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Too Smart By Half
February 1, 2005

Note: Warning: plot spoilers.

Command Mission’s plot is an example of Capcom being too smart by half. Although they can be commended for attempting to escape from the usual big-evil-bad-guy cliché plot, the whole Spider/Redips thing had three major flaws:

(1) If Spider survived the explosion that removes him from your party, why was everyone saying he was dead? If he didn’t survive the explosion, how did he crop up later as Redips again?

This one goes all over the place. If Spider wasn’t completely vaporized from the blast, you can be sure that his allies would have at least tried to do something for him. I can just see it now...

X:Spider!
Spider:It’s...the end for me...
Axl:*dumps the entire 600% of the Sub-Tank on Spider*
Stop talking like that!
Cinnamon:*heals him the rest of the way like she did with Marino*
There, you’re as good as new now!
Spider:....

Heck, when you return to the base after Spider’s so-called death, if you speak to Gaudile he will even go so far as to say that Spider refused treatment (most likely because he didn’t want Gaudile to realize he was a copy). Perhaps Gaudile is referring to Spider’s damaged arm earlier, and not his “death” by the explosion, but if he is referring to the explosion, this means that X and the gang dragged the sorry sap back to the base and handed him to Gaudile for repairs, and Gaudile let him crawl off and “die.” And the other party members know it...and didn’t try to do anything about it.

Basically, there really isn’t a good explanation for this part in the plot.

(2) Spider’s personality was a direct antithesis of Redips’. At the end of the game, your party’s discussion with Redips makes it clear that not only did Redips have absolutely no clue what friendship is (and you have to at least know what something is before you can emulate it), but he was also totally disgusted by the entire concept and thought that it’s a sign of pathetic weakness. Spider, on the other hand, fully understood friendship from the very beginning, and he acted on this constantly. In fact, he understood the concept of friendship far better than Zero did for a large part of the game. I find it a huge stretch of the imagination that Redips could have so accurately play-acted a role that he didn’t even understand, much less one that he hated with every fiber of his being. While I can see Redips (as Spider) purposefully blowing himself up with Incentas just to get out of the situation that was disgusting him, nevertheless about 75% of Spider’s actions would never have been done by Redips.

Of course, both of the above two points would have been solved if Spider had simply been a surrogate of Redips (hired by Redips, perhaps), rather than actually being Redips himself, but he wasn’t, so...

(3) Spider was one of the most useful characters in the party, and I always get irritated when an RPG decides to remove such characters for the sake of the almighty plot. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Squaresoft.) The only consolation is that at least in Command Mission, all party members gain experience even if they aren’t being used, so there is no harm in using Spider while you have him (not like most of Square’s games where you actually end up sacrificing all that time that you spent using the doomed character since that character sucks up experience that could have gone toward someone you’d actually keep for the rest of the game, had you known better).

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the clear-game save puts you at the end of the game, not the beginning. The clear-game save allows you to have fun running around finding things, leveling up your characters, and fighting optional bosses...but by that point you’ve already lost Spider, so there is no way to ever enjoy this “extra” part of the game with the full complement of your party.

Removing Spider might have been all right if they had made Axl (the only other S-based character in the game, other than X, curiously enough) into basically Spider’s replacement, and they did in terms of his Hyper Mode, but otherwise... Far from being a good replacement, Axl tends to be the weakest character in the party. Like Spider’s, his Action Trigger isn’t anything to sneeze at, so that can’t be his saving grace like it is with Cinnamon. Axl would have to be useful instead for his main attack, and, well, sadly that has lots going against him.

For one thing, Axl joins the party at level 17 at a time when X tends to be level 20 or so, and Axl never does catch up. (Curiously, and as a total opposite, it is actually difficult to keep Spider at a lower level than X, since Spider requires less experience per level than X does in order to gain a level. Even if you have X at a higher level when Spider joins, Spider will overtake X within two or three levels because of this.) You could perhaps manipulate Axl’s level by killing off all of the other characters in your party and fighting only with Axl, but this is tricky considering you cannot target your party members with your attacks. Perhaps you could just Force Metal Hazard them out of existence and then let the enemies finish them off, but either way, getting Axl up to the level of the others would require a huge amount of time just to overcome a problem caused by the plot to begin with. (I suppose you could take it to the other extreme and try to get Axl when X is only on level 16 or so, but...)

Axl’s attack will thus naturally tend to be weaker than everyone else’s if for no other reason than he is at a lower level. But even then, Marino also tends to join at a low level, and even her attack is more useful than Axl’s even at the same low levels. The main problem is that Axl’s weapons just are nowhere near as useful as Spider’s, plus his attacks tend to be weak multi-hit weapons which cannot be reasonably boosted. (A Power Charge affects only the first hit of a multi-hit attack. A Heat Haze affects all hits, but only Zero can use it.) Instead of Spider’s useful array of weapon effects (gain more experience, more zenny, do more damage or hit more enemies, that sort of thing), Axl’s gimmick for his main weapons is that they tend to do increased damage on certain enemies over other enemies. In this way Axl is more of a replacement for X than Spider, and why would anyone want to replace X when X has a stronger attack and better Action Triggers?

I’ve always said that a game’s game play should trump the game’s plot when it comes to making decisions such as these. After all, I am playing a game, not watching a movie. I’d rather the designers rewrite the plot a bit if they have to in order to allow the game to continue to be fun than have the plot cut one of the most entertaining characters out of the game for the sake of the storyline.

- The MegaMaster



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