What does Mega Man have to do with Dragons? Find out...
In early 2003, Capcom released a remarkable sequel to its popular Breath of Fire series on the PlayStation 2. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter would be remembered by its fans for its amazing depth of gameplay, beautiful story arcs and endearing characters. It was one of the most strategic, challenging, and absorbing gaming experiences to be released this generation. Unfortunately, the game was ill received on both sides of the Pacific, due to its level of difficulty and the fact that it played like no other Breath of Fire game.
So, what does a PS2 game have to do with a new Mega Man RPG? Simple. Both games were created by the same team, and as such, many fans of Dragon Quarter were eagerly anticipating the Command Mission project. The question was whether the DQ team would be able to make lightning strike twice. The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Mega Man X: Command Mission puts you in the role of X, who has been sent with Zero and Shadow to do a recon mission within Giga City. Giga City was built when the government discovered a new kind of material known as “Force Metal” that can improve and evolve a Reploid’s abilities. As always, something goes wrong and a group called “The Rebellion Army” has made Giga City its base. Epsilon, the rebel group’s leader has evidently gone maverick and (of course) it’s up to X and friends to stop him.
Command Mission features some of the nicest cel-shading this side of Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen 2. Character models are high quality, and the shadows work nicely to give them a clean animé look. Backgrounds, though using Gouraud shading, still manage to match the feel of the X universe, with heavy industrial influences and metal walls as far as the eye can see. Animations are well done for the most part, though occasionally a movement will look awkward.
In terms of presentation, however, Command Mission has problems. Though the game features a flashy CG-rendered trailer, the actual in-game cut-scenes are anything but. Much of the time characters merely stand on the screen without any animation while they speak. In the most important of plot points the scene has some action, but even then it mainly has to do with X standing with his arm cannon at the ready while talking to his enemy.
Yes, all of the cut-scenes are voiced. With Capcom’s choice of a localization team, this is not a good thing. Hearkening back to the early 32-bit days of Mega Man 8, the voice acting in Command Mission must be heard to be believed. To say it is terrible is a marked understatement. The actors cannot be completely put to blame, as the material they are working with would make the script writers of Bad Dudes blush with shame. Dialogue hasn’t been this bad since the Engrish-happy days of the NES. But Engrish, at least, can be mildly amusing. The voices in this game will make anyone want to turn off the sound and listen to something else while playing, which is a shame, since the actual soundtrack for Command Mission is actually quite good. The game is even encoded to take advantage of Dolby Pro Logic II and sounds excellent (sans voice) on a 5.1 capable system.
The truly disappointing aspect of Mega Man X: Command Mission is how poorly the game plays in comparison to the team’s earlier effort. Enemies are met via random encounters, and the battle system in Command Mission is boring. Three characters fight enemies on a static background and have a few basic options. Each character can equip one “Main” weapon and two “Sub” weapons, such as elemental Missiles or the ability to steal items. While your “Main” weapon (such as X’s blaster) is free to use, Weapon Energy is required to utilize the Sub-Weapons, which are mapped to X and Y. Weapon Energy is recharged at the beginning of every turn. In addition, each character has a unique “Trigger Action” which becomes available when WE is 50% or higher. X’s Trigger Action is his familiar charged blaster shot, which hits all enemies on screen.
In addition, each character has a special form called “Hyper Mode” in which he dons a super-special fortified armour. Basically, in this game, he is a Dragon (for those who have played Breath of Fire games). For a few turns, his stats have been doubled and he can unleash massive damage. X’s Hyper Form even has a different Trigger Action, which deals concentrated damage to one enemy. Finally, if a party member manages to deal 75% damage of an enemy’s remaining HP, the game will then go into “Final Strike” mode. By mashing the A, Y and X buttons, all three of your characters will jump up and launch a rather overdone attack on the enemy. The higher the combo, the higher the damage, and the character who triggered the Final Strike will gain a significant amount of WE for the next turn.
While all of this sounds great on paper, battles quickly turn boring, as there’s no challenge or strategy to fighting hordes of maverick Reploids. Final strikes are particularly useless, as they only occur when your foe is nearly destroyed anyway. Dungeons, though having decent art direction, suffer from generic and simplistic layouts. Corridors, hallways, and rooms all seem rather familiar, even if they have a new coat of paint. Worst of all, X no longer gains the ability of the bosses he defeats. Now, it’s up to Axl to use his Action Trigger ability to morph into previously defeated bosses to get that effect.
Not everything is horrible. The Sub-tank system not only works well, but it also takes elements out of the Mega Man universe. Essentially, you have Sub-tanks that can be used to heal the party in and out of battle. Once all of the Sub-tanks have been used up, there is no way to refill them without resting. The only problem is that players will rarely find themselves needing to heal much outside of boss battles.
The Force Metal system is somewhat like an alternate armour system. By equipping Force Metal onto slots, X and friends can gain special abilities like resistance to elements or status ailments or raising certain stats. Later in the game it becomes possible to forge new Force Metals by combining certain items together. Unfortunately, while the game’s plot revolves around the use and abuse of Force Metals, there’s no significant use to equipping all but the most basic FMs.
It’s very hard to go from a brilliant game like Dragon Quarter to an extremely average Mega Man-themed RPG. Only the most fanatical of the Blue Bomber’s followers or younger players will be remotely interested in this game. It’s very regrettable, because the team behind this mess clearly has too much talent to be wasted.