During E3, we got a chance to go hands on with a near-final build of Mighty No. 9. After our time with the game, we had some questions. Thankfully Nick Yu, producer of Mighty No. 9, was on hand to answer them.
I spent a solid hour playing Mighty No. 9. I’ll have more on that later. For now, let’s listen to Nick on how Mighty No. 9 has changed, what it’s like working with a legendary talent, and some of his thoughts on where he’d like to steer Mighty No. 9 next:
Bowling: You’re fairly new in the industry, Yaiba was your first credit. What was it like going from something like that to something as huge as Mighty No. 9 with Inafune-san and the legacy that carries, what’s it like for you to pick something up this big this early on in your career?
Yu: Crazy, right? (laughs) That’s the only way to describe it. Actually, when this whole thing started, two years ago around May, this whole idea came up. At that time there was another producer assigned to this project. When the whole idea of Kickstarter came up Inafune just one day called me into his office and said, “Okay Nick, I want you to lead this project,” and I was like, “What are you talking about?” We already had some ideas for who would be involved in the project. By that time Inti-Creates name was already in there. We also had TOM-PON and Matsumae-san who are from the original Mega Man team, same as Inafune, and these people getting together are all these veterans and I’m the producer? Can you give me one good reason for that, and he was like, “Since this is going to be a Kickstarter project, we really need someone whose mindset is closer to the backers. And within the company we all have 15 years in the industry, 20 years in the industry. You are the one who is closest to the players, so that’s why I want you leading this project.” Okay, that makes sense right there, BUT (laughs) it’s not a good reason for me to be a producer. And he said, “I’m going to back you up. Don’t you worry about anything, do whatever you have to do and get this done.”
Bowling: How’s it been for you working with an industry legend like Inafune-san? Is it hard to do basically do your job in the face of someone so experienced?
Yu: Another reason he appointed me is because I speak English as well as Japanese. So this project, being based on Kickstarter is going to be based in North America—or at least, English-speaking regions— so I think that’s one of the main reasons he assigned me this project. So I’m kind of the bridge between the dev team on the Japanese side and also the Kickstarter, or the Western audiences. So, I’m basically just doing the translations to bridge between them. And working with all those experienced people makes you nervous for sure. There’s no other way to say it. I’m going to have to bring up all these ideas and then present them to Inafune in person. I have to ask all these people with 15 years’ experience in the industry, “Can you do this this way, but not that way?” So, it’s a little weird, but it’s sometimes rewarding, for sure. It’s just surreal, even thinking about it right now. But our team members are really laid-back, chill people. They’re fine with it. They know the situation I’m in. They understand how hard it must be for me. They’ve been really cooperative. They’re really nice people, so there’s been no trouble because of that.
Bowling: Mighty No. 9 inherits a long legacy, as it’s a spiritual successor to Mega Man—
Yu: That’s what people are saying, yes.
Bowling: Has that influenced your design in a sense of, “We need to distance ourselves from Inafune’s old creation, we need to not get too close to that mark there.” Have there been any instances where you have to take a step back?
Yu: I don’t think that idea went through Inafune’s head at all. The base of the game will be a 2D, side-scrolling action game. So, if you think about that, there’s different types of action games throughout the ages, whether it’s Mario or Castlevania, they’re all the same kind of thing. So, based on that, Inafune just wanted to add something new to the gameplay. So, bringing this genre to the new era with new technology and new graphic levels. Gameplay-wise what he added was the absorption dash. The idea is, we kinda want to force to players to get close to enemies. In other action games you can stand far from the enemy and just shoot until they die and that’s it. So, in this game, you can totally do that as well, but we want you to get closer to the enemy and feel the kind of risk/challenge experience. So, shoot them, get them stunned, absorb them. That’s the easiest way to defeat them, but also it’s a bit more dangerous.
Jose ‘Nach’ Acosta, TAY: It’s a really intense feeling.
Yu:Right. So, the same thing goes for boss fights. You actually have to damage them to absorb.
Bowling: Yeah, you have to do that multiple times.
Yu: That kind of gameplay will give the players a sense of delivering the final blow to the boss. Sometimes you’ll just button-mash, attacking from far away and then they’ll die. You don’t really feel the sense of total control. I think you do with Mighty No. 9’s dash you will. You’ll kind of see when the boss is defeated, but you’ll have to deliver the final blow. Up close and personal.
Bowling: Speaking of that absorption dash, there’s definitely an element of speed that isn’t really a hallmark of the genre. Mighty No. 9 seems to favor that up-close fast combat. Was there any thought given during development to speedrunning?
Yu: We do want people to feel the speed of the whole game. It’s definitely a fast-paced game. It feels kind of good to just go through the stages real fast, but you can get a little trigger happy with the dash, and that will kill you for sure! That’s what we had in mind, you know, we’re giving the players this ability to make them feel overpowered. That alone doesn’t make good gameplay, though. You have to punish them somehow, some way.
Bowling: That robot factory is punishing enough (laughs)
Yu: Those spikes. You’ll never beat them. (laughs)
Bowling: I think I spent 40 lives on there. (laughs)
Yu: (laughs) Actually, that stage was much harder when it first came through.
Bowling: Was it? What did you guys change?
Yu: Enemy placement.
Bowling: Enemy placement?
Yu: Because, you know, when you play the game, most people play the same way when they first play it out. So the dev team will know when they’re going to start doing a lot of dashes or when they’re gonna stop. So, they actually place enemies right before you see the next area, before it scrolls over. The whole stage was a huge trap for first-time players. It wasn’t even fair. So when Inafune played the first time, he was like, “Okay, I know why you guys want to do this here, but that’s not fair to the players, so we’ll have to do some tuning and adjustment.” We kinda do that with every stage. Every time a new build comes in Inafune will be the one playing the build right there and the directors for Inti-Creates and the producers will come by and hear his feedback face-to-face. That’s how we’re tuning the game. We have Inafune’s feedback going directly to the dev team.
Bowling: If you could work on another famous franchise, what would you want to work on?
Yu: Wow. That’s a huge question. I would say Metroid. I love that game. Super Metroid is one of my all-time favorite games. But, now that you mention it, maybe a spin-off of Mighty No. 9 in a different style.
Bowling: Is there a character you’d like to explore more?
Yu: No, it’s just the whole world setting. Maybe we’ll bring this world setting into a different type of game. I don’t know, I’m just being crazy here (laughs) real time strategy! I dunno, something like that! TPS, third-person-shooter. You know what? This is actually an interesting story. Because we made this game with Unreal 3, being a whole 3D engine, the deve team actually made a version of this game that was a first-person shooter. They just set the camera to Beck’s head, nothing more. It’s just that, but it looks fun. It looks really fun. You can actually blaze through the stages in that view, but it’s really hard. So, that was kinda fun. Who knows?
Acosta: You said some levels, like the robot factory changed. Is there a chance we could see the original versions of those levels?
Yu: I don’t know, I don’t even know if they still have that or not. It might be already gone. It was way before we went live. The military stage was the first stage we made, so that was about a half-year into development. That’s the kind of development stage I was talking about, so there’s a good chance that’s already gone, I’m not sure.
At this point in the interview, we were told by Deep Silver that we were out of time. I would have loved to asked a few more questions, but I’m very grateful to Nick Yu, Comcept and Deep Silver for their time in answering our questions.
We’ll have more on Mighty No. 9 later this week. Including hands-on impressions and some video. See you then!
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Contact the author of this post, Steve Bowling on twitter @SteveBTAY.
Photograph (and a few questions) courtesy of Jose ‘Nach’ Acosta. Follow him on twitter @nach212