Released on: JP/NA – June 21st 2016, PAL – June 24th 2016 (PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U), WW – August 25th 2016 (MAC OS X, Linux)
Available Platforms: Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Mac OS X, Linux
Price: $24.99 CDN ($19.99 US)
Back in 2013, fans were craving another entry in the Mega Man franchise. The latest main series Mega Man game at the time was Mega Man 10, released in 2010. Naturally, fans wanted more. Thus Keiji Inafune, the man credited as one of the leading forces behind the creation of Mega Man, announced a Kickstarter project for Mighty No.9. With the promise to be a spiritual successor to Mega Man, Mighty No.9 amassed four million dollars. While the project was doing great at first, it soon faced numerous controversies and delays. I’m personally not a big believer in Kickstarter, as being a backer does not guarantee that a product will be delivered. While I do understand that fantastic games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and 20XX were both Kickstarter projects themselves, they are exceptions. Never-the-less, when Mighty No.9 came out, I wanted to know for myself if it was worth the wait.
Our story begins with a city being attacked by androids driven crazy with a virus. The camera pans down to show our hero Beck, an android capable of neutralizing the virus. It’s clear what needs to be done. Beck sets off to save the world. The setting could have worked, but I find Mighty No.9 places too much emphasis on its lackluster story. The beginning is especially egregious in this regard. While I don’t have a problem with action games having rich lore, it needs to work with the gameplay. Mighty No.9’s story and gameplay mesh together as well as spaghetti and milk.
Mighty No.9’s best quality is with Beck’s movements. He feels great to control, and his dash ability does its best to give the game an adequate sense of flow. Beck’s controls take a considerable amount of inspiration from the Mega Man series. Precise movements are equally as natural to perform as quick runs through a level.
One more good thing I can say about Mighty No.9 is that the abilities Beck earns from bosses are surprisingly useful. I found myself using Countershade’s wall-bouncing sniper shots, Aviator’s helicopter blade for the extra jump height, and Battalions explosive sticky bombs due to their sheer power. The player does have to switch between these in realtime, which is annoying. Once the player customizes their shortcuts, however, they can swap abilities on the fly.
So other than how Beck moves, does Mighty No.9 have any other positives? Not really…
Mighty No.9’s graphics are lifeless and archaic. The visuals lack an excessive amount of polish. It isn’t just one aspect of the visuals that are bland either. The lighting, the models, the textures, what happened here? The enemy designs are forgettable, leaving little to no impression. The environments look drab, being the bare minimum representation of what they are supposed to be. The cutscenes exacerbate the sub-par graphics. The characters talk by opening their mouths once and then stop moving until the player presses the continue button. I would rather have still images being shown side-by-side and having the speaking character lit up than watch lifeless puppets barely move.
The abysmal level design ruins Beck’s fluid movement mentioned earlier. The levels are the most memorable part of Mighty No.9, but only due to their poor design. One level has the player loop around a mansion in search of the boss. The search and destroy idea works well in a 3D game or even in an adventure game. In Mighty No.9, however, repeating the level until the player finds the boss is flow-breaking and tedious. Another level takes place in a factory flooded with muddy water. A moderately neat idea for a stage, except Beck’s dash while underwater, gives him the ability to skip half of it. The mining level is the most frustrating in all of Mighty No.9. A giant drill chases Beck for most of the stage. If it catches up to him, he dies. While it is true that Mega Man has had similar levels, Mighty No.9 decides to spice things up by having other characters talk to Beck. When characters communicate with Beck, it brings up a text box at the bottom of the screen. In this particular level, the text boxes pop up right when the player needs to make precarious jumps downward, obstructing their vision. Who thought that this was a good idea?
Another core issue I have with Mighty No.9 is with its design philosophy. After pelting the enemies with a certain amount of shots, they will turn into different colors: red, green, yellow, and blue. When the enemies turn into these colors, Beck can dash into them to absorb their power. Red enemies increase Beck’s damage output and make his shots pass through enemies and walls. Green enemies make Beck speed up. Yellow enemies fortify Beck’s defense, and blue foes cause Beck to store energy in his reserve tanks. The player uses these reserve tanks to replenish Beck’s health in a pinch. Bosses also act similarly, except they glow purple, which refills Beck’s ammunition for his special weapons. I have a fundamental issue with the dash system. Every other game has taught me that touching enemies is bad. Heck, even Mighty No.9, damages the player if the enemy hasn’t received enough damage. Enemies take more shots to kill if Beck decides not to dash into them. Bosses cannot die unless they get dashed into at the appropriate time. I know what Mighty No.9 tried to do with this idea, but the execution is terrible.
The awful voice acting makes the already vapid story laughable. On this point, I will blame the voice director. Even with the insanely talented voice cast at their disposal, they still managed to make the voice actors sound disinterested and amateurish.
(The next section contains spoilers. Highlight the text to view)
In the final part of the game, Mighty No.9 asks the player to take control of Call, the robot assistant, to break into prison. This level is the worst in the game, as Call’s shots are slow, she lacks Beck’s ability to absorb glowing enemies, and her type of level never appears after that ever again. What was the point of having a level like that?
If Mighty No.9’s story wasn’t lacking enough, the dreadful ending certainly disappoints. So let’s say the player likes what they see with Mighty No.9 so far. They get to the final set of levels, reach the final boss, and then the game ends. When I played through Mighty No.9, I had beaten the final boss without knowing, and the game just ended. No gauntlet, no mad doctors in giant machines, just another crazed android with two phases, and then credits. If I had enjoyed Mighty No.9 up to this point, I would be frustrated.
(End of spoiler)
It is worth noting that I played on Playstation 4. From what I understand, the Playstation 4 version is the best version when it comes to optimization. I heard stories of the Wii U version crashing constantly, and I even saw someone’s PC crash while playing through Mighty No.9 on PC. Players soon discovered that Mighty No.9 had a memory leak, a glitch in a piece of software that continuously takes memory until the system crashes. I also heard rumors that Mighty No.9 made some computers unusable. That kind of bug is inexcusable.
The most disappointing part of Mighty No.9 is that it’s potential is obvious. With its uninteresting story, awful level design, drab graphics that fail on a technical and artistic level, and frustrating design philosophy, Mighty No.9 falls woefully short. My recommendation for Mighty No.9 is to watch someone else play it. I would recommend 20XX as a much better alternative.