Full Review: I think the world needs another Mega Man sports game...
Capcom has had Mega Man doing double duty all year long. First, they trotted out his retro self for the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. Later this year, the X series will get another face lift as Mega Man X8 will return the series to 2D. But in between those two projects Capcom has released the first turn-based RPG in the Mega Man universe with Mega Man X: Command Mission.
The storyline is your basic small band of rebel fighters try to reclaim their country from the evil warlord, but with a Mega Man twist. In this case, the citizens of Gigantis have created a powerful substance called Force Metal that gives special abilities to reploids. They have tried to gain their independence from the Federation, but a Maverick known as Epsilon has instigated a revolt to keep all of the Force Metal for himself and other Mavericks. Naturally, X and Zero are dispatched to take care of this Resistance and join with the Rebellion to stop it. I'm not sure how the Resistance and the Rebellion are on two different sides, but they are, just go with it.
After the story it's amazing how well the gameplay of Command Mission fits into the standard RPG mold while at the same time being very linear with it's chapter system of advancing through levels. At the beginning of every chapter X is sent on a mission to reclaim a piece of land or rescue a character and things like backtracking, side quests, exploration and the level grind are not present in Command Mission at all.
The Mega Man twist to RPGs shows up as soon as you enter one of these chapters and begin the fighting. Each character can be customized with loads of different gadgets. When a random encounter takes your party to the battle screen there are a lot of different options for the battle. Each character has several meters. One is LE, or Life Energy AKA hit points. But the other meter, WE, or Weapon Energy, is the one you want to keep track of. WE is restored at the beginning of each turn and powers Subweapons and the Action Trigger. Sub Weapons are controlled by Square and Circle and can be used before your main attack if you have enough WE. The Action Trigger also works off WE and is a charge weapon that is activated through a different mini-game for each character. Some just require you to hold down X, others require you to pound a set of buttons, another is a slot machine. The various attacks add quite a bit of strategy to the battles.
As you delve deeper into the game other attack modes become available including Hyper Mode and Final Strike. Hyper Mode brings your character into "overdrive" and increases their armor, attack power and LE. It only works for a certain number of turns though, so again strategy is key. Final Strike is a bit strange as it's the most powerful attack in the game but to use it you must take away 75% or more of an enemy's LE in one turn. So what ends up happening is that you cause 4000 hit points of damage on a Maverick that only has like 100 left. It seems pointless at times.
The battles are supervised by the X Order system which is a grid on the bottom of the screen that shows who will attack for the next eight turns so you can really plan ahead. This system was recently seen in Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Phantom Brave and it's a welcome addition here. Although I would have preferred if Capcom had allowed players to see how many hit points enemies have left. It's only a simple bar meter (like the bosses in every Mega Man game), which is great for nostalgia, but I want to know exactly how much LE my opponents have. Boss characters are worse as they don't even have a bar, just a picture of their face and you never know how much LE they have left until they die.
All of this adds up to an RPG experience that feels strangely familiar. The Mega Man sheen that has been applied to your favorite random battle RPG series gives it a new look, but it still feels the same. And seeing random battles in a Mega Man game just feels odd at first, but with all of these features they work really well. That's what really stands out in Command Mission. It's a Mega Man game, but not really, and it's an RPG, but not anything you haven't seen before.
The game's look is definitely 100% Mega Man as the character designs of X, Zero, Axl and all of their new friends are great. They're all sporting the cel-shaded look that has pretty much become the standard of Mega Man on the consoles and saying they're colorful and slick is an understatement. The Mavericks also look pretty spiffy in their evil Maverick ways. I was less impressed with the environments as any given room in a level looked exactly like any other given room, so getting lost was not uncommon. And they all pretty much featured that steel gray look that is supposed to mean "the future" in video games and that's just boring.
The sound also takes it's cues from other Mega Man adventures as many of the sound effects are lifted straight from previous entries in the series. That's good. However, the voice acting manages to shift from dumb to brain damage-inducing throughout the game. And the script is just plain idiotic and it's very clear that Command Mission is not meant to be an epic RPG. That's bad.