Since the moment of its initial announcement, Mighty No. 9 has been causing commotion of some sort or another pretty much during its entire development process. From the initial excitement of the “revival of Mega Man” to its countless fundraising campaigns to its seemingly endless string of delays, the people at Comcept have certainly been in public eye for quite a while. You may think that after the release of Mighty No. 9 that things would have calmed down a bit. The fans finally got the game that they wanted, and all would be well and good in the world. Well, while that may be ideal, that isn’t really how things turned out this time around. From the very second that it was released, Mighty No. 9 has been getting nothing but endless flack from its fans and media alike criticizing nearly every facet of the game imaginable. Having, in all honesty, forgotten about the game up until the day before its release, I almost passed up on buying it… almost. I was never one to let media buzz like this decide how I did and didn’t spend my money, so why start now? I wanted to see for myself why everyone was so upset with it; was it really as bad as people were saying it was? Or was the internet, as it tends to do, blowing things out of proportion? Let’s find out, shall we?
Mighty No. 9 begins, as expected, in a very Mega Man-esque fashion. The game takes place in the United States of America, in an alternate version of “the current year” (a little goofy, but not really any better than the whole “20XX” thing) where robotics reign supreme. Despite the fact that everything’s been heavily mechanized, the world is currently in a very peaceful state, with no fighting among robots outside of specially-designed coliseums. Though the game initially begins peacefully enough, things soon take a turn for the worse as robots from all around the country begin acting up at once, becoming violent and wreaking havoc in any and every way possible. Although nearly every robot has entered this berserk phase, a few have managed to escape unharmed. One such robot is protagonist Beck, a member of an elite robot team created by Dr. White called the Mighty Numbers. With chaos ensuing all around him, Beck is quickly suited with the task of restoring peace to the country; starting with his eight siblings.
As was with the intro and story, the gameplay within Mighty No. 9 is unsurprisingly (and rightfully so) also largely similar to the Mega Man games of old. Players are tasked with completing eight levels, and may do so in any order. Each stage is fairly standard in terms of setup, consisting of rather classically-styled platforming with a few new mechanics thrown in for good measure, and come complete with a boss fight (one of the eight other Mighties) at the end. For the most part, the level design really isn’t that bad. In fact, much of the levels’ layouts faithfully re-create scenes that you could easily believe were taken out of previous Mega Man or, in some cases, Mega Man X titles. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. While it’s all well and good that the levels prey heavily on the nostalgia factor of its players, it doesn’t go out of its way to create level mechanics that are new or unique to the series. And, the few times it does try something different, it doesn’t necessarily fare too well. Now, let me go on a tangent here and say that I’ve played through nearly every classic Mega Man and Mega Man X title. Most of those were quite difficult. I’m used to games being difficult because they take practice in order to become competent; getting better at video games through practice is one of the most rewarding experiences a gamer can have. With that being said, a lot of the “difficult” parts in Mighty No. 9 were less on the “challenging” side and more on the “unfair” side. More often than not, an unexpected death wouldn’t result in me thinking “oh, man, I’ve got to be more careful”, but rather something along the lines of “…seriously?” Fortunately, most of the time when a seemingly-unfair level design got the best of me it wasn’t too hard to avoid falling for the same mistake the next time around. With all of that being said however, the levels weren’t necessarily bad; they were okay. More often than not I found myself playing through them with mild to moderate amusement, having little problem jumping from one level to the next. Unfortunately, the “mild to moderate amusement” level was pretty much where things stayed.
Next, let’s move onto Beck himself. While the similarities between Beck and a certain Blue Bomber are quite uncanny, Beck is still Beck; not anyone else. Sure, Beck can run, jump, and shoot, but he has his own (sort of) unique set of abilities at his disposal, with the first and foremost being his ability to dash. Whether in the air, on the ground, or underwater, Beck can pretty much dash infinitely. While largely a defensive ability that grants players greater maneuverability, Beck’s dash also has a rather unique offensive function. You see, Beck’s arm cannon and dash ability provide a one-two-punch effect. While Beck can indeed kill enemies by merely shooting them, he can absorb them as well. Shooting an enemy enough times will stun it, and cause it to change color. Once stunned Beck can use his dash function, known as AcXelerate, into the enemy to both put it out of commission and absorb its components (known as Xel) in order to further strengthen himself. The power-ups acquired consist of increased offensive, defensive, speed, and healing capabilities, and vary based on which enemy it is that Beck just AcXelerated into. As a concept the AcXelerate ability is really neat, and it functions well in-game most of the time too. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t function well it really doesn’t function well. Because of enemy placement that could best be described as less-than-well-thought-out, players may find themselves AcXelerating through an enemy and straight off of a cliff or into a stage hazard. Couple this with the fact that enemies literally have to be dashed into within a second of stunning them in order to fully absorb them and you have yourself a recipe for disaster if you aren’t careful.
Beck can also transform into hybrid versions of his Mighty brethren upon defeating them as well; the ability is called “ReXelection”. While Beck’s AcXelerate ability may have had its ups and downs, the lineup of abilities that Beck’s ReXelection offers is pretty much a win-win. While in a ReXelection form, Beck gains abilities similar to those of the Mighty he defeated in order to obtain said form. Much like in Mega Man, the special weapons used during ReXelection take up weapon energy. While this could potentially pose a problem, I can confidently say that the weapon energy is quite easy to replenish and actually made using ReXelection forms more encouraging overall. Not only does Beck restore a healthy amount of energy upon absorbing an enemy with his AcXelerate ability, but weapon energy in Mighty No. 9 charges over time; talk about handy! On top of that, Beck gets a totally new image with each new form, and most of them are honestly pretty neat-looking.
Now, onto the bosses themselves; the mighty Mighties! This probably goes without saying by now, but the Mighties are to Mighty No. 9 as the Robot Masters were to Mega Man. At the end of each level stands a boss known as a Mighty, Each of these bosses are pretty unique in their own right, with varying sizes, attack patterns, and special attacks, and Mighty No. 9 takes things a step further by adding in a bit of dialogue before each fight in order to flesh out each Mighty’s personality. A lot of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, but for once I think that this works to the advantage of the game. Back in the day, writing for video games had more than enough cheese; while a lot of people weren’t overly-happy with the way characters talked, I honestly found it incredibly endearing, and a testament to video game characters of yore. If you ask me, Cryo had the best personality; everything with her was one awful iced-based pun after another, but it was done in such a way that I couldn’t help but smile after hearing her talk. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed each boss’s personality, I was less enthusiastic about fighting them. Let me first go on record and say that most boss fights were pretty legitimate; if I ended up losing, I knew that it was my fault for not being as prepared as I should be. With that being said, the way the bosses moved compared to you was a bit… I don’t know, advanced? It was kind of like bringing the original Mega Man into a Mega Man X series boss fight (in fact, that statement could apply to a lot of things within the game). You could do the basic stuff just fine, but most of the bosses were everywhere all of the time, and it was a bit overwhelming at certain points. I mean seriously, imagine using Mega Man to fight bosses like Storm Eagle or Flame Stag; sure you could do it, but you would be at a disadvantage that took a chunk out of the boss fighting fun factor. To top it all off, you can’t just defeat bosses by unloading on them. Rather, after taking a set amount of damage, the Mighty you’re currently fighting against begins to glow, placing them in a state which both renders them invincible and recovers HP. How do you stop them from doing that? You guessed it; use Beck’s AcXelerate ability! Once again, this is an idea that sounds good on paper but was executed rather shoddily. In games like this, you typically want to stay as far away from the boss as possible. Because of the way Mighties work, however, you’ll generally find yourself rushing face-first into an oncoming attack while trying to stop them from recovering the HP that you so desperately took away from them. I will give Mighty No. 9 points for not killing off the bosses though. Rather than blowing the bosses up, Beck’s method of combat actually ends up restoring the sanity of each Mighty he defeats; pretty cool if you think about it.
Graphically, Comcept could have done a bit better with Mighty No. 9. While detailed in its own right, the game seems to have a lot of weird graphical effects piled on top of it in order to hide the fact that the models themselves are just so-so. It’s honestly a shame, because the 2D artwork for the game was rather charming if you ask me. Unfortunately, once again, things didn’t translate so well from paper-to-game. A lot of the models, as well as quite a bit of the level aesthetics look like they’re somewhat incomplete. On top of that, the game tends to run slowly when set to higher graphical resolutions (a problem that I tested on multiple computers with the same results), which is especially not good when considering the fact that nothing was really that high-def in the first place. Also, am I the only one who found Beck’s walking animation to be SUPER-goofy (and not in a good way)?
Along with the lackluster graphics of Mighty No. 9 comes a soundtrack that is entirely unremarkable. Now, by normal game standards “unremarkable” and “bad” aren’t necessarily the same thing. In fact, more often than not they aren’t. In the case of Mighty No. 9 however, I feel as though it is safe to say that an unremarkable soundtrack is bad. Along with its top-notch platforming, the Mega Man franchise also had an absolutely phenomenal set of soundtracks. If Inafune and co. were trying to make this the second coming of Mega Man, then they should have remembered that the music was almost as (or in my opinion, just as) important as the game itself. Having a good soundtrack can keep you pumped up even when you’re not doing well in a level. I’m incredibly disappointed that the soundtrack didn’t really have any memorable titles at all, but then again with all of the other issues it was facing I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Now that you’ve read that, let’s go back to the question from the beginning. Is it really as bad as people are saying it is? Is Mighty No. 9 really some atrocity of modern-day gaming? If you ask me, the answer is no. The game was so over-hyped that much of the fan community was already setting itself up for failure. People should know by now that, if you set the pedestal too high, nothing will ever be as good as you expect it to be. Couple that with the fact that the game had its share of problems upon release and sprinkle in Inafune’s “better than nothing” line that people can’t stop talking about and you have yourself a recipe for a gaming disaster. Having said that, I’m not here to tell you that Mighty No. 9 was some miracle of modern-day gaming; far from it, in fact. The best way to describe it was that it felt very Beta-like to play. That is to say that there was a solid concept there, but I wanted to say “wow, this will be great when the final version is released!” The problem with Mighty No. 9 is that what I played, what I paid for, was the final version. A healthy portion of the game was enjoyable, and it did pay homage to the Mega Man franchise in its own way. It’s definitely something worth at least looking into if you’re a fan of classic platformers or the Mega Man franchise. It’s kind of a letdown that Mighty No. 9 didn’t live up to its title. Then again, Sorta-Good No. 9 doesn’t really have a nice ring to it.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PSVita, 3DS ; Publisher: Deep Silver ; Developer: Comcept; Players: 1 ; Released: June 21, 2016 (3DS & PSVita TBA) ; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $29.99 (physical) $19.99 (Digital)
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer.