Back in September 2013, Kickstarter was still fairly new and that’s when Capcom decided to give Mega Man a ban on videogames. However, Keiji Inafune, one of the original creator of the series announced a new project called Mighty No. 9.
It was a spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber, something that people at that time craved for. It was one of the most highly fundraised game at the time, with over $3.5 million pledged by 67, 226 backers. Mighty No. 9 was getting international fame and was supposed to be a critical success in both gameplay and sales, at the time.
However, look like, the game went through development problems and got numerous delays. The beautiful 2D sprites originally shown were now reverted to 3D models, which didn’t sit well with some. But if Shantae: The Half Genie Hero can create gorgeous 3D models, why can’t Mighty No. 9?
Well, fast forward to the present time and we have the full game. Mighty No. 9 was released by Comcept on June 21, 2016. Is it worth the $20 price tag?
To be short, It’s a mighty No.
Let’s start with the game’s presentation. It’s awful and it does not look like a game that had over $3.5 million worth of budget. The models look straight out of the PS2 era, their expressions something from the original Playstation, and the fire looks like the colour of a cheese pizza.
Everyone is so lifeless and there’s no animation in them. For example, there’s a doctor called Sandy who gets alarmed almost every time but you rarely see him animated to show that. With the art style that Mighty No. 9 wants to go for, why aren’t these models animated. In some cutscenes, it’s so bad that everyone seems like they’re stuck in their idle positions!
With the budget they had, Comcept had no excuses as to why the game looks the way it is today. If you look at the original trailer when Mighty No. 9’s Kickstarter launched with, you can tell that development took a hit.
So what if Mighty No. 9 doesn’t utilize the graphics that modern generation consoles are capable of. Having any sort of animation would’ve nearly made up for the downgrade in graphics. Ratchet and Clank had it. Jak and Daxter has it. Even Crash Bandicoot had better animation, need I say more?
Speaking of graphics and modern consoles, the game runs into framerate issues from time to time. It’s a bit inexcusable considering that the game doesn’t have to process too much on screen. It’s the least offensive thing that Mighty No. 9 does.
So what’s the most offensive this game offers? The level design. Mighty No. 9 sports some of the worst level design I’ve seen in a game for a game. Inafune decided to make this game artificially hard by cheap instant death pits and unfair enemy placements. In the end of every single level (excluding the intro stage), there is always a cheap level placement that requires trial and error or very precise platforming, nearly pixel perfect. It makes the game very frustrating to play because you’ll be losing lives pretty fast. It’ll get you a game over which then requires you to start the stage over again.
Usually getting a game over is very rare for most games. Not this one. Nearly every single stage I got a game over and it’s partly due to the level design being cheap but it’s also because lives don’t stack in this game. Your live count is maxed out at 9 because they wanted to keep up with their theme. This combined with the level design I mentioned earlier is a recipe for disaster.
Not only are the level designs hard, but the boss fights are usually very challenging as well. Each boss has very unique battles and they feel like a proper challenge, not artificially hard with tons of annoyances. However, one of the boss battles (they really are just robot master) didn’t escape Inafune’s grasp with lots of eyebrow raising on the design. I’m calling out Mighty No. 1’s boss fight, it’s just unintuitive.
Mighty No. 1’s boss battle uses audio cues so you know what type of attack he’s doing and you would dodge accordingly. However, when you get halfway through the fight, dialogue starts to intervene and cuts out the cues that you would get from the boss. What makes matters worse is that suddenly, Mighty No. 1 has an instant kill move during that same moment and since you have no audio to dodge his attack, you’re pretty much taking a blind guess. That’s bad design for me and that was my first impression ever with a boss fight. At least it’s only for this one.
Another reason why this game is unbearably hard is the lack of this game’s energy tanks, something that is able to regenerate your health in an instant. First of all, your energy tanks are maxed out at two. This means that you can’t stack your energy tanks like you would in a Mega Man title. Two, when you lose a life, your energy tank goes with it. And three, it’s very hard to even get one energy tank on your first playthrough of the stage. If you get a game over, you get a buddy that resembles Eddie, that will drop items for you to help you on your way. The more game overs, the better the items will be. However, Eddie doesn’t show up during your first run through of a stage, so if you lose that energy tank in your first life, you lose it until you get a game over.
One thing that I’ll give praise to Mighty No. 9 is the gameplay. The game is still like Mega Man. You control Beck (the game’s protagonist) and he’s able to run, jump and shoot enemies throughout the stage. However, this new mechanic that this game brings to the table is the ability to absorb an enemy as a quicker way to finish them off. To do this, you would shoot an enemy till it glows either red, yellow, purple, green or blue and then dash into them. Simple as that. You can even chain your dash absorption if you have more than one enemy glowing in your vicinity. It’s something that gave Mighty No. 9 potential and without the pinhead design, it would’ve been a better game.
The game poorly teaches you that absorbing some of these enemies (depending on their glow) gives you power-ups for Beck’s blaster. Absorbing red lets your shots go through objects, yellow gives you increased jump height, and green makes you faster.
It brings me on to another issue with Mighty No. 9 as a whole. Mighty No. 9 doesn’t teach you what your power-ups do that you get from your robot master, or the added crouch dash (which is required for one section in a boss stage) or the extra maneuvers that Beck can do in-game. Instead, it expects you to take the effort and go through every single tip that they provide in the menu. It’s another design flaw that should’ve been fixed from the first development meeting. If they wanted to make a spiritual successor to Mega Man, why didn’t they create simple moves and build the game around that? Instead, they want you to use every single power-up in ways that the game didn’t teach you purposely.
Speaking of the abilities you get when defeating one of the Mightys, I did find most of them pretty useful with taking down enemies. There are useless ones like Beck turning into a tank but other than that, I’ve used every single power-up that the Robot Masters give you and it’s worked in my favour all of the time. However, cycling through the weapons menu is a pain by itself accompanied with the issue that you cannot and switch your power-ups. If you want the weapon of your choice, you must cycle through the menu, which is frustrating during a boss fight.
Now, Mega Man titles have always been known for their catchy tunes and unfortunately, Mighty No. 9’s soundtrack is pretty forgettable. Some themes are stuck in my head such as the main theme song and the boss battle theme, but I can’t remember anything else at the top of my head.
And the story? Well it’s a step up from the overused “Dr. Wily is evil, stop him” plot, but it really doesn’t add anything to the game. I wasn’t shocked about Dr. White’s past or the president’s plot or anything like that. If you took out the story, nothing would really change a thing.
Overall, while Mighty No. 9 delivered in the gameplay aspect, everything else fell flat on its face to me. The presentation is bad, the level design is frustrating to play and everything else feels watered down to me. If you’re a Mega Man fan, I’d pick it up just for the curiosity. However, I can’t recommend this game to anyone who wants testing grounds to a Mega Man game or if they just want to play a good side-scrolling platformer. Mighty No. 9 feels like a mighty number 5 out of 10 stars. I’ve played worse but I’ve definitely played better games as well.