It only took me 59 hours and 12 minutes, but I have at long last completed—not beaten, but 100% completed--Mega Man X: Command Mission. The last time I explored every nook and cranny of an RPG was three years ago, when I played through Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, slogged through all the bonus dungeons, ran in circles in the hopes that this random encounter would complete the last entry in my Bestiary, and swore I would never again dump that much time into such wasteful sidequests and achievements in a game. Since then I've passed up 100% completion on everything from Golden Sun: Dark Dawn to Mega Man ZX Advent with minimal or no remorse, and little ambition to ever go back and fill in the gaps. What was so different with Command Mission?
For starters, it was fun. I should've realized this far sooner in life: Fun is what should encourage me to keep playing a game, not the fact that there's so much left to do. Solid gameplay, varied challenges, visually appealing locations, interesting character models, and catchy atmospheric music made for an enjoyable and engrossing experience. I liked the character customization, the freedom to explore and backtrack at my own pace, and—though the plot and dialogue could use some work—the way the story expanded the Mega Man X universe while still paying homage to what came before. Command Mission delivered so much of what I look for in an RPG while still feeling like a proper Mega Man game; pursuing 100% completion, for the most part, was merely an excuse to keep playing this game I was enjoying so much. For once, I wanted to tie up those loose ends to see everything the game had to offer, not to avoid some sense of guilt about giving up too soon.
Another crucial factor was the way the optional material was integrated into the main game. When I played Final Fantasy VII for the first time a few months ago, I was prepared to wholly commit myself to 100% completion...up until I read about breeding and racing Chocobos. It didn't matter that I liked the game enough to subject myself to impossible optional bosses and endless grinding for rare items—anything having to do with Chocobos might as well have been a separate game entirely, of a genre I had neither the patience nor skill to beat. In contrast, Command Mission's optional content never asks you to do anything you aren't already doing; normal gameplay is rewarded with some extras, exceptional gameplay is rewarded with more extras, and the rest are the rewards of thorough searching and persistent fighting. In other words, if you're good enough to beat the game, you're good enough to complete it—no unrelated racing skill or complicated spreadsheets required.
What's also critical is that the extras are worthwhile. More Action Trigger options; stronger Hyper Mode transformations; better Force Metals to equip; different scarves for X to wear; neat concept art; cool figurines of the friends and foes you've encountered...whether for their artistic value or their impact on the gameplay, the unlockables in Command Mission are so much more than some silly golden crown next to a challenge you've completed. Sure, some of the rewards might feel silly or pointless, but they're at least tangible rewards.
Furthermore, Command Mission is very transparent about most of its secrets. Almost everything unlockable is neatly organized into lists and collections so you can easily track your progress. The in-game map aids with collection quests, indicating where any items are in each room (albeit in a poorly chosen color that blends in with the rest of the map). You can equip the Analyzer Force Metal to see exactly which items can be stolen from each enemy, and which items they might randomly drop when defeated. Finding all the secrets might be a challenge, but the game makes every effort to let you know they exist—and best of all, it's never too late to go after Perfect Game status, because there's always a way to go back and get whatever you've missed.
It's been a long time since I put this much effort into completing a game, but it's been even longer since it's been worth it to complete a game. Granted, those last few hours of grinding for a Tractor Net and systematically retracing my steps to discover that one overlooked Sub-Tank part were a bit tedious—but it's better to run around in circles in a game you enjoy, isn't it?