Making a spiritual successor to a beloved franchise is no easy feat. When the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter was announced, Mega Man fans were deeply enthused and wasted no time in throwing large amounts of money the way of series producer, Keiji Inafune. With Mighty No. 9 being headed up by Mega Man’s long-time producer and developed by the same people responsible for the last several games in the series, people thought that the Mega Man series would live on with the quality they had come to expect.
To say that Mighty No. 9 had a tumultuous development cycle would be a bit of an understatement. As the Kickstarter accrued more and more money, the game’s stretch goals increased with it, adding additional content and promising releases for more platforms, such as the Vita and 3DS. The release of the game came and went with those two platforms never getting it.
As time passed, Mighty No. 9 had multiple delays that seemingly went back to the additional work required for the stretch goals. When it finally released, the reception was not kind. Fans and critics alike felt the game didn’t meet their expectations and it immediately appeared that the franchise was dead-on-arrival, a shame for Inafune, considering that he had prepared for future games, merchandise, and an animated series. Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, and the hype is non-existent, some might wonder; is the game really as bad as people claim it is, or did the immense build-up and legacy of its forebear make satisfying fans impossible right out of the gate?
I didn’t play the game until a couple of years after it had been out, so my expectations were definitely tempered by the vast amounts of negativity. I really wanted to see how IntiCreates, the absolute best people to develop a game of this nature, could possibly screw up something they’d pulled off successfully 8 times. I assumed that perhaps people were making a bigger deal than they needed to based on their love for Mega Man.
To be frank, I like the way the game controls, mostly because the player character, Beck, controls much like X. The shooting feels fine and the dashing is also satisfying. The biggest change that Mighty No. 9 has to offer on that front is that you can dash into enemies once they’re low on life to absorb energy from them that would give you certain bonuses. This even feels pretty good in the tutorial. Or, it does, but only up until the point where the game locks you in an area to fight waves of enemies that spawn in front of you. Having your progress gated behind enemy waves is something that shows up as a gameplay feature in the levels beyond.
Almost right off the bat, the game demonstrates that it doesn’t quite understand the design philosophy of the series it’s so carefully aping. The implementation of so much of it seems haphazard and unrefined. The aforementioned dash absorb, for instance, is fun in theory and can occasionally be satisfying to use, but the enemies frequently stand in lines. This means that when you try dashing into one enemy, you’ll end up going through them and run face-first into the enemy standing right behind them. Additionally, the bonuses that absorbing energy grants you are borderline useless. When one of the major additions to the gameplay doesn’t fit with the game’s design, then you know you’ve got a really big issue on your hands.
Whilst playing Mighty No. 9, the problems compounded themselves. There’s way too much dialogue and almost all of it is banal. The story is uninteresting and I’m not sure why anyone would care about it. Mighty No. 9 is also basically a straight-up rehash of Mega Man. You have an opening level, fight 8 robots and collect their weapons and then move onto a final gauntlet of levels. Then again, that’s what people wanted, right? That’s true, but not like this.
The levels are bland and tedious to play through. One level is literally just a long, looping hallway that you have to run through while dodging the boss and trying to find his hiding space, before taking him on for a tedious boss battle. That level has a unique idea but completely botches it as far as playability is concerned. Other levels do a terrible job of conveying how to survive certain obstacles. One level tasks you with grabbing a platform and suspending yourself from it in order to survive spikes. Only, this is the absolute only time the game has you do this and it isn’t even readily obvious that Beck can hang from ledges. I had to look up a video in order to progress.
That wouldn’t even be a big deal if only this sort of thing wasn’t a repeated occurrence. Another level has you navigate through a series of fans, only for one fan to seem impossible to dodge. After dying several times, the game had a pop-up teaching me that I can do a dash while hugging the ground. That’s right. The game has a move that you almost never need to use, that it never teaches you exists and then just tells you how to do it with a pop-up once you’ve wasted some of your lives.
One of the most infuriating things that sticks in my memory is a part in the last section of the game where you see these large cubes for the first time. It is extremely unclear how the cubes work and the game does absolutely nothing to teach you prior to you stumbling upon them. The trick is that they respawn after being destroyed if you’re a certain distance away, but you go from having never seen them before to being required to completely understand a new game mechanic in seconds. Things like this display an absolutely wanton disregard for good game design that makes it hard to believe how often they popped up.
On top of those instances, some of the game’s bosses are practically unbeatable without the proper boss weapon. The sniper weapon from the aforementioned hallway boss is needed to defeat a boss that flies around the screen. If you don’t have the weapon or don’t have enough ammo to dispatch him, you just basically can’t hit him. And it’s also easy to miss and run out of ammo, having to start the whole fight again from the beginning.
The ultimate insult as far as boss battles go is the final fight, however. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the final boss battle took me the same amount of time to beat as the entire rest of the game combined. I’ve beaten every 2D Mega Man game and I never once had even remotely as much trouble with a boss as I did with this one. Naturally, there’s a way to cheese your way through it, because nothing in this game is well thought-out.
Once you beat the main story you’re then given access to a couple of additional characters as well as some platforming challenges. You can play as Beck’s sister Call, who has to sneak her way through one intensely underwhelming level, or you can play as another character and go through some of the same levels as Beck after unlocking them via a bonus level. All-in-all, there’s really no more than 5 or 6 hours of gameplay here, unless you play the main game again on a higher difficulty.
To be fair, the game isn’t really any worse than Mega Man X6 or X7, but it really is as bad as people say. It’s bland, short and frustratingly designed and I personally wish I’d never bothered. Mighty No 9 is one game that people jumped on the hate bandwagon for, but in this case, I’d say it’s fully justified. If you’re curious, you could technically do worse, but the initial fan and critical reaction is justified by this unfortunate mess of a game.
Andrew Farrell has an extreme hearing sensitivity called hyperacusis that keeps him away from all loud noises. Please do not throw rocks at his window. That is rude. He loves action and rpg games, whether they be AAA or indie. He does not like sports games unless the sport is Baseketball.