I have to confess: the main reason I played this game because I’m a total nerd for all things Mega Man. Surely, there was no way a turn-based RPG about Mega Man X could be any good, right? Well, to my surprise, the game was not an absolute train-wreck. I guess that’s understandable, since it was made by Capcom’s Production Studio 3 – the development team behind the long-running Breath of Fire series. That doesn’t mean, however, that the game is great by any stretch.
There’s this place called Giga City – an artificial set of islands – made for mining Force Metal, some sort of metal that enhances the power of Reploids (robots with wills of their own). Some of the reploids on the island went Maverick – a catch-all word in the MMX series for ‘reploid terrorist’ – and launched a rebellion. So, the Federation Government – some unexplained, world-scale government – sends in a few recon teams, all of which go MIA after a very short time span. Finally, the Federation sends in Maverick Hunters Mega Man X, Zero, and Shadow, in a last ditch effort to quell the rebellion before having no choice but to launch an indiscriminate attack on the city. X and co. find Epsilon at their landing point, Shadow defects to the Rebellion (with a name like Shadow, did you expect anything less?), and Epsilon and co. attack Zero and send him flying far off the top of the building. X has no choice but to escape on his own. From that point, he meets members of the Resistance, whom he helps in fending off the Rebellion army.
You can probably level a number of complaints on this story before you even get to the meat of it. What were the rebels rebelling against? Mining? Couldn’t they have protested, or gone somewhere else? You eventually find out their motives at the end, but even then, it’s a stupid name for them. Also, isn’t it odd that the good guys are called the Resistance? Rebellion and Resistance both imply action independent from a local authority, don’t they? It sounds like they should be the exact same group! Shouldn’t the Resistance be called the Giga City Defense Force, or something? In any case, having to remember that the words “Rebellion” and “Resistance” are diametrically opposed is very hard at the beginning of the game.
Admittedly, though, picking on the story of a Mega Man X game is sort of unfair, because the stories have never set a high bar for themselves, nevermind the fact that the game is a dungeon crawler. Surprisingly, though, Command Mission’s story succeeds in being much more interesting than the sophomoric, angsty narratives of the platformer installment. It just happens to mess up in some really bad ways, too. The most important bad plot points are the big plot twists at the end of the game, which render just about everything that happens in the game inept, false, or contradictory. The extent to which a mere two or three revelations at the end completely destroy the otherwise passable story is amazing…in a bad way.
You didn’t expect the story about Mega Man X to be riveting, anyways! The problem is that the game sort of sprinkles badness all over the place. For one, the cel-shaded graphics are hideous. It’s weird to see the graphics devolve compared to Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, a game released by Capcom before Command Mission. Don’t get me wrong – for what they were going for (3D anime cartoon style), cel-shading was the way to go; however, it looks really muddy, and the colors bleed all over the place. The result is a distorted look, only a few notches up from Killer7 – a game which used cel-shading to create a demented, distorted look on purpose. The music is thoroughly mediocre techno/electronic music. Some of the tracks are really good, but almost every song in the game loops before sixty seconds even pass. Also, a lot of it feels really inappropriate for the atmosphere of Mega Man X.
But hey, who cares, right? It’s Mega Man X! Who cares if the graphics are a little subpar, and that the music missed the mark? The core of any Mega Man game is the gameplay – that’s the only thing that needs to be great!
The verdict: It’s alright. MMX Command Mission is a turn-based dungeon-crawler RPG. Combat is turn-based, but turns are determined by speed, rather than selecting all your characters’ actions at once (similar to Final Fantasy 10). You can switch characters in and out during battle, another neat addition. There’s also “Weapon Energy”, which is like a regenerative version of “MP”, used for character-specific attacks, and subweapons – actions additional to your attack which deal extra damage, increase parameters, et cetera.
One of my favorite additions is the classification of attack types: There’s shot attacks and combat (melee) attacks. Some attacks work better on certain enemies than others, and this is where most of the game’s strategy comes from. The last important gimmick of Command Mission is Final Strikes, which allow you to kill an enemy if an attack brings them to 20% of its remaining HP. Getting a Final Strike will give 25% weapon energy back to whoever initiated the Final Strike, as well as bonus Force Metal Energy, a currency used for creating Force Metal (accessories) – another neat addition.
The combat certainly has a lot of neat ideas thrown together; it could be the making of a really great game. But, here’s the reason why this game is just ‘alright’: Mega Man X: Command Mission is an outstanding example of why 3D RPGs need to have significantly lower encounter rates than 2D RPGs.
Think about it: It would take longer to traverse a landscape realized in 3D than the same one realized in 2D, right? That being said, if you get in a random battle on an average of every eight seconds of walking in an RPG, this isn’t nearly as bad if you’re playing a 2D RPG, as opposed to a 3D RPG. Do you know what the average is in Command Mission? TWO seconds! That’s not even hyperbole; you truly get into random battles every two to three seconds on average. I ran from almost every random battle after about the 60% mark through the game, because I was so tired of the neverending battles.
There are other problems, of course. There are no healing items in the game: There’s a unique system where you heal 25, 50, or 100% HP to either one or all party members, and it uses a certain amount of healing reserves that you have at the start of every dungeon. As a result, you’re either forced to use the ‘healer’ character a lot, or be penny-ante about healing your party members for the entire game.
On top of that, random battles are just plain slow. When you take into account that random battles occur every two seconds in the later parts of the game, it just seems unfair that the battles are made to last 2-4 minutes long. If you don’t run from battle, it can take five minutes to run through a damn hallway! What the hell!?
Still, none of these points would even be an issue if the random encounter rate weren’t so intensely high. It’s sad to see the game get bogged down by something that could have been rectified so very easily. The funny thing is, Command Mission is a pretty short RPG - you can finish it in about twenty hours at the most. Usually, with a game that keeps things simple across the board, like Command Mission, being short keeps the game from feeling like it’s dragging on, being beneficial to the game overall. However, the encounter rate is so stifling that you’ll be sick of the game long before it’s over, even though it’s relatively short.
Who on earth can I recommend this game to? It seems silly to recommend it to fans of the MMX series, since turn-based RPGs are about as far away as you can get from the usual sidescrolling, platformer action of the rest of the games. Maybe people who enjoy the combat of the Breath of Fire games, since Command Mission isn’t much more than a logical evolution of those gameplay ideas. I guess if you, like me, are just a sucker for any game related to Mega Man, then give Mega Man X: Command Mission a go. I warn you, though: It’s not going to be pretty.