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Mega Man X: Command Mission (GameCube) artwork

Mega Man X: Command Mission (GameCube) review


"This isnít the first Mega Man RPG, but it is the first Mega Man RPG that hasnít used weird some weird card system or had grids to move around on or wasnít a blatant Pokťmon knockoff. In Command Mission you play as X, robot fighter extraordinaire, hunter of the rogue reploids known as Mavericks. If youíve been playing Mega Man X games for a while, you probably have this history memorized; from what I can tell, itís just a continuation of the main series. I wouldnít know because, again, Iím not good at the games and havenít dug deep into the storyline. And, again, I donít really need to. Command Missionís plot is extremely linear and self-contained. "



I used to be good at Mega Man.

I could beat them in a couple of hours. I could defeat most bosses on the first try. Hidden levels? I found them. Secret paths? Uncovered every last one. Call it youthful vigor, call it a prodigyís mad skill, call it whatever you want, but I was damn good.

Then I got into RPGs. Ten years later, Iím doing good to make it past Mega Man X's first level. My reflexes are crap, plain and simple. But thatís the good thing about Mega Man X: Command Mission: I donít really need them.

This isnít the first Mega Man RPG, but it is the first Mega Man RPG that hasnít used weird some weird card system or had grids to move around on or wasnít a blatant Pokťmon knockoff. In Command Mission you play as X, robot fighter extraordinaire, hunter of the rogue reploids known as Mavericks. If youíve been playing Mega Man X games for a while, you probably have this history memorized; from what I can tell, itís just a continuation of the main series. I wouldnít know because, again, Iím not good at the games and havenít dug deep into the storyline. And, again, I donít really need to. Command Missionís plot is extremely linear and self-contained.

It introduces you to the main characters: X and Zero. Good reploids.

It tells you what they do for a living: Hunt bad reploids, the Mavericks.

It brings up the bad guys: Commander Epsilon and his forces.

Then it drops you out in the middle of a dark and stormy night for a stealth mission, things go horribly and predictably wrong, and thatís the end of chapter one.

Notice, thatís chapter one: Unlike most RPGs that go straight through, Command Mission strives for an episodic format with missions spanning all over Giga City, nodding and winking towards the traditional Mega Man X way. A chapter starts, you pop up in home base, buy what you need, get filled in on the current situation, get beamed to the enemy dungeon and fight your way towards the boss. Always the way. Youíll never be asked to look around for beads to a necklace. Youíll never have to worry about which town you should be at or which house you should be looking in so a cutscene will start up. No questions. Linear.

But that doesnít mean Command Mission is easy; just like its platforming brothers, this is anything but a smooth ride. Regular enemies wear you down with frequency and sheer power; the encounter rateís fairly high and even the weakest enemies have the dirtiest tricks. Healing, replication, poisoning, stealing health, impenetrable defenses and devastating attacks all keep you guessing; rare is the fight that you can just tap a few buttons and move on from. Youíll need strategy.

Thereís always a boss waiting at the end of the madness, but it just wouldnít be a Mega Man boss if the fight wasnít a fierce, skin-of-the-teeth melee where the slightest miscalculation means death; even I remember that much about the series. No exception here. Silver Horn summons a wave to crush the party, Wild Jango lights the entire with his electric strikes, even the seemingly sappy Dr. Psyche sheds his nerdy exterior, transforming into a giantÖfloatingÖ robotÖfishÖthing thatís every bit as powerful as it is ridiculous. Dumb names and even dumber designs aside every boss pulls you through the wringer; chances are, even at your best, youíll lose to them once. Or twice. Or three times. Or as many times as it takes for you to see the tools at your disposal and realize how they can best be used.

Seven characters. Itíll take a few chapters to get them all, but before long youíll have the full magnificent seven to choose from. X and Zero head the pack, naturally, and the gun-toting, body-morphing Axl joins them soon enough. But four others round things out, new to the series.

The reploid nightingale: Cinnamon

The gambling soldier-of-fortune: Spider.

The quick witted and quicker moving ninja-thief: Marino

The lumbering giant with dreams of being a hero: Steel Massimo.

Theyíve each got their own little plots going, they have some character development, and while Command Mission focus on gameplay above all things, a few scenes are almost to the point of being touchingÖbut then the game remember that this is Mega Man, not Final Fantasy, and promptly blows something up.

And there are so many ways to blow things up. Mad customization; you can equip missiles, laser, energy cannons and a wide array of science-fiction fair, tweaking and tuning till the party meets your needs.

There are so many ways to blow things up, too. Mad customization; you can equip missiles, laser, energy cannons and a wide array of science-fiction fair, tweaking and tuning till the party meets your needs. There's no magic, no spells here; just robots tearing apart other robots with the finest tech available and the most inventive ways for putting them to use. Like when you fire Xís famous Charge Shot in the classic way; holding the X button and releasing when the powerís full. Or when Spider breaks out his deck and lets the cards decide his move; the power, elemental force and frequency of his attack determined by the hand you chose. Or even when Axl puts his morphing powers to work and transforms into any boss youíve defeated so far; staying in the form long enough to lay out their strongest attack.

These attacks are called the Action Triggers, and each character has his own unique way of doing them with unique effects, making battle much more than just selecting from menus. And this isnít even delving into each characterís Hyper Mode; you can power them up to extreme levels for a certain number of turns, raising their strength exponentially, enough muscle to crush even the heartiest boss...if you do it at the right time, when thereís no chance heíll dodge or block or become immune, as these bosses are wont to do.
Translation: The enemies have some advantages. So do you. The trick is to use yours in ways that offset theirs, and itís that sort of intensity and stratagem that makes Command Mission such a grinding experience.

I was a casual Mega Man X fan before I played Command Mission and, really, that hasnít changed. Iím more familiar with the universe than I was, but Iím not impressed. Thatís okay; itís obvious that the focus lies with the battle system, and thatís where the appeal lies. Itís innovative. Itís deep. It encourages experimentation and rewards with sweet victory. It gives Mega Man X a new spin, but keeps close to the roots. The result is a game that bridges a gap between two radically different styles of play; the unrelenting fury of Mega Man X with the unyielding strategy of a well-done RPG.

Itís all the better for it.


Rating: 7/10

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Staff review by Zack Little (September 30, 2006)

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