Ah, Mighty No. 9. It has been going through hell in a handbasket for the better part of two years, especially after the second fundraiser and the Kickstarter for Red Ash, the spiritual successor to Mega Man Legends. Recently, I even wrote an article for TAY called “Why All the Hate on Mighty No. 9, Y’all?” which generated a massive discussion about the feelings towards this game, so it’s obvious that the game didn’t go with the flow of the river.
So despite the blunders of the Kickstarter, the change in art direction, the voice acting, and the delays, did Mighty No. 9 and Inafune actually deliver?
Well, let’s dive right in.
Well, this one is simple. Have you played a Mega Man game before? I mean, any Mega Man game? Then you’ll know what the story is. Shallow, simple, and relatively perfect for the game at hand. You play Beck, also known as Mighty No. 9, a robot who is unaffected by something that is corrupting all the other robots. It is up to Beck and his team to save the other robots and bring them to their senses.
There are 8 “Robot Masters”, known respectively as Mighty No. 1-8. Just like any Mega Man game before it, you can go after each of the 8 in any order you want, but there is a certain order that benefits you as you playthrough, again, just like any other Mega Man game. Once you save the other Mighty Numbers, you are off to the final few stages to take down what is really corrupting everything to save the world and finish the game... you know... Mega Man.
If Mighty No. 9 can brag about anything, this is where it shines the most. If it walks like a Mega Man game, talks like a Mega Man game, and smells like a Mega Man game, then it must be one, right? Well, in all but the name. The shooting rate of your cannon, the characters run pace, the enemies movements and attack methods, the platforming, and the absorbed abilities all feel very natural to seasoned Mega Man players, and I felt like I was truly playing an actual Mega Man game.
The one big addition to Mighty No. 9 that truly differentiates itself from the classic Mega Man series is the dash + absorption of your enemies. Mighty No. 9 uses a mechanic that allows you to take advantage of a “wounded” enemy by absorbing them and using some small powerups for a short period of time. This is great and really helps you to learn how to better flow through levels for speedrunning, high scores, and learning how to access secret areas for more points. It really makes you think outside of the normal Mega Man-box, and I believe it is a mechanic that puts Mighty No. 9 in its own area. Despite feeling like a Mega Man game in so many ways, the dashing and absorbing abilities give Mighty No. 9 a very complicated and intricate playstyle that really challenges both old and new players in a strong way.
Seasoned Mega Man players might be upset with the slight change in mechanics, but rest assured, they are solid, the controls are tight, and the action and platforming couldn’t be more fun for a Mega Man-like game.
Oh, boy. This will cause some division, but here I go.
I like the look of this game. *gasp!* Yeah, yeah. I know. The flames look like pizza, the original designs were “better”, and the graphics look like they should be PS2 or Dreamcast. I’ve heard them all, but honestly, I loved that era of gaming. As someone who has been gaming for 30 years, I remember that era of gaming to be one of the most popular in history. I mean, the PS2 did sell around 155 million units, so that generation definitely struck a strong cord with us gamers.
But I digress. Back to the point!
Mighty No. 9 looks just fine. At the end of the day, art direction doesn’t make a game. Sure, it can make games like Okami seem magical, but when it comes down to it, Mighty No. 9's look goes well with the game. Sure, the cut scenes are pretty poorly done and there are the occasional stutters, but for the most part, Mighty No. 9 has a charming look to it that brings me back to those PS2 days. The character models, especially a lot of the Mighty Robots, look fantastic, and the animations for each character are also quite awesome.
For me, when it comes to games like this, graphics will always be second to gameplay, so because Mighty No. 9's gameplay is so good, I’m able to easily look past the graphics.
I’ve heard a lot from people who hate the UI, because it doesn’t look enough like Mega Man. I definitely sympathize with this, especially the lack of a boss select screen like this:
Well, Comcept didn’t have a whole lot of options, because they were definitely dancing with fire during this whole development process, not just with the communication with donors and gamers, but also with CAPCOM and the legal department. You see, if Mighty No. 9 had included a boss select screen similar to Mega Man, Comcept could have gotten in big trouble, as well as trying to include a slew of other things that would help make the Mighty No. 9 experience feel more like a true spiritual successor to Mega Man.
Sadly, at the end of the day, we weren’t able to get so many cool concepts, but instead were treated to some pretty bland and boring UI and menu ideas. It’s unfortunate, really, because a lot of those iconic designs were helped by Infaune, and I can imagine how restricted he must have felt when so many of those designs were refused. But despite his desire to look more like a Mega Man game, the direction they went instead was just too generic to really make any long-time fan smile.
What is a Mega Man game without great levels and bosses? Well, not a Mega Man game, I can tell you that, and Mighty No. 9 definitely succeeds in both of these areas, for the most part.
While some levels shine brighter and leave much stronger impressions than others, no level is truly terrible. Cryosphere’s level, the Water Works Bureau, is possibly the worst level in the game, due to some poor direction, but it’s still not a terrible level. It just pales in comparison to some of the greater levels in the game, like Countershade’s very interesting sniper level at the Capitol Building or Aviator’s very fun level climbing a tower. While none of the levels in Mighty No. 9 fail in my opinion, it’s unfortunate that some of them don’t live up to the same standard of entertainment and creativity that some of the best levels have.
However, the bosses in Mighty No. 9 is a different story. All of them are great! Each Mighty Robot, especially, are fun, unique, and provide a great challenge that’s been lacking in action platformers for a while now. Remember in old Mega Man games when you went through that gate at the end of a level for the first time? That feeling of, “I hope I don’t die too quick!” Yeah. That’s in Mighty No. 9 too, and unless you looked up how to kill bosses online, the mystery and learning period in boss battles is part of the experience and makes you a better player because of it.
Certain combinations of levels/bosses don’t feel so great, and if you’re a big Mega Man fan, you might understand where I’m coming from. Normally, in Mega Man games, the balance is usually Hard Level + Easy Boss, Easy Level + Hard Boss, or Normal Level + Normal Boss. In Mighty No. 9, however, that balance definitely doesn’t exist, so some levels/bosses are much easier or harder than others. For example; Mighty No. 1, Pyrogen, is a pretty tough boss, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. His level, the Oil Platform, is a death trap with tons of one-hit kill areas, and the end of that level is one of the more challenging areas of the game. Since he’s the first one listed after the intro level, more casual gamers or first-timers might be immediately turned off by the game.
It is in this balance that makes games like Mega Man 2 and 3 so good, because the levels and bosses all felt doable in three lives. In Mighty No. 9, however, some levels take quite a few deaths to finally get the hang of, and that can be quite discouraging to some people.
Ugh. I have to talk about this, because it’s bad. I mean REALLY bad. The English voice acting, which was the main reason for the second fund raiser for the game, is abysmal. Thank goodness that the game has a Japanese voice option in the menus, because it is far superior and seemingly fits the environment more. However, based on the English alone, I would have preferred ZERO voice acting than what some people obviously helped donate towards. There is really nothing else to say here but PLEASE CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE TO JAPANESE. You won’t regret it.
Where the gameplay overshadows the graphics, the soundtrack absolutely erases the voice acting. Matsumae Manami makes her return to the blue robot genre by bringing her fantastic sense of composition to Mighty No. 9. The soundtrack is absolutely stellar, and each area of the game is captivating and unique. This is some of the best in-game music in the past decade, and it definitely helps that a masterful veteran was hired to this task.
Like how the gameplay of Mighty No. 9 makes you feel like you’re playing a Mega Man game, the soundtrack puts you in the same zone. A wonderful collection of music that ranges from transient to rock-heavy to smooth. Although it isn’t the 8-bit tunes of old, Matsumae still found a way to transition the sound of Mega Man into 2016. It’s beautiful, and you should go to YouTube or wherever else to listen to more.
Part of the initial Kickstarter was the promise of online multiplayer, which culminated in online races, where you and another player compete in racing through levels together, killing and absorbing enemies and trying to get to the end before your opponent. It’s mindless fun, but it is definitely not a strong point for Mighty No. 9 at all.
However, the challenges, both single player and co-op, are fantastic! Playing these as soon as you unlock them is really helpful in making you a better player. Small challenges like racing to the exit, clearing with no dash, clearing with no arm cannon, killing all enemies with a particular ability, target smash with each powerup in the game, and clearing levels without dying. They are great fun and provide strong challenges to those who enjoy hard games. The co-op ones are also extremely fun and a better reason to hook up with someone online than for the race mode.
Sure, we may not have asked for all of this, but the challenges are a welcome addition! They definitely add a whole lot more gameplay to Mighty No. 9.
I give Mighty No. 9 a DECENT rating (On a scale of SUCK -> MEH -> DECENT -> GOOD -> EXCELLENT). It definitely shines in certain areas, but it also falls in others. I think overall, it’s goods do outweigh the bads, so that’s a positive, right?
Mighty No. 9 isn’t for everybody, that’s for sure. For those who were never really into the old Mega Man games or Mega Man X games, Mighty No. 9 mighty be very hard to get into and enjoy. For those who love and adore Mega Man games, I can confirm that Mighty No. 9 is a welcome addition, despite its problems. It’s not the best “Mega Man”, but it most definitely feels like one. And in the end, isn’t that what we all wanted? Well, I mean, I’m sure we all wanted a Mega Man 2 or 3 for this new era, but how realistic was that, amirite?
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Lord Disco is a video game addict and has been playing since the ripe young age of 5-years-old. He is married to an awesome wife, has two fantastic kids (Named Logan Tiberius and JoJo), and currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Not necessarily a writer by trade, but he enjoys sharing his opinions with the world, whether they like it or not. Check him out on Twitter @TheLordDisco.