Saturday, December 7, 2019

Mega Man X Command Mission 2004 Developer Interview Translated


Thanks to my buddy Frank deWindt, we were able to obtain a copy of the "Rockman X Command Mission Complete Bible", a relatively chunky-sized guidebook for Mega Man X Command Mission. I'll be hosting scans of the entire book on the Rockman Corner Dropbox in the very near future. For now, however, we have a little treat to tide you over.

After the jump below, you'll find a previously untranslated interview with the game's development staff. A lot of interesting topics are touched upon... including brief mention of a hypothetical Command Mission 2! (although nothing came of it).


Thanks to Seita for the translation!


Rockman X Command Mission
Interview with the developers:
Story, secrets, and the story behind all that. A full load of content from an interview with the developers.
To enjoy this game  a lot more, let their words fly to your ears... No, to your eyes!


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Assistant Producer: Tatsuya Kitabayashi
Assistant producer in the development room. Supervisor to the whole Rockman X series
Which character did you like the most?
Kitabayashi: X. This time we altered his design to the extreme, and made him go through a lot of hardships.Thanks to that I now feel even more attached (laughs).
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-This game is the very first installment of the "Rockman X" series to be presented completely as an RPG, so is there anything special you had to pay extra attention to?

Kitabayashi: About the elements that could make it an Action game. We needed to take in mind that feeling of high-speed from the X series, and at the same time being cautious of not destroying the world we had built so far.

Togawa: We were very careful not to mess up the tempo, which is the most important part of an action game. Things like the Cross-Orders (X Orders), or mechanics that involve messages li{ke "This character's actions end in 1 turn", linking the different world areas, putting together those things so that the flow wouldn't collapse. So in the end we went with a process of reducing the "select your option and then select your target" stuff.

Kitabayashi: At first we were afraid when we heard of that idea. I mean, we needed to come up with a way where we wouldn't have to make everything again from the command system. But in the end, I think it came up really well, so we felt relieved.


-I think X orders made the pacing of battles quite good…

Togawa: I too think that came up pretty decently. The "cross" part from the X orders originated from the fact that "oh, well, there are 2 axis, so...". The vertical axis is the HP, while the Horizontal one is the turn order. And since both of them ended up crossing each other, that's the nickname we agreed upon.


-Did you have any idea that gave birth to a particular X order?


Togawa: Well, I'm a big fan of the "Whack-a-mole" game. So, when I was having fun at a festival, I suddenly thought, "This is it!". It's fun to move up and down while smacking things. I found myself thinking that I wanted to apply that element, so it was made into an actual mechanic.

-This time we have a System called Hyper Mode. Would you say that it was based after the idea of the different armors throughout the X series?


Togawa: The Hyper Mode? Well, at first it was only X and Zero who had them so we thought they would be a bit lonely. That's why we asked to let us give all the characters a Hyper Mode. And I think it might have gotten out of hand.


-How so?

Character-wise (nervous laughs). Especially Marino ended up being pretty strong. She becomes so fast that you have nothing but her in the X Orders.

-That's true. A handful of strategy guides are talking about her speed(laughs)

Togawa: First we were like, "I think we overdid it", but we also thought that it was fine. So we left it as it was. Everyone got a Hyper Mode so the balance between characters got a bit iffy. And since this time there are a lot of companions, it was good that X and Zero wouldn't be discriminated anymore, or that's what we thought.

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Battle system planner
Togawa Yugo
1st division development planner. He designed the battle system starting from the X Orders.
Which character did you like the most?
The Preons. Although you can only hear them say "piiga, piiga" they speak coherent words. That's a character gap I kinda like (laughs).
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-What would you say is the role of the Hyper Mode in this game?

Togawa: It's like using the "Bomb" in a shooting game: it's something that you could use in a battle against small fries to wipe them all out. It's something that lets you turn the tables and save you whenever you're in a pinch. That's why we wanted to make the Hyper Mode to be a way to strengthen yourself. Had we not, then there would not have been any feeling of freshness at all. After all, isn't being able to transform all about becoming dramatically stronger? (laughs). While, at the same time, trying to make the best use of said strength in boss battles.


-This is the game that has relatively the most female characters in the whole series. I know that "moe" has been a thing that has been on the increase in nowadays society, but would you say that it had any influence on this game whatsoever?

Takenaka: Well, more or less. I wouldn't say so since the age range of those who play Rockman is somewhat low, so we weren't too extreme with that.


Ikehara: Up until now the series has had that "strong dudes only" like vibe, and this time there are a lot of characters that accompany you so having only men join you would have been excruciating. And having a healer who's a man going all "Here, let me heal you-de gowasu!" would have been a bit... (laughs). Yeah, I think having a girl nursing you is best.


-This is the first time the things known as "Force Metal" appear in the series. How important are them for the story?

Togawa: This time, the story revolves around Force Metals. And while we were wondering whether we could implement a system for them or not, this is the result. Basically they would be like the accessories in every normal RPG. So, we now had a setting where the same Force Metals could end up transforming you into a Maverick, so while we were thinking about that we came up with the Force Metal Hazard System.


-There are some characters that go out of control in the story due to Super Force Metals.(Supra Force Metals)

Takenaka: I think I might need to explain this. Epsilon didn't go out of control. He had an objective: Becoming a rebel and leading a rebellion. But I can't say the same about the Last Boss. He DID go out of control because of a Super Force Metal.

Ikehara: It's not like the Super Force Metals are inherently bad. Seeking power, or even seeking better abilities is not something evil either. But when Reploids - or even Humans - become obsessed with seeking those things, that's when things go wrong.


-This time we have subtanks to heal ourselves, but I guess this is a given since it's a Rockman game, right?

Togawa: That's right. It was different at the beginning, but since this is something that has been kind of conventional when it comes to Rockman, we decided on this kind of system.


Kitabayashi: But, I'd say it makes things more balanced.


Togawa: Definitely, putting some restrictions on healing made things more interesting. Depleting the energy of your subtanks means that you can't restore your health any more, so making you try to fight without taking damage adds a sense of pressure to it all. Oh, but when you level up you get completely recovered, so I guess it's not that severe.


Kitabayashi: Like, depleting all the energy in your subtanks right before a boss fight, but remembering there is an enemy that drops energy refills for them. So you go and fight that enemy and fill your subtank, and then when you're right before the boss you use the subtanks to recover all your health. So you go into the boss fight and receive some insignificant amount of damage, so in the end all the grinding for recovery didn't make any difference whatsoever. I think we nailed that same aspect of the more action-oriented rockman games, or so I thought while playing. (laughs).


-In this game there's a system called "Action Trigger", and as the name suggests, it has the vibe of being something out of an action game.

Togawa: Yeah, stuff like Cross Orders are used to mark the pace, but since action games are all about being good at them, we tried to make that into the decisive factor. For example, when using Zero or Axl's Action Triggers whilst having 100% Weapon Energy would be a piece of cake, but you could deal the same damage with just 50% if you were really good at it. So we thought about including parts that let you feel like you are improving your skills.


-That's how the player's skills affect the gameplay, then.

Togawa: Yes. And there are sometimes the images complement it all. We wouldn't call Spider a gambler, but since he uses cards, we gave him a poker theme to complement that image of him. If we talked about Marino, then stealing things, and in Cinnamon's case, some kind of recovery that made you go "hmmmm".


-How did you come up with the Final Strike for this installment?

Togawa: Since this time you have around 7 companions, it gave the image of a Sentai. And, isn't it a very Sentai thing for everyone to combine their attacks into a finishing move at the end of a battle? That, and urge you have to press a button who knows how many times when you're just about to defeat an enemy. When you combine those two things, you get the Final Strike.


-Oh, so that's why one of the conditions to do one is to have 3 active party members.


Togawa: Right, after all, finish an enemy off with everyone's help is something that just needs to be done. At the beginning there were talks about doing the Final Strike with only 1 or 2 party members, but that would have felt a bit desolate (laughs).


-On the other hand, how about a Final Strike that you can use only when all your companions are downed in battle and you're burning with rage?


Togawa: We thought about a lot of things. But having too many things made us end up with something incomprehensible. So we decided on something that could make the battle to end if you pressed a button when it happened. To tell the truth, we had a very unkempt system, but we shaved it up until we ended up with what we have now.


-Regarding the maps this time, both desert and sea, as well as a lot of other scenarios have been generated, right?

Miyatake: Now that we talk about the map composition, they had only been artificial places so far, that's why we thought of adding some things that gave off a more organic feeling, like a desert or a forest. That way we could give a little variation to the designs so far. One of the common features in the Rockman series is that the stage subtly tells you the attributes or nature of the stage boss, but since this is an RPG, the story and characters had been decided on since way before. Because of these conditions, trying to make the attributes of the boss characters and the environment to add up was quite difficult. And this game doesn't have that many attributes so…


-Oh, we only have fire, water and electric, right? (laughs). This time we spend a lot of time inside buildings. Was it difficult making places to look different from each other?

Miyatake: When we're going for dungeons, first we try coming up with the impression the places leave us. Like if it's bright of dark, or if they have different colors. That way we rapidly decide on the visible parts, and then we add a little detail to the designs.

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Director
Yoshinori Takenaka
1st development division planning director. He was in charge of putting together the different parts of Command Mission.
Which character did you like the most?
Django. We had thought he would have a normal speaking pattern. But in the end, when we were recording there was a request that came out of nowhere for him to end his sentences saying "nya". I ended up liking him from that point onwards.
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-Will organic things show up?

Miyatake: It's not that they won't show up at all, but everything is almost about machines.


-Then, isn't having decorative plants in Central Tower an unusual pattern?

Kitabayashi: To tell the truth, if you look closely, those are machines as well. There are artificial lights flowing across the leaves. I think those are the kind of things that you need to look really closely to notice.


-By the way, why didn't any humans appear in this game?

Takenaka: It's not something to be conscious of. I mean, there hasn't been any human in any other game in the series*2. Throughout these games you don't see any form of depiction of humans, be it directly or indirectly, like running away, escaping from danger, or even living underground. That's why, mankind still exists, but they're off somewhere else, or something like that. I'd like to be thought of as some kind of tradition in the X series.


Ikehara: By the time the rebellion arose in Gigantis Island, all the scientists that lived there were evacuated. That's why you don't meet any human during the story.


-And the only traces of them are the decorative plants.

Ikehara: That's right.


-I've been meaning to ask this about his character. What kind of role does X have in the story this time?

Ikehara: He's the hero. In past releases, X's character had been full of doubts. Had we kept him like that, he would have been perceived as a weak character, due to him having too many strong companions. That's why this time we made him into the kind of character who strongly expresses his opinion, a full fledged hero.

Takenaka: We considered that the player would grow tired of a protagonist who was always faltering. So we thought that this kind of X who would just say "Let's go!" and start picking up new companions was a better approach. Still, it might feel a bit off place for a player who has played through all the other games in the series.


-If we talk about characters with a lot of mysteries, Spider is the first one that comes to mind. What kind of relationship does he have with Aile?

Ikehara: Well, there's of course what the game tells us, but we decided on being purposely ambiguous on the details, so there was enough margin for the player to think about it. Even amongst us developers there have been a lot of things that have crossed our mind regarding Spider. One of them is that he didn't know Aile at all, and he just made everything up to take advantage of X's weak spot for "friendship", so he reacted to Aile's ID. He got close to X and company by faking a strong sense of friendship. Another one is that he and Aile got to know each other when searching around Gigantis. This is a relatively more orthodox way of thinking. Then there's another one that says that Aile was a form Spider had taken. Since he had the ability to transform into anything, he was deceiving X and the others from the very beginning.


-Wow, those are some deep theories. But which one's the real one?

Ikehara: We leave that to your imagination (laughs)

-I see (laughs). Finally, about Cinnamon. She has the ability to recover Life Energy, doesn't she? Is that an ability granted by the Force Metal Generator?

Ikehara: That's her treating party members by combining both the FMG and a med-kit. For example, when people get seriously injured, you'd have to stitch the wound, then replenish the blood they have lost, right? It's just like that, she uses the med-kit to close the wounds, then the FMG to replenish the lost energy. She heals by using both.

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Background Designer
Hirotada Miyatake
1st development division Designer. He was in charge of supervising the creations of well detailed backgrounds.
Which character did you like the most?
I'd say Spider. If this guy wasn't here, the story wouldn't have gone anywhere. I simply can't help liking both his looks and personality.
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-One of the different systems this game has is the new "Dispatch System". How did you come up with it?

Togawa: This time the story evolves at a very fast pace. So if things went like that for the rest of the game no one could have enjoyed it at its fullest, since it would be really short. That's why we came up with that kind of system so you could take a breath between the events in the story. That, and following the kind of convention in Rockman games where you go back to your base immediately after beating a boss. So we thought that immediately going back to the base every time here would be a nuisance, so... Well, it's an RPG after all, so it needs to have that kind of gimmick.

Takenaka: First we thought on making the player search for the story events by themselves. Like what you have to do with sub-events. But when doing so, the original story we had planned felt a bit lacking**(thin), so this time we rejected it.


-You can get a number of Rare Items using the Dispatch, but in order to access some rooms you need the corresponding keys. The Nyanko Gloves(kitty gloves) are particularly powerful.


Togawa: Those are indeed powerful, eh? I think we should have raised the amount of money you can hold a bit more. All the items in the hidden shop are really powerful, but they're as expensive as they are broken. You can either overdo it a lot and purchase really strong weapons and items beforehand, or just buy whatever you need depending on the situation. We wanted the player to enjoy that subtle kind of balance.


-Does having hidden rooms mean you'll be enhancing special armors?

Togawa: We made those specially strong on purpose. Since the enemies guarding the armors are too strong, we included them (the armors) as a reward for the ones who passed the trials. Even though they might be so strong that the game balance gets destroyed, we thought that was fine as it was.


-There are a lot of hidden bosses that are "Unique" in a sense. For example Duckbill Mole or Rafflesian.

Takenaka: Those two are bosses that appeared in a normal playthrough. Including Duckbill Mole, Rafflessian and Depth Dragoon, we would have had the standard 8 Bosses that every game in the series has. But ever since the story got a bit shortened we had no choice but to make them into hidden bosses. Oh, but we planned on having Ninetails as a hidden Boss from the very beginning.


-Ninetails is brutally strong.

Togawa: Every boss in the main story is certainly powerful, but you can beat them if you are consistent. But regarding Ninetails, we tried making a boss that you had to actaully make an extraordinary effort in order to beat him. Otherwise it would just be impossible.

Kitabayashi: The more Action-oriented Rockman games have this peculiarity that make you wanna play them over from the start once you've beaten them. But we thought that there aren't many RPGs that motivate people to beat them a second time. That's why we created powerful hidden bosses. We were hoping that people could keep playing until they beat them even when they had already cleared the game.

Takenaka: To tell the truth, there were some talks about being able to go all the way down from Central Tower's Shaft 999F to 1F. But we were short of time, and we thought the player would hate it as well (laughs).

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Scenario Supervisor
Makoto Ikehara
1st Division Director. He supervised the whole scenario, from the world setting to the tiniest of details.
Which character did you like the most?
Massimo. In my head he's like Buzz Lightyear, from that movie Toy Story, so I've liked him since we were working in his scenario, way before there were even illustrations of him.
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-Finally, I would like to ask all of you if there was any particular thing that gave you problems the most, but first I'd like to know if you struggled with these new backgrounds.

Miyatake: This time the background had a lot of parts that were used for decoration purposes only. There were only a few things the player could mess with to investigate. Normally, in any RPG you go to a bookshelf and you can open the drawers by interacting with them or there is some sort of reaction, but we didn't include anything like that. Something like what kind of show is on the TV, or what kind of books are in the bookshelves, we weren't able to expand the game world by adding things like those. But I'd like to say that we did what we could.


-All those ideas ended up in the trash can?

Miyatake: Yes. Or like, the lockers and sofas in Central Tower. We added all those things in the end. First we wanted to avoid depictions of daily life, but we ended up allowing those things because otherwise we couldn't tell where we were.


-I see. Then, what kind of hardships did you deal with while creating the scenario?

Ikehara: Creating something that was part of an already established series. The Rockman series has already been going for quite a while, and it has a lot of fans. That's why making something like that into an RPG was really difficult. If we lightheartedly approached a character and made it different to how it originally was, we would have received a lot of backlash from the fans. "The X I know isn't like that!" or "How dare you make my Zero into this kind of character?!". But at the same time, leaving things as they are doesn't require any kind of skill at all, so there's that.


-Was developing this game difficult?

Takenaka: It took some long hours to raise the overall quality for this game. So much that we left almost nothing from the original design. If we compare it to what we had in the first stage, it became a lot better. Backgrounds, scenarios, battles, everything was completely different.


-Were you planning on doing an RPG like this for a long time?

Takenaka: We had the idea from way back. It was something different to this game, though. But when you're creating a game, you reshape it bit by bit, and it takes long work hours to arrive at the form it currently has now. I'd say that one of the struggles we had.

Kitabayashi: On the middle of the process someone said "Hey, how about we make it into an Action game?" (laughs)


-Is that so?!

Togawa: Because the approach is towards an action game. We had Rockman Dash as an example. Others said they wanted to be able to shoot the X Buster. And definitely being unable to dash while moving would feel awkward, since you can't jump and you can't shoot the X Buster. Those were some strong opinions.


-So you thought of dealing with them like that?

Takenaka: You see, we had included a jump. We even had all the character motions corresponding to a jump animation. Nevertheless this was something to be treated as a "gaiden", something that was more akin to a different game, and as such it was to be different of a pure Action game, we needed to take an approach more RPG-oriented from the start. An RPG that let people who were bad at Action games, experience that Action game-like feeling. So by that process we ended up taking the jumps, and everything that would coerce you into forced timings.

Kitamura: If we left those things in the field, there would be some parts where you probably just couldn't make any progress whatsoever. Especially in games made by Capcom, they seem to make stages particularly difficult. Like, definitely.


-Then, if there is ever a Command Mission 2, would there be jumps or buster shots?

Togawa: We might go with visible enemies in the field instead of random encounters, so you could shoot that buster in the field.

Takenaka: That would be an Action game! (laughs)

6 comments:

  1. That was interesting talk about Spider

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  2. Hope we get a new game in the Command Mission timeline at some point, it definitely has potential, if done right.

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  3. Too bad they didn't adressed the whole "CM canon/non-canon" thing.
    And no, Megaman Zero did NOT happen in 22XX. It's said "100 years after the Maverick Wars". But the Maverick Wars was never specified when it concluded.

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    1. Higurashi explicitly states that MMZ takes place in 22xx

      "Command Mission" is technically a spin-off, so even though it takes place in 22XX, it's not necessarily the same "22XX" during which the "Zero" series takes place. Still, we didn't want to cut it off completely just because it's a spin-off. Our goal was to incorporate some of the "Zero" series' flavor in order to make it feel like "Command Mission" is still connected to the other games, like it is part of the same family. So it might be easier if you regard "Command Mission" not as "a story that takes place between X7 and the Zero series", but rather as "one of many potential futures that exists independently from the Zero series".

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  4. It's a shame they didn't make another Command Mission, because I can see potential to keep it going for a couple more entires. X and company lend themselves to RPGs just as well as they to action platforming titles. X and Zero appearing in both Project X Zones is a pretty good example too, outside of Capcom.

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  5. Can't wait for the scans. Keep up the good work!

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