Saturday 30 March 2013

Front Mission 3 Review

Front Mission 3 Review

DISCLAIMER: This is my favourite game of all time, so please excuse any outrageous favouritism!

Front Mission 3 is a strategy role-playing game released by Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) on the Playstation 1.

Originally released in Japan in 1999, it was the first of the series to receive official North American and European translations, both released in 2000. The game also in places bears a resemblance to a visual novel, where the story is progressed and explained through verbal interactions between characters.

Set in the year 2112, the Front Mission takes place in the real world, albeit one where nations have formed large power blocs, such as the Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU) in the pacific and the United States of the New Continent (USN) in the Americas and the Da Han Zhong Republic (DHZ) which represents a Chinese superpower.

The story revolves around two test pilots, Kazuki Takemura and Ryogo Kusama, who find themselves reluctantly embroiled in intrigue and conflict between the OCU, the USN and the DHZ when Kazuki's sister Alisha becomes involved in a plot to steal a newly developed weapon of mass destruction. Like many Square adventure titles of the time, there are many different characters to find and unlock and unusually two separate story-lines to play through, each from the opposing viewpoint of the other. Because of this, the game has good replay value.

The story itself isn't particularly gripping in terms of the direction it takes, being a fairly typical “War is bad and evil but we must BATTLE!” anti-war message, but the script varies wildly from the functional to the truly humorous and the personalities of the characters are nicely drawn out. In one cut-scene for example several enemy soldiers are discussing the imminent attack from the player's party; “I don't wanna die!” cries one. “Silence! We will stand here and fight!” orders the senior officer in his command mecha, “You're only brave because you have that,” says a third, pointing to the officer's huge machine “and you have that because your dad is the General!”.

The main part of the game is a turn based strategy where the player controls a team of up to four combat mecha known as Wanzers (a contraction of “Wanderung Panzer” or walking tank). Each character pilots their own Wanzer, but the choice of machine and how it is fitted with weapons is entirely up to the player. Arm, torso, leg and backpack components can be switched between Wanzers, and fitting particular parts allows different combinations of speed, power, capacity to mount weapons as well as granting the pilot the chance to learn special “Battle Skills”, which are signature special moves that increase the lethality or survival chances of the Wanzers in combat. The play style, which uses Action Points to determine how far a unit can move, how strong its attacks can be and if it can counter attack when threatened will be very familiar to players of games such as Advance Wars and the Tactics series of games, albeit without any unit creation during the scenario.

Missions are fairly standard for the genre including defending a friendly target from enemies or defeating all the enemies on the map. However, for its age and considering the limitations of the Playstation, the graphics of the battle scenes are fairly impressive. When selecting your units to move and attack, they are presented on a rotatable 3D map with animated sprites (a lot like the sprites from the original Front Mission on the SNES) but once you choose an Attack action, the camera zooms in and a fully 3D animated attack sequence is shown. Though the textures of the terrain and sometimes the Wanzers themselves can look quite pixellated and blocky, the animation of the robots is very smooth and the frame-rate rarely suffers. Each pilot even has their own victory pose animation when they destroy an enemy tank, helicopter or Wanzer. Infantry also play a small role, and very unusually for this type of game pilots can eject from their machines and take control of other abandoned units during the battle.

In regards to sound, which is often a key part of any Squaresoft game from the 1990s, the music itself varies from the well-written and enjoyable to the quite frankly mediocre. Though no track is so short as to be irritating, few of the tunes really stand out, though a standard “Squarism” is present in the music played at the successful completion of a mission which is upbeat and quite memorable.

This said, the sound effects in battle are very very well chosen, the Wanzer's actuators whirring as they move, the snap-snap-snap of a mecha-sized machine gun unloading into an enemy and the metallic crunch as one Wanzer fights in melee with another using a gigantic knuckle duster or military-grade pile-driver, even down to the smash as a limb breaks off or a mecha collapses to the ground defeated The sound effects in my opinion really add to the fun of the game, and are some of the best in any Playstation 1 game.

The game does have a lot of hidden depths beyond the story and strategy elements, including a psuedo-internet where the player can browse websites belonging to nations and corporations in the game, and cunning searching and hacking are rewarded with bonus parts for your Wanzers as well as many easter eggs. There's even an email system where the characters can send and receive information to and from non-player characters.
In summary, Front Mission 3 is a game which can reward perseverance and is recommended to fans of strategy games and mecha in general. Though the dialogue can be dry and long-winded at times, this isn't unusual in the genre, and the personalities of the characters shine through, if not particularly deeply.

The original PS1 disk is still available through Ebay and Amazon, though it can be pricey as it was not produced in large numbers in English, but for owners of the PS3 it was made available in the PSN store in 2010 and I recommend picking it up if turn-based strategy and giant robots are your thing.

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Bort_Malice. Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories. 

Friday 29 March 2013

If I think back 2 1/2 years, there was no retro gaming in my life.

If I think back 2 1/2 years, there was no retro gaming in my life. 
It was a thing of the past. 
The arcades of the 80's were a distant memory. Fast forward to the present and I have 5 pinball machines, 6 video arcade machines and I'm organising the North East's first ever retro gaming event - NERG!

I was born in 1969 and my first experience of a video game was a Space Invaders machine at the local youth club when I was about 11. From then on, it was gaming all the way! The first video console I had was an Atari 2600 and that's addiction started. Awww man, I loved that console.

From there the progression started. Upgrading every few years.

I used to go on day trips to Blackpool in the late 80's. Dare I say there were just too many arcades? I used to envy kids who lived in seaside resorts. All the money I earned being pumped into machines without a care in the world.

But as the years went on, home gaming got better and better and the arcades as we know it started to die out.

I lost touch with my 80's gaming for a long time.

My gaming consisted of sitting in front of a PC playing multiplayer Battlefield.....then a friend introduced me to an arcade collectors forum in June 2011. An arcade collectors forum? The arcade machines of the 80's and 90's still exist?

I remember flicking through the posts of the "Member's Machines" and just could not believe there were people out there that had video and pinball machines in their houses! And that's when it started all over again. I could actually own a piece of my arcade past! But it didn't have to be in the past anymore. My house can be an arcade!

Then in November 2012, NERG was born. I've got the arcade passion once more and I'm determined to bring the arcade back to more people out there. Bring the arcade of the past back to the present.

I've been in touch with collectors all over the country and so far, NERG with have at least 40 pinball machines, between 60 and 70 video arcade machines as well as 45 consoles and computers that we all grew up with. Bring your kids along and show them how you spent your youth and where gaming truely began. In big busy buildings, not the bedroom.

At NERG, there is an admission fee only. All the machines are set to free play! You can play the games as long as your fingers can take it.

But be warned....if the addiction comes back and you start buying machines, please don't hold me responsible :-)

Our GUEST blogger is Phillip Murphy - the great guy who LOVES all things RETRO and is the passion and brains behind NERG

Saturday 23 March 2013

The Bitmap Brothers - A THREE PART STORY (1)

The Bitmap Brothers

They also weren’t afraid of a bit of shameless self promotion, with promo shots featuring the team posing in shades and bomber jackets, one could easily be fooled into thinking they were rock-stars (they were often referred to as gaming’s KLF by the gaming press)

Whether you realise it or not, it’s likelythat anyone who grew up through the 80’s and 90’s will recognise something the Bitmaps have done, their games even featuring as part of live phone-in-and-play quizzes on Saturday morning telly (Xenon on ITV’s Get Fresh, and Magic Pockets on both BBC1’s Going Live and ITV’s Motormouth)

Background/Key Persons

Based in Wapping East London, the Bitmaps were founded by Mike Montgomery, Eric Matthews and Steve Kelly. 

Their early titles; Xenon and Speedball garnered some acclaim, but it was their respective sequels that blasted the Bitmaps to the top of the league; Xenon 2: Megablast with its thumping techno soundtrack (by electro producer Tim Simenon, aka Bomb The Bass), and Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe with its polished arcade style graphics and dystopian setting.

To escape the creative constraints imposed by publishers The Bitmaps craftily started to publish their own games under the mantle Renegade Software, and continued to thrill fans with Magic Pockets (their take on the ‘cutsey’ platformer which they somehow managed to stamp with an element of cool), Gods (ingenious puzzle-based platformer with amazingly detailed artwork), and steam-punk shooter The Chaos Engine (blunderbuss!).

Later release ‘Z’ although a solid RTS and great fun (building robot armies to crush the enemy), fell into the shadow of the hugely popular Command and Conquer, and despite spawning a sequel Z: Soldiers and spin-off World War II: Frontline Command, it never managed to generate the excitement or success of their earlier releases.

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Graham 'Bones' Jones.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories. We will carry on with Graham's Gaming Memories of the amazing BITMAP BROTHERS very soon....PART TWO NEXT WEEK!!

Chas & Dave in the new skool 21st Century!!

Chas & Dave are BACK!!

Wednesday 20th March 2013

Never mind horsemeat – the only thing on people’s minds the other night was Rabbit, as the mighty Chas and Dave performed what can only be described as a truly triumphant gig at the Wycombe Swan Theatre. 

These guys were absolute musical legends in the 80s, with their incredible blend of ‘cockney rock’ (or ‘Rockney’ as Chas & Dave called it).

Yes, they might both now be old enough to qualify for a free bus pass, but they’ve still got it when it comes to putting on a show. In a one and a half hour set they played all the classics – Margate…London Girls… The Sideboard Song… and of course, the afore-mentioned song about a lady that talks a lot.

While many artists from the 1980s have come and gone in haze of big hair and dodgy make up, Chas and Dave prove that men with big beards and catchy, cockney tunes still have that special something to cheer us all up, even in this post-noughties, iPad-wielding era. GERTCHA!

Watch the BBC4 documentary ‘Chas and Dave: Last Orders’ on YouTube now.

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Dave Washer.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories.

Dave Washer is a published writer, Head of Copy at and an all round 'diamond geeza'.

Catch Dave on Twitter:
and his own blog:

OCEANS CLASSICS - The Magnificent Seven - Part 2

Today I would like to linger on two great adventure titles from this collection: music band spin-off Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the cult title Head Over Heels.

Even though I've never been a fan of the band, I would play this just for the brilliant and omnipresent SID adaptations of their hits.

This is a real time machine for me... The loading screen features "Relax" in all its SIDly goodness, then we are dropped in a colourful, bizarre and apparently deserted Liverpool, where we are looking for the Pleasuredome.
We can loiter around, freely breaking into some stranger's house, using their telephone, opening their washing machine, kidnapping their cat, and each of this actions may allow us to jump into an alternate reality where we get to control Ronald Reagan's head in a spitting contest against Gorbachev's head, or to defend Liverpool from a Nazi attack. This all brings us closer to the Pleasuredome and makes us a more "real person" for absolutely no reason.

That made no sense to the little kid I was at the time, but I just could not stop playing this game - and I still can't!

And now, let's leave Liverpool and head to Blacktooth as we fire up........

... Head Over Heels in our Datassette!

What can I say that has not been already said about this game? "Original" is not enough to define it: it is strange, surreal, psychedelic, completely out of this world.

We take control of two characters (already an original concept at the time), exploring room after room, dealing with Doctor Who-inspired robots, shooting doughnuts and solving puzzles.

No amount of words would be enough to define this game, so I would suggest to go back in time yourself by getting the free Windows remake 

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Fabio Naprossen.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Guest Blog - a generation of games I loved

For me, it all started in the late 1970's, when my dad bought one of those home entertainment versions of Pong, with all different kinds of sports, like hockey and tennis.
We played the hell out of it, I think it's difficult to understand for kids these days how we could have so much fun with only one ball (cube) and a few lines on screen.

I was growing up with Space Invaders, Pacman, Donkey Kong, Q-Bert and Galaxians and Phoenix at the arcade machines, and I remember playing the handheld game Gunfighter at the toy department of the supermarket, until my mom came to pick me up. 

One day I got a Sinclair ZX-81, or rather the equivalent Timex 1000. We even had the same computer in our electronics class at school. So when at school, we had to put in some basic commands, to create some loop, boring stuff in my opinion.
 I was more interested in the gaming aspect of the machine, so what did I do?
I had some magazines at home, like Happy Computer (coming from Germany) and Sinclair user....or was it your Sinclair? (Don't remember exactly, memories faded).

Anyway, I took these magazines with me in class, and as the others were trying to find the key-combinations (ZX81 connaisseurs will know what I mean), I started to type in some of these listings from the mags 
20 minutes before class was ending, the whole class was gathering around my table, staring at the screen, screaming "Let me try, now it's my turn!" Even the teacher wanted to steer that.... spaceship (built from three blocks), and destroy the aliens (one block). Can you imagine? 

At home, I had an advanced version of the ZX81, the 16K expansion! that was a whole lot more than the 1K standard.
It only had one problem, when typing those programs, and before it was saved on tape (Aaahh, the mono tape recorder, with those cassette tapes, and the counter to remember where wich program was saved!), when my mom called me for supper, it could happen that when touching my desk too hard, everything was lost.

The 16K expansion didn't have the best contacts, it didn't even help cleaning them, or trying to change position.
 I also tried taping the damn thing to the computer.
 Nothing helped.
I mentioned the keys before, each key had three or four possible combinations, you had to press another key first, to get some kind of black & white combination of blocks on screen.
 Did I say press? well you couldn't really "press" a key on the keyboard, because the keys weren't really keys, and the keyboard wasn't really a keyboard also.
The keyboard is a 'touch sensitive membrane', a flexible plastic surface with the actual switches under the surface. 
Amazing when you think about it now!

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Coen Velden.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories. 

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Guest Blog - NES days gone by....

Some people remember the first time they first rode their bike without stabilisers some people remember their first car. Me? I remember my first console

I remember ripping open the Christmas paper to reveal the box for the Nintendo Entertainment System, it looked magnificent! The two stickers on it let me know it came with Super Mario 3! I was so excited, I never wanted to open the other presents, I just wanted to play my new console. Sadly I would have to wait until the rest of the presents were open. As soon as i could, I got my dad to help me connect it up to the TV. Switching it on and seeing it load up to SM3, was perhaps the greatest thing I had ever seen, it looked so great, so crisp, so mesmerising.

 There is very little I remember of that Christmas, other than my new NES, everything else seemed so insignificant. This was the first time I had ever played a computer game, I wondered how I had went so long without this joy. Using the control pad to make Mario jump on the Koopa's and save the Princess, made me feel so in control.

It felt like I was a Knight of old, on my own quest to save the damsel in distress. The colours of the game seemed so bright, the graphics so smooth and refined. Even when I look at how real games look these days, when I switch on SM3, it still looks so perfect.

Over the years I have played through my NES games many many times, it still remains a permanent feature of my living room. I have never really felt that the console has got dated, to me it is as relevant as it did the day i got it. When I pick up the controller these days, a flood of memories rush through my brain. I remember on the last day of Primary School, I fell of my bike & fractured my skull - spent weeks in hospital, though it seemed to fly by.

The children's ward in the hospital had a NES in the rec room, though only one game, Duck Hunt. I spent most days in there all day shooting the computer ducks with the light gun , it relaxed me and made me forget that I was spending my last summer before High School, stuck in a hospital. Some people read to relax, some people go for a nap. Me? I become a plumber and go save the Princess! -

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Stang.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories.

Friday 8 March 2013

Why do YOU love games?

Why do YOU love games?

One thing we love at GamesYouLoved is the gameplay of course. But it's about the people who really care about the games like us too...  

We really enjoy talking about every aspect of gaming with our friends in the UK and overseas because it's fun, a passion, and something that no-one can take away from us.  It's part of who we are.

Why 'games' some might ask? We will have to ask our audience perhaps - it's a good starting point! 

For us (if you would like to know!) it's for many many different reasons. Of course GamesYouLoved isn't just about us - it's about everyone - but our energy and drive is:

- all about playing, having fun, being competitive...the reasons of why we love the gaming/playing side goes on and on!

- we like most things you like from any genre - video, arcade, handheld, board games, traditional - open to everything and like finding about new stuff we don't know about too!

- gaming mixes up all kinds of creative outputs; TV, Movies, Cartoons, Comics, Music, Art - just about anything

- the memories - seeing a game that you have forgotten about is a very good feeling - it takes you back and makes you smile, laugh and just enjoy what were great times...then...and now!

And its something we can share and talk about...which is very cool. For the last 3 or 4 months that's what we've been doing on Twitter (as little) and Facebook (a little more). With our website coming very soon now, we want to try and make this a really exciting journey for us and everyone who joins us.

We hope you enjoy it too...and thanks 

The GamesYouLoved Team