The Mega Man series has been a staple among video game fanatics ever since the release of the original title, Mega Man, in 1987. Despite over two dozen Mega Man titles being released since then, with occasional deviations from the classic formula (including Mega Man Soccer), there has yet to be an entry in the series to embrace the RPG genre. Until now, the popular Mega Man: Battle Network series, an action series with RPG elements, has been the closest thing to a Mega Man RPG available. Fans of the blue robot hero will be pleased to hear that Capcom has finally decided to remedy this problem with the release of Mega Man X: Command Mission.
Command Mission is a chapter is the Mega Man X series, which is itself a spin-off of the original Mega Man series (called Rockman in Japan). The storyline of X takes place a century after the original Mega Man's seemingly never-ending battles with Dr. Wily. Rapid advances in technology over the years have led to new threats emerging, and Mega Man X is there to stop them. X was created by Dr. Light, creator of the original Mega Man, because he foresaw that the future would need a protector. The scientist Dr. Cain uncovered Mega Man X in the future and, using X as a prototype, constructed a new breed of robots called "Reploids". Soon these robots begin to turn on their creators (obviously) and it has been the responsibility of Mega Man X and his robot partner Zero, through the course of 8 Mega Man X titles and counting, to eliminate this threat. In Mega Man X: Command Mission, X is sent to an island called Giga City, the home of a force metal mining colony. A rebellion is taking place, and its up to X and a small strike force to stop it. The heroes of the story include Mega Man X and Zero, along with Axl from Mega Man X7 and four new heroes: Cinnamon (a healer), Marino (a ninja), Masimo (an axe-wielding warrior), and Spider (a gambler who uses playing cards as weapons).
The gameplay of Command Mission is standard RPG all the way. Time is split between environment exploration and turn-based combat. Random encounters will occur while exploring the 3-D environment, and some scripted encounters will occur as the game's story unfolds. Combat is turn-based, and the turn order is displayed on the screen ala Final Fantasy X. Each player character will have a health meter as well as an energy meter, which is used to perform special attacks with equipped weapons. The energy meter will be replenished slightly each turn and, when it is filled to a certain level, a special attack can be initiated. On screen prompts, known as "Action Trigger" mode, will then appear for the player to input a specific button combination to perform the special attack. Characters also have "Hyper Modes" available when things get rough, which changes their physical appearance, gives them special abilities, and makes them significantly more powerful. In addition, main and sub-weapon attacks can be linked together to perform "Final Strike" moves.
Mega Man X: Command Mission uses the "Force Metal" system for equipment and ability customization. Characters can equip these force metals to increase their stats, or give them new weapons or skills. Cinnamon, the resident healer of X's crew, has the ability to forge new force metals from various items that have been collected throughout the game. Cinnamon must be at a specific level to craft certain force metals, and each one will require a recipe to perform.
The graphics of Command Mission are colorful and richly detailed. Battles are especially impressive, as the wide array of special attacks that are available each have accompanying over-the-top visual effects. Voiceovers for the NA release are rumored to be competent, and the music and sound effects are what you would expect from a Mega Man X title. The composers for Command Mission include Shinya Okada, Yuko Komiyama, and Seiko Kobuchi, who have all worked on previous X titles.
The title is being simultaneously released for the Playstation 2 and GameCube, and each console will have its own added features available. The PS2 release will have an unlockable playable demo of Mega Man X8, while the GameCube release will feature extra items only available through GC-GBA connectivity. Despite being something of an experiment in the Mega Man franchise, Mega Man X: Command Mission looks to be a strong entry in the RPG genre. See for yourself when the title is released in late September.