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Mega Man X: Command Mission Developed by: Capcom Production Studio 3 Published by: Capcom ESRB Rating: E For: PS2, GCN Review of: GCN

Stretching back to the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, there have been a horde of Mega Man games released across the consoles revolving around the Blue Bomber. Mega Man X: Command Mission has the distinction of being the first in the series to foray into the RPG world. The product is a little strange and a little short, but still pretty fun, and is a nice way to spend a weekend rental.

Game play:

The quest in Command Mission is pretty simple ? an evil power known as the Rebellion is rising in Giga City and X and Zero have been sent to stop it. The game unfolds in mostly-linear chapter sequences that feature a big boss at the end, a convention broadly similar to other Mega Man games. Like previous games, moreover, you can return to previously-conquered areas, but if the idea of going back to find missed items sounds annoying, Command Mission also allows you to dispatch special robots to do the dirty work for you. The game mechanics play out suspiciously like Final Fantasy X. You walk around an overworld until a random battle sends you into combat. The combat is turned-based, and battle order is determined by each character?s speed. The lower right-hand corner of the screen shows the upcoming order of both you and your opponents, just as FFX does in the upper right-hand corner. This ?cross order system? allows tacticians out there to think ahead about who will do what. Some actions will improve (defending, for example) or hurt (using the action trigger) a character?s position on the line, adding another variable to combat. As in FFX, in-battle characters can be swapped with out-of-battle characters at no penalty. Characters have a variety of battle options available to them, in addition to the standard attack. Each character has a separate bar known as weapon energy ? think of it as a sort of power meter that charges up a bit every round. That bar can be used for extra attacks in a round (through sub-actions such as increased offense or supplemental attacks from missiles) or can be saved up for use in an ?action trigger? attack. The action trigger attacks are usually very powerful attacks that are tied into some sort of special input. And then there is hyper mode, a special powered-up mode that makes your character tougher for a few rounds. Each character?s hyper mode yields different abilities, from heightened evasion or initiative to, in X?s case, an entirely different repertoire of attack options. Because you are limited on how many rounds you can use hyper mode in a level, it is best-suited for boss characters Although there are some good qualities to the gameplay, there were ultimately three very big issues that affected this game?s overall gameplay score. One, the game is far too short. This reviewer feels that 40 to 50 hours is the benchmark for modern turn-based RPG?s, and Command Mission weighs in at around 20-25 hours. Veterans of the genre will probably leave feeling like they didn?t get the immersive, epic experience that they have come to expect, even though the game?s plot is a decent one by Mega Man standards. Two, the game has a high random encounter rate. The fact that random battles are even used in this game is itself a transgression; random battles are beyond obsolete and should have been removed years ago. In Command Mission, there was more than one occasion where I took four steps only to face another, random foe. Frankly, it can be aggravating, especially if you are a gamer who likes combat on your own terms. Three, the game is fairly ?light.? The characters can be equipped with various weapons, sub-weapons, and force metals (armor, enhancements, etc.), but there isn?t a whole lot of depth to the game. Some RPG fans might find this system a little simplistic, even if it is pretty intuitive.

Graphics:

Command Mission serves up outstanding cel-shaded graphics, with the word on the street being that the Cube version is significantly clearer than the PS2 one. Whereas some developers use cel-shading as a crutch to minimize detail, CM uses highly-stylized, very detailed characters that look like they were ripped right out of an anime, and in some cases look even better. They handle great out of battle, and they look great in battle. Both friends and foes have good detail to them, and are an evolution of familiar characters into a more detailed universe. There are some nice rain, light, and other subtle effects thrown in as well to add to the ambiance. The backgrounds are pretty nice, too, if subdued. This game is definitely good eye candy.

Sound:

The game features an all-techno soundtrack, so if you don?t do techno, either find the mute button or find another game. As seems to be the case when a game opts for this kind of style, it is basically hit or miss. Some of the tracks, including a couple of the boss tracks, are really sweet, while others are less engaging. The sound effects are pretty good overall, with some nice explosions and weapon effects. Fans of the Mega Man series will be pleased to know that X?s Charge Beam is back and sounds as good as ever. Also, much of the game has voicework, and it is competent, if unspectacular. The voicework, in fact, reminds one of the localization done in much of the anime that graces afternoon television in the United States. The localization is pretty good, and I didn?t have any difficulty understanding what was being communicated.

Control:

The in-battle controls are really solid. Most of your attack commands can be activated by the single press of a button, including standard attacks (A), sub-weapon attacks (X or Y) action-trigger attacks (R), and character-swapping (L). The Z-button on the Cube can be mapped out to one of several other actions, including defense and hyper mode. The menu system is concise and easily navigated. Many of the action-trigger attacks require some sort of special input, whether it be pounding a single button or inputting a specific combination, but they are fairly simple once you get used to them. The out-of-battle controls are okay, if a bit awkward at times. The game allows you a dash motion (B on the Cube) that allows you to move faster and to crack open power-up crystals. But the dash feels a little weird and it doesn?t seem to do much to cut down on the silly random encounter rate.

Appropriateness:

This game is pretty squeaky clean. It?s rated E, and its most offensive feature ? if you want to call it that ? is that robots blow each other up. There is no profanity, no blood, no innuendo, nothing. It would most likely be a G-rated movie. The game does explore some moral issues like trust, loyalty, and betrayal, but does it in fairly passing manner. (This is Mega Man, after all.)

Closing Comments:

I grew up liking the Blue Bomber and I really like RPG?s, and so I was intrigued by Capcom?s mild gamble. Yet, I?ll admit I was probably a little disappointed when it became clear Command Mission was going to be a short, random-battle infested RPG. As I went through the game, though, I found it actually grew on me. The combat system is nicely-executed and offers some great tactical options, and the plot is more engaging than you would expect it to be. Plus, the game has pretty high production values, especially graphically. Mega Man fans may want to consider adding this to their library, especially if the price drops over time. Most gamers, however, may be able to knock the game out with a trip to the local rental shelf.

Final Ratings:

Game play: C Graphics: A- Sound: B- Control: B+ Appropriateness: A

Overall Score: 87%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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