“Mighty No. 9 is a 2D Side-scrolling Action game that takes the best elements from 8 and 16-bit classics that you know and love and transforms them with modern tech, fresh mechanics, and fan input into something fresh and amazing!”
– The Mighty No. 9 Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/app/314710/)
It’s finally here – Keiji Infaune’s Mighty No. 9, the long awaited, Kickstarter funded, often delayed spiritual successor to the Megaman series releases this week, and boy, it’s been a bumpy ride. When it was originally unveiled on Kickstarter expectations were incredibly high. As more and more of the final product was revealed online though, fan’s expectations started to dwindle with the game looking less like a modern imagining of an old-school classic and more like a dated title that wouldn’t compare to the series that inspired it. The constant delays didn’t help either, with the game originally expected to release back in 2015. Still, you can’t judge a game until you’ve played it and thankfully Mighty No. 9 certainly plays much better than it looks.
Mighty No. 9 kicks off with a cheesy narrator talking the player through the equally cheesy yet entertaining story. The world is now full of robots, but unfortunately a virus has affected them and caused them to go out of control. With a ton of robots running rampage it’s up to you, Beck (also known as Mighty No. 9), to stop the threat and find out what caused the disaster in the first place – all whilst taking on the virus inflicted Mighty No. 1 through Mighty No. 8 in the meantime.
Whilst the story certainly keeps things simple, there’s a surprising amount of depth to be found within each character and their back stories. The ending of the game opens up the possibilities of a sequel, so it’ll be interesting to see what else will be done with the franchise now that the developers have started to establish a Mighty No. 9 universe.
The story progresses through a series of cutscenes, though I found them a little lame. Whilst the voice acting was decent enough, there was no actual lip-movements from the characters. It seemed lazy, especially given the simple style of the game’s character models and faces. The main game ending itself is actually just restricted to illustrations, and given the lack of effort in the game’s cutscenes I think I’d have actually preferred it if the whole story was told that way.
Given that Mighty No. 9 is considered a spiritual successor to the Megaman series, you can expect a ton of similarities within its gameplay. These similarities are obvious from the moment you start the game, though Mighty No. 9 does introduce a few of its own mechanics to give the game some sense of individuality.
Whilst you get to shoot at your enemies in true Megaman blaster style, in order to finish them off you have to charge at them and absorb their robotic remains. You can keep shooting them if you prefer, but the charging mechanic is pretty neat and comes with a few bonuses to help you out too. Admittedly it can feel a little clumsy initially, but after half hour with the game it’ll start to come naturally to you. It does lead to some awkward moments though, especially when you’re charging into a group of enemies, but after a bit of time you’ll be absorbing enemies with absolute precision.
When you stun an enemy with your gun they’ll start glowing a certain colour. This colour corresponds with the bonus you’ll receive for absorbing the enemy. They’re fairly standard bonuses, consisting of things like extra damage, a faster rate of fire or an improvement to Beck’s speed. Absorbing enemies also increases your score too – the quicker you absorb the enemy, the better the bonus you receive. If you manage to charge enemies in quick succession you’ll also get a combo bonus too, something vital when you’re aiming for those high scores.
The controls in Mighty No. 9 are sound, whilst the platforming is enjoyable too. I would advise gamers stick to the d-pad as opposed to using the analogue stick though – it can feel a little clumsy when making precise manoeuvres, whilst the d-pad offers a better sense of control.
All of Mighty No. 9’s levels feature a good mix of platforming and combat. They’re all greatly varied too – you have the likes of the Oil Refinery that features both flammable slippery oil and falling structures, the Power Station that has random blackouts that cause you to lose sight of your surroundings, the Mines that have huge drills chasing you down as you smash your way through walls, and, of course, there’s a dreaded water level. To Mighty No. 9’s credit it’s actually an enjoyable water level, which is an achievement in itself. All of the levels in the game feature something unique to them that differ between the rest, whilst they all look distinctly unique aesthetically too. You never get bored of working through Mighty No. 9’s levels thanks to the great variety and the solid level design.
The level designers have done a good job of creating stages that are both enjoyable to play through whilst providing a decent challenge. Sure, there are a few frustrating moments where the game puts you in a tricky situation that requires near pixel perfect jumping, but for the most part there’s nothing that feels unfair. It’s simply a case of being quick and precise whilst also being patient at the same time. It’s certainly satisfying to progress from level to level.
Of course, Mighty No. 9 is paying homage to a classic action platformer so you can expect a few nostalgic hazards on the way. Bottomless pits that cause instant death? Check. Deadly hazards that kill you with one hit? Check, though this time it’s lightning covered platforms as opposed to spikes. Thankfully there are plenty of checkpoints to return to in each level, though you’ll run out of lives quick enough if you’re not careful. They don’t carry over between levels either – you always start with two, though you can find more if you carefully explore each level. There’s plenty of shortcuts to be found too, offering a few different routes to take through each of the game’s levels.
Even though the level design of the game is great, it was always the boss encounter at the end that felt like the main event for me. Much like Megaman, each of the game’s bosses follow a particular theme – you have Cryosphere who battles with ice attacks, Batallion who is artillery based with destructive machine guns and rockets, Countershade who uses a sniper rifle with bouncing bullets, whilst Dynatron will send lightning shocks your way. Each ‘Mighty’ that you come up against offers something new that you have to watch out for and they certainly provide a stern test at the end of each level.
Boss battles each follow simple routines, with each enemy throwing out a variety of different moves that you either have to learn to defend against or counter-attack. None of the bosses’ attacks feel particularly unfair – whilst I’ll admit I suffered a fair few deaths that caused me to shout out a wide assortment of obscenities, once I’d learned how to cope with the bosses’ attacks I was typically able to beat them with ease.
Once you beat a boss, like Megaman (again) you’re able to utilise their abilities in-game yourself. This includes the likes of Batallion’s remote control rockets, Countershade’s bouncing bullets, Cryosphere’s ice gun – you can even charge like a wrecking machine when you’ve absorbed Seismic’s powers.
You can tackle each level in whatever order you like, though there’s certainly an advantage to be had if you take them on in a particular order. Certain bosses’ abilities will provide you a huge advantage in some stages, whilst conquered bosses will also make an appearance in some levels to assist Beck too. Admittedly some of the unlocked abilities could make boss encounters too easy, though it was nice to have the upper hand for a change.
One of the more disappointing areas of Mighty No. 9 is with its visuals – the game looks like an upscaled Playstation One game. Whilst I never worry too much about how a game looks, I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed that the game didn’t look more attractive. I’ve already mentioned that minor details like mouth movements aren’t included, but the character models and environments look no better than the graphics we saw in the late 90s/early 2000.
Thankfully the character designs themselves are great. The roster of ‘Mightys’ are exceptional, whilst the enemy designs are pretty creative too. It’s just that the graphics are so blocky. It’s not something I’d really criticise too much in a game, but given the long development time and decent funds raised in the Kickstarter I expected better. The graphics aren’t awful by any means, but they certainly feel incredibly dated for a 2016 release.
Megaman purists who’re playing Mighty No. 9 for an old-school experience will be disappointed to know the game isn’t as difficult as the classic Megaman titles. There’s still a decent challenge to be found, but I certainly found it a whole lot easier to play through than the likes of the original Megaman games. Of course, this may vary depending on your skill as a gamer, but it certainly doesn’t replicate the series’ trademark difficulty – even if it does manage to replicate pretty much everything else…
It won’t take you too long to work through Mighty No. 9’s story mode with my playthrough lasting around four hours. You do unlock a challenge mode that can be played in both single player and co-op, as well as ‘online race battles’ that challenge you to outscore another player online as you work through the game’s levels. You’ll also unlock a ‘boss rush’ mode after completing the game, tasking you to work through each of the game’s bosses in quick succession.
Leading up to the release of Mighty No. 9 I had the awkward feeling that maybe, just maybe, the game wasn’t going to be that good. I’m glad to say I was wrong – whilst it’s far from perfect, it certainly provides an entertaining and often nostalgic action platforming experience.
Fans of the Megaman series are going to really enjoy it, but is it as good as the classic NES titles? Maybe not, though Mighty No. 9 is certainly a worthy homage. I’ve said it once in this review and I’ll say it again – it might not be the prettiest game to look at, but Mighty No. 9 is a blast to play.
Developer: Comcept (www.comcept.co.jp)
Publisher: Deep Silver (www.deepsilver.com)
Release Date: 24/06/2016 (PC and consoles), TBC (Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, PC, Nintendo 3DS , Playstation Vita