(Articles in the Ramble Ral section are presented “as is” with minor editing. For more information please see its section page. They will probably contain spoilers for the game in question)
I finished FMW 1. It was… interesting.
I think the best way I can describe the game is if someone decided to make an SRW with mostly low-powered player units (as opposed to most people wanting SRW to have Ideon, Getter Emperor and Dis Astragant side by side) with the sole exception of Amuro Reimu. I guess Marisa/Alice can be Kamille and Quattro in pre-Biosensor Z Gundam and Hyaku Shiki in this analogy and the rest of your party consists of 5 clones of Roberto/Apolly and a Methuss.
And even though Reimu is way powerful than the rest of the cast and brain-dead easy to use, she’s still no Banpresios or Tekkaman Hiver.
A lot of abusable stuff from the standard SRW games are nerfed in this game. Off the top of my head, Guard only cuts damage into half, not 3/4 and I’ve had Nitori die a couple of times when a boss got off a lucky crit at the wrong moment (with 3/4 Guard I don’t think this will ever happen), and concepts like multi-pilot units don’t exist.
Because everyone is so low-powered and most characters are essentially sub-par non-Newtype reals, there is a surprising amount of mechanics that are relevant in this game that weren’t in regular SRW for a long time. Things such as blind spots in weapon ranges (both you and the enemy and really having to spend SP properly to survive. It does make some Spirit Commands really niche though. It’s hard to use stuff like Cheer when you need the SP to cast Trust to survive.
Despite everyone being low-powered in general, I think the tier list isn’t as striking as it is in other SRW games, because it feels like there’s some sort of design to the units, like how Cirno dies to swarms of mooks or multiple bosses, but is excellent at whittling down singular strong bosses. Rumia’s gimmick didn’t quite work out though – it’s hard to bait just enough people to attack her but not kill her outright so you can use Vigor on your turn due to her sub-par Super build.
Terrain sort of matters, not much in the tradition sense since everyone can fly (but sometimes you want to land to take advantages of a forest) but Danmaku fields makes positioning really important. Setting up support formations is a lot harder than most SRWs when certain squares have bigger penalties than others in a spell card.
There are some really weird things that the game does that kind of shake things up on what people would expect from SRW: For example, there are absolutely no resupply units in FMW 1. The only way to restore MP would be to use a consumable item, and unlike SRW they are extremely stingy on giving you those.
Since the game is only 15 missions, stage design is very strong past the early tutorial missions. Not once in the game did I feel that the missions is just “a big square box with random smattering of enemies.” Also, while this game uses Battle Masteries, it doesn’t have any silly Time Limit BMs where you have to use psychic powers to predict where reinforcements will appear, which I like.
Bosses in this game are great. They can kill you fast, almost always have some gimmick you need to get around but you can also kill them just as fast if you know what you’re doing, as opposed to Banpresto’s “let’s multiply HP by a billion times, that makes a good boss!” If I had to criticize them I guess it would be that since Danmaku fields really cut down on your unit movement (even when focused), it sometimes feels like you have to memorize patterns in advance and put your units into place before the spell card triggers or you’ll have a hard time doing it.
I think the biggest weakness of FMW 1 would be the between stages strategic layer of the game. Resources are given to you as if they were balanced for a much longer game, but the difficulty curve is set as if it was a standalone game. There isn’t really enough money/item drops to feel like you’re making a difference during Intermissions. The end result is that Chapter 15 feels like you’re trying to take on the R-Gun Rivale with MP Gespensts. I guess no-upgrade players would feel right at home.
Importing my data to FMW 2 I see that all upgrades made on weapons and skills have been refunded because they got revamped, so I guess the devs knew it wasn’t a strong point. In retrospect, weapon upgrades were way too expensive for no good reason.
On a game design sort of side, I prefer Marisa as the main character because she actually gets a bunch of upgrades throughout the game and have to jump through hoops to unlock her full potential, such as the need to be superglued to Alice 24/7 due to her lack of Focus spirit command despite being a real. And yet in the end she’s still worse than Reimu (who basically doesn’t really change much throughout the game) and personally I kind of think that anything that makes you jump through hoops should be more rewarding than something that’s easy to use.