about the specifics. When the Player meets him he is helping the WALF.
Union of North African Union States(UNAS) Edit
- Chairman Jevar - Leader of the Union of North African States, in a desperate bid to maintain power, Jevar orchestrated the invasion of WA at the suggestion and supply of Gustav Zelman; deposing President Enco from power. Jevar is shown to be the most cruel of the African Leaders and serves as a minor antagonist, seeing little wrong in prolonging the conflict if it means his nation survives.
Guinieana Independent Government Edit
- Alexandre Giesenga -Dictator of the Guiniena Independent Government formed along the south coast of WA, Giesenga, while initially popular, proves to be a dictator and eventually turns his country into a military junta, Guineana is liberated before the IMAC turn towards the north.
Zaius Independent Government(ZAINGO) Edit
- Zias Chalmagima - Leader of the Zaius Independence movement and the public face of blame for the disturbances throughout Africa.He's known for his charisma and zeal, dominating the ZAINGO movement. He serves as something of a secondary antagonist to the Cerberus Garde of later chapters.
- Barry - Leader of the Bamia Mercenary team, if he had a past military career it is unknown. despite a lack of obvious military history he can pilot anything from helicoptors to armored cars, to wanderwagen.
- Mingos - A Member of the Bamia Mercenary team, his background is completely unknown. He's always cool even in the battlefield
- Andro - A Member of the Bamia Mercenary team, his background is also unknown but he is the youngest of the group and strives to learn
Sinsemilla Platoon Edit
- Tops - Leader of the Sinsemilla platoon from EC Germany, She is a mercenary referred to by her name, 'Jane' by teammates and pilots the Belladonna Tuned Atropa. Her full name is Mary-Jane Delschaft.
- Leaf - Gunner of the Sinsemilla Platoon born in the OCU, Leaf is very intelligent but seems mentally disturbed.Despite his ailment his ability in a wanderwagen is certain. His real name is Liebert Dwyer, He pilots the Discolor Tuned Datura
- Buds - A Sadist and 'Attacker' of the Sinsemilla Platoon from the USN. Buds takes immense pleasure in the pain of others going so far as to kill impulsively. He does so twice, attacking a ZAINGO envoy because of displeasure and killing Furphy. His real name is Bazely Stevins and pilots the Chloranta Tuned Datura.
Cerberus Garde Edit
- Gustav Zelman - Born in 1999, age 35, height 179cm; he is a significant member of Cerberus Garde publicly spoken of as an elite EC Special Operations unit really a cover and actually responsible for supplying the insurgents, rebels, and mercenary companies operating throughout Africa on behalf of Schnecke. Gustav previously lost both his legs in combat and uses prosthetics to walk, while this took him off the battlefield he continued to build a factory in the Union of North African States and become a merchant of death, using refugees as workers and Zaftran engineers as managers to manage the production line; he supplied conflict zones throughout the world with Schnecke built weapons.