Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: MegaMan X: Command Mission

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massimo.JPG (1700 bytes)            With an extensive back catalogue and more than two decades of experience it may come as a shock to you, as I know it did too many others upon Capcom’s first Press Release relating to the title, that this is actually MegaMan’s first step into the RPG genre on a home console.

            After appearing in countless platform titles, basketball, fighting and karting games (to name a few) MegaMan has decided it’s his turn to take on Final Fantasy, Breath Of Fire and Baten Kaitos on their home territory. The only spill into role-play we’ve seen from Capcom’s blue boy-wonder is the Battle Network series on the Game Boy Advance, which has consistently fluctuated in quality with each new addition, so how will he fair up against the big boys?

            From the beginning moments of the game the hook is sunk. A beautiful 3D anime movie sets the scene; you, playing as X, along with Zero and another companion are thrust straight into a combat zone and decide to split up to explore the area. That wash of adventuring instantly crashes in as you begin scurrying around every corner looking for those hidden items. Suddenly, the screen blurs as an electric guitar screams at you… this is classic, turn-based combat.

            Yes, I can tell many of you have just been put off the idea, but the strategy involved in turn-based combat is often directly by-passed in favour of the “it’s so slow” argument. However, for the most part the moves are executed independently of Menu Systems – a strange twist to the formula, but effective – with only the options of using your Sub-Tank (limited energy replenishment), entering Hyper Mode (a more aggressive version of your reploid for a limited time), or using items being buried within the reams of text. Y and X control your Sub-Weapons (such as missiles or shields, using small amounts of Weapon Energy which builds slowly every turn) whilst A controls your main weapon and R executes your Special Attack (again, provided you have enough Weapon Energy).

            Other than the above, the combat plays out in the usual manner. A chart on the bottom right of the screen displays the turn order and attacks will send numbers, representing damage, flying from your opponent. The Special Attacks range in power and style, but the Hyper Mode transformations set-apart the title from it piers. The world structure is also very different from the competition. Seemingly having taken its inspiration from Phantasy Star Online, the story plays through in chapters, each in a different location that you are teleported to from the HUB. Older levels can be revisited to find missing items, however there is also a pretty cool mini-feature to unlock in which you can send captured enemy robots to search your previously visited areas for the items you missed.

            The visuals in the game never fall short of gorgeous – all the arenas and characters have been very skilfully rendered. The occasional corridor may fell rather barren, reminiscent of Konami’s hit-and-miss Nintendo64 title, Hybrid Heaven, but the cinematic quality of the anime cut-scenes and the flashy Hyper Mode transformations will still have you reeling as you run through these sparsely used areas.

            Unlike most MegaMan titles, we have been treated to some rather special tunes. The usual MegaMan score consists of averagely ignorable hum-along ditties akin to Mario and Sonic, but now we have orchestrated mood music in the background and ripping electric guitars when things heat-up.

            As far as RPG’s go, it’s not like the GameCube is experiencing the Nintendo64’s drought. Tales of Symphonia, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Baten Kaitos and Paper Mario  are all stunningly creative, original pieces of work which are out to challenge MegaMan X: Command Mission on every front. But the quirky blue reploid holds his own, standing firm with a strongly American storyline, less of a need for exploration, twists to the combat structure (as opposed to complete restructuring as seen in Baten Kaitos and Tales of Symphonia) and some nice mini-features. MegaMan X: Command Mission will have MegaMan fans in a state of frenzy, and RPG fanatics (except those who reeled at The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s graphics) have another vivid world to get lost in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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