Mighty No. 9 was an anomaly in the games industry since it was first introduced to the masses via Kickstarter. It promised a return to the fundamentals of Capcom’s often mistreated Mega Man franchise, and fans of Mega Man were eager to back the project, boosting it to one of the highest funded video game projects in Kickstarter history.
However, numerous delays and a lack of information soured the mood for many otherwise excited backers. Still, many fans were willing to brush all this aside if it meant an eventual spiritual successor to Mega Man. Rather than getting a spiritual successor to the classic Blue Bomber, we’re treated with a vanilla run-and-gun game that attempts to be clever through abuse of a single mechanic.
Review: Mighty No. 9
Developer: Comcept Inc.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Released: June 21, 2016
Sure, the dash was an integral part of Mega Man X‘s arsenal, but X wasn’t nearly as shallow and grew as a character and a powerhouse as the game progressed. Beck — as he’s constantly called, so who cares about his mighty number? — presents himself as a vanilla Mega Man who stole X’s dash and decided it was all he ever wanted in life.
On top of that, why not abuse the dash mechanic to get clever with level design? The original Mega Man series presented stages with various challenges and puzzles to tackle, but of course gaining other robot master weapons or special items like those introduced in Mega Man 2 or Rush forms in Mega Man 3 made said obstacles easier to overcome. Mega Man X built upon this by challenging the player to dash and wall kick to reach hidden areas or simply overcome obstacles faster. Mighty No. 9, however, presents obstacles where the dash absolutely must be used, and it’s often in areas where the stipulation is be precise or die. I don’t exactly believe this is a terrible idea, but the execution is just poor.
Another weird juggle in the game is the bonuses to various stats such as damage, speed and defense. It was odd to see stat buffs in what is arguably a Mega Man title, but I’m not entirely against the idea. The issue, however, is that the buffs appear at what seems to be the most inane times. There are other times where all three buffs are simply handed over to complete a certain section of a stage with complete overkill. It’s an interesting concept that could have been built as a better mechanic had the game forced the player to overcome obstacles and presented the buffs as an award, but it is instead treated as a throwaway to hold the player’s hand through areas that may or may not be a challenge in the first place.
Fans were treated to eye-catching visuals as Comcept unveiled more bits and pieces of the game as development progressed, but the final product is a visual trash heap.. The characters look like sloppy character models from the original PlayStation era. Present each one with little to no animations, no facial expressions or mouth movements during cutscenes, and a gloss of plastic and disappointment, and we’re off to play the game. Comcept chose to be cheeky about this in the game’s trailer, proudly boasting about explosions that look like pizzas, but the subtle joke died quietly and alone as the reality of sub-par graphics seeped in.
Most major projects created using the Unreal Engine produce fantastic results in terms of visuals and smoothness of gameplay. Mighty No. 9, however, appears to have found the perfect way to derail this track record. I immediately noticed a lot of frame drops and jittery gameplay, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and blame the poor performance on my PC. I later found that other videos featured the same frame drops and jittery issues that I experienced, and performance didn’t get worse when I increased video options by pushing it from 720p to 1080p.
Graphics-based mishaps continued to grow in the most awkward of manners as I continued to play. The air stage presents a cutscene where the robot master and his team of bad guys fire missiles upon the airship Beck is riding. This is a fairly standard cutscene — except the game didn’t render anything except Beck and the explosion the first time I played through. I was confused, I thought the game had glitched out since it presented Beck standing in an awkward pose and prevented me from continuing to play. I tried the stage again, got the cutscene in its correct form and was is complete awe over how badly the game screwed up.
Inafune’s work does improve in one area of old Mega Man games — believe it or not. Enemies in the classic series always looked like they were crafted to murder the end-user much like a Decepticon toaster crashes breakfast. Mighty No. 9’s enemies, however, resemble bots that were designed to be helpful and/or to perform a menial task that would otherwise be left to humans. The player meets a demolition bot early in the game, but other bots that appear to act as generators or trash collectors roam about the stage. This does promote some depth to the story where the player can believe that robots were built to help humanity and are truly experiencing a malfunction — versus the classic Mega Man giant cat robot that sprays forth mechanical fleas and bats around giant, destructive balls of yarn.
With dialogue aimed toward children comes a sort of humor that eats away at one’s hopes for a positive experience. There was one fear I had when I realized the different robot masters had numbers assigned to them. I hoped so, so hard that Inafune and co. would say, “No, we’re above that, and we take our work seriously.” Then it happened. The team of protagonists made a joke about “flushing out” Mighty No. 2. Poop jokes. God damnit.
I’m aware that I constantly compared this game to Mega Man games even though it’s Inafune’s new take on an old idea. But if he’s willing to abuse nostalgia to sell the game, I’m willing to abuse it to tear down Mighty No. 9. It is a shell of what could have been with a little more loving care and better understanding of what made Mega Man great in the first place. I’m certain I will play it again and likely will enjoy myself, but I will also be quite aware that my choice of entertainment could be better.
Final grade: D
A grade of D means the game is of poor quality. Whether it be game mechanics, replay value, graphics or other factors, the final product is of little value when it comes to a purchase.