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Mega Man X: Command Mission (PlayStation 2) artwork

Mega Man X: Command Mission (PlayStation 2) review

"Not to spoil anything, but this is a tragedy festival."

Realtalk here: Command Mission wasn’t nearly as fun or as amazing as the fans seem to remember. No, it wasn’t even as good it looked, and as it happens it still looks pretty good. What it did, though, was exist when Capcom was beginning to let down the franchise with aimless shots in the dark. What is good about it?

It sure wasn’t the voice acting. The Ocean Group brought their particular brand of charm to the project, and by that I mean less than top grade performance. They’re consistent, but we’re not talking about emotionally compelling work, here. At least we get more actors than in previous localizations, such as Megman X4, and less screaming.

It’s typical of a wandering franchise to experiment with other genres when it gains a certain amount of momentum and lacks an overarching focus. No, saving the world from Mavericks (violent, rebellious Reploids) does not constitute a concise storyline. X has had his throw in the sand, and is now a champion of peace by means of violence. X and Zero have to work up the verve, somehow, to be our leads in this haphazard Japanese Role Playing Game. Don’t be surprised at your deja vu, it just isn’t worth the effort.

The tile and menu of Command Mission are worrisome indicators that this game is on shaky limbs, narratively speaking. I can’t think of a single RPG that opened with its strongest boss fight music playing in the background while you casually decide what menu item to choose. It gets worse before it gets better, in spite of the rousing 3D animated opening cinematic.

Giga City is in peril. What is Giga City? A home for Reploids, but you’ll not find a single corpse amid the destruction. Apparently some unscheduled or unauthorized Reploids have been built, and things are terribly bleak for the locals. Uh, what locals you ask? No, you won’t, and I didn’t, because X, Zero and some unknown are on the screen. Yay! Let’s see what they’ve been doing since X7.

X is in charge of the Maverick Hunters. Or he’s the top ranked hunter? Which is it? Maybe both? Anyway, Zero is his usual gruff self, though he’s a little upbeat sounding for my taste. It’ll do, he looks cool enough. What is it with X’s armor, though? Why the new yellow and white detailing? The laser scarf should have been a keeper, but word has it this all happened in an alternate universe. I guess that’s pretty useful in case the game isn’t popular. Sigh.

Running around X’s world with an over the shoulder perspective works pretty well most of the time, and the camera doesn’t get hung up on anything. Dashing around everywhere is neat. Technically there’s some polish here, but Massimo’s butt hanging loose after every attack is just another reason to bench him. Especially when the extra damage his “super tough armor” takes isn’t enough, because it is.

Not to spoil anything, but this is a tragedy festival. There are two rebellions, as if the story were actually that coherent. The only group that matters, ultimately, is the team that X and Zero are on, so whoever fights against them needs to die. Or be retired. Or whatever they want to call it. The central theme seems to be “what if you could lose everything?” It’s relatable, if not completely overdone, but here’s an RPG about super fighting robots.

Oh, now I suppose you’re wondering about this fellow Massimo. He’s The Big Guy, and has an embarrassing backstory. Sort of. Then there’s The Chick, Marino, a pink armored stealth ninja, because that’s super sneaky. Y’might as well get to know Cinnamon, The Medic, a cutesy loli nurse warrior, and The Other Lancer, Spider. He’s a rogue desperado type who’s pitched as being too cool for this game, except he’s tryharding. So’s the plot in which he is entwined. Grumble.

He bluffs too hard, and so does the story when it tips its hand. Invariably the response to plot twists will be: “Yeah, I thought so.” I guess that’s okay, but no, because I just used that word it really isn’t. “Okay” is not sufficient for a world threatening storyline. I’m not sure why exactly it is that JRPGs tend to suffer this debilitating weakness, but it is the stuff of TV Tropes. You’re going to eyeball the final boss in his optics and blast right through to the end of this forgettable tale.

So, given all of its foibles, what did this game do well? Combat is entertaining, and when we’re talking about the world’s most popular fighting robot, that is an absolute must. Turn based combat is about tension, not adrenaline, so temper your expectations. This interpretation of turn based combat is strategically layered, thoughtful and not all button-mashy like its platforming cousins. That’s a good thing. The crazy random happenstance of battles here needs to be good because there are going to be a lot of them.

As expected, each of our heroes has a unique ability: X’s buster can be charged for massive damage, Zero is a melee combo master with his beamsaber, Axl (as annoying as ever) can imitate the attacks of defeated bosses, and then there are the Extras. Six characters in total round out your posse, and for the most part they’re clones of the regular cast so you can balance combat effectively. Marino emulates Zero with a pair of daggers, Massimo does the team a solid and absorbs some damage while dishing out some with his giant hammer. Cinnamon, meanwhile, is the dedicated team healer. She can go goth for a while and heal even better, but… sexualized robots is not a good thing.

As we’re on the cusp of dealing with that for real, Japan’s unfettered willingness to sexualize everything runs aground here. Every female has the same body type, whereas “male” Reploids vary according to their job requirements. Capcom never ventures into what makes Reploids so individual compared to the commonplace NPC who hand out flavour text like its going out of style. It’s actually debasing, and when you’re trying to build a world and have limited resources, what gets attention does not go unnoticed. They missed a real opportunity to explore core issues, which is something Megaman Zero doesn’t seem wary of.

Meanwhile, aforementioned special abilities are tapped with Action Triggers that have a counter which can be reset with items or when by sleeping. They sleep? Not sure, but there are many questions this game does not answer. X and Zero gain access to special armors that will increase their damage output and decrease their damage intake. Then there are equipable sub weapons and ability granting force metals. These are – apparently – meteorites from space that also make Reploids sick. Your heroes have a fixed tolerance that increases as they level, so that’s a balancing act that can have a useful impact on your combat proficiency.

Command Mission suffers on so many levels that the music should be a buffer. Unfortunately, what is normally a safe zone for RPGs straddles the uncomfortable question of how to score a robot civil war. It seems Capcom decided that music ‘Running in the 90s’ style would suit it best. Oh yes, and that is a polarizing selection. Most of the time it’s entirely too energetic, and its take on tragic themes is in a word ‘unfortunate’.

Should I be crying here? I should be crying, that poor lunk is in pieces. But I’m not. The reality is we’re not fans of the X franchise because if its emotional bandwidth. We’re here because some Reploids are bad and need to be blasted to smithereens. If the combat were lame then this game would have been a total write-off, but what we’ve got here is a lackluster example of too much effort spent on a meandering adventure that plays okay. Which is regrettable because everyone’s so competent about it.

As this game was published for Nintendo’s GameCube and the PlayStation 2, it is possible to pick it up second hand, and even… shh… emulate it if your rig is beefy enough to handle demands of such an emulator. It is worth a playthrough? Oddly enough, yes, because it is a solidly built game, but don’t expect to have your little doors blown off. Everything here has been done before in the flesh, and better, besides.


hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (September 27, 2017)

Just when you least expected it, here's a guy who reviews games that are either awesome, moderate, or abysmal, depending on the score. Oh wait.

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