Countless titles in the indie realm capitalize on the games of old. Castlevania, Metroid, and Mega Man are all prominent influences when it comes to crafting many of the 2D sidescrolling platformers we see today. So when making a new title, it would make sense to have side-step everything involved in making a title and just make a spiritual successor to the classic titles we know and love. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that—the devs are happy, the fans are happy, and hype comes before you can even let the title escape your lips.
However, Mighty No. 9 is one of those games that shoots to fit in that space, yet falls short. Despite everything working in favor of Mighty No. 9, the title simply doesn’t live up to the hype. While the Kickstarter sensation had quite the blueprint to build off of, the game misses the mark of what made classic Mega Man games so great.
Not too unlike Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 throws you into the shoes of Beck, the ninth robot creation of Dr. White, both recreations of classic Mega Man characters. If you are familiar with Mega Man, you know how this story plays out: the robots turn evil and you are tasked destroying them, absorbing their powers to face future bosses. While the plot is virtually a carbon copy of its predecessors, the game still fails to hit the high notes that the Mega Man series did. The over-zealous writing and dialogue feels more cringeworthy than charming, and while story is light in a game like this, the little plot there is is simply not enough to sustain a modern title. The poorly-written script, numerous game-breaking dialogue sequences, and mismatched voice-acting invoke irritation rather than nostalgia.
Setting aide the “story”, the game doesn’t look up much either. Moving Beck feels clunky, with Beck starting to running too late and stopping too quickly. Platforming sections became annoyances instead of challenges: the “fairness” that is essential to platforming titles goes straight out the door and morphs into a sense that the design of that game is holding you back and not your own skill.
The only redeeming factor is the dash ability, which works flawlessly and feels natural and fluid each time it is used. In fact, I mostly opted to dash when getting around instead of running and jumping. Dashing is also used to absorb enemies which have been hurt by you, providing you with “Xel”, a technology that allows you to regain health while in the game. Xel also allows Beck to gain certain buffs during play. Absorbing enough enemies may grant you a double jump, speed boost, or damage upgrade for a limited time. In this sense, Xel works beautifully and allows the game to experience a small fluidity boost amidst broken mechanics. Despite this admittedly cool mechanic, the game rarely prompts you that it exists, much less when it’s filled. Yet another mechanic that becomes annoying instead of intriguing.
Mighty No. 9 is not only annoying. It’s hard. Like, really hard. Not the kind of hard that makes you laugh each time you die because you know that you suck, but the kind of hard that makes you want to destroy your monitor because the enemies feel buffed against you. While the actual levels are only slightly difficult, the boss battles are next to impossible, with some foes unleashing attacks in quick succession that are literally impossible to dodge.
One of the most anticipated factors in a spiritual successor is the graphics facelift that a title receives. Mighty No. 9 fails in this area as well, and while concept art promised a beautiful game, the finished product is anything but. Environments are barren and boring, with background textures showing noticeable pixelation—laziness on the developer’s end. The visuals of Mighty No. 9 are perhaps one of the largest offenses in a large list of mistakes made.
Despite these shortcomings, Mighty No. 9 still provides at least subtle enjoyment. The call-back to classic Mega Man titles is nice to see, and while the game certainly does not look good, it is interesting to see Mega Man in a different light, even if it’s not the best one.
However, Mighty No. 9 is not Mega Man and should be judged as such. The gameplay is broken, the level design in horrid, the difficulty curve is insane, and the game just looks awful. On its own, Mighty No. 9 would never have been noticed, and even with Mega Man as a benchmark, the game still falls short.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mighty No. 9 is a huge disappointment, not only to Mega Man fans but to the countless backers who pledged nearly 4 million dollars to make this game happen. It’s a shame that all of that money, time, and alleged care went to waste. What’s left is an unfair platformer with broken mechanics, horrible graphics, and a lazy story. While I wanted to love Mighty No. 9, there was just no way I could forgive the multitude of sins committed. If the game were only a few dollars, it might be worth a pick-up, but otherwise, give Mighty No. 9 a pass.