Mighty No. 9 has to be one of the most challenging video games I have ever tried to review. When it launched late last month, it was received with the most venom I have seen for a game in a long time. I am included in that bunch. Not only was the game delayed multiple times, but its launch was a lesson in what not to do. Worse, the quote “it is better than nothing” and an immediate apology from the game’s brain trust, Inafune, the creator of Mega Man and person whose reputation generated millions in Kickstarter funds, sapped any value this game might of had.
There was zero chance that I would skip playing this game. I backed it early in its campaign, thankfully for the low amount of just $20 to guarantee a digital code. After claiming the game on my Playstation 4 and finally playing it, it is time for opinions.
My opinion of Mighty No. 9 is significantly higher than most reviewers, especially professional ones. Most people seem to be reviewing the game as a successor to the Mega Man franchise, rather than its own thing. I can hardly blame anyone for that: Mighty No. 9 was sold to us as the new Mega Man. It isn’t, but it is a solid Mega Man-like.
The most recent Mega Man-like I played was Azure Striker Gunvolt, also by Inti Creates, a team of ex-Capcom employers who worked on Mighty No. 9 as well. I enjoyed Azure Striker Gunvolt, but Mighty No. 9 is better. Other than that, I have been worming my way slowly through the Mega Man Legacy Collection on Playstation 4, which has been challenging, though still fun, because I have never been great at classic Mega Man games. I think Mighty No. 9 compares favorably even to the classics, though it does have serious flaws.
For starters, I found Mighty No. 9’s difficulty curve to be all over the place. The game ranges from too easy to too challenging, and flips its alignment without warning. There were several sections in several levels that I could get to without taking any damage, but then I would proceed to die over and over again. Unlike most of Mega Man’s fanbase, I am not a hardcore gamer looking to do hardcore gamer things. Challenge is welcome, but there’s a fine line between challenge and frustration – Mighty No. 9 crosses that line more often than not.
Worse, the check points can be unforgiving, the hit box detection on the game’s instant death electric spike traps too wide, and the game defaults to a three lives before having to start all over again. None of the levels are especially long, but some of the sequences are less than stellar to repeat twice. One level in particular, the Capitol Building, a level where the point is to chase down a gunman who keeps changing locations before finally challenging him to a boss battle, is a fun concept, but any death means starting over from the beginning. I hated it.
In general though, just like the Capitol Building level, many of the levels in Mighty No. 9 are interesting. They are similar to most Mega Man and Mega Man-likes in that they pull from a variety of environments. There’s an underwater level that turns into an ice cave. There’s a highway level where you leap car to car. There’s even a vertical level where you ascend a radio tower. Most of them are not especially memorable, but they at least pull more from the Mega Man X series in their sheer variety. It was apparent that the level design pulled from decades of Mega Man experience. I just wish their difficulty had been smoothed out in beta testing.
Boss design is similar to the level design. There’s a huge variety and every boss battle has its own unique challenges. While none of them come close to any of my favorite bosses from say Megaman X4 or Mega Man 2, they are by no stretch of the imagination the worst bosses when it comes to Mega Man-likes overall.
The biggest fault of the game for me was its attempts at story and dialogue. While I have never encountered a Mega Man game of any kind that had a great story, they at least had a basic backbone that was cool and timeless. The closest one that came to a plot I cared about Megaman X4, but its story owed its worth more to the quality of the anime cut scenes (especially for the mid-90’s) than the plot itself.
Mighty No. 9 has all the same story beats that are traditional to Mega Man games, but none of them work. Worse, few of them make sense. There’s no internal struggle either. While the game wants to be a Megaman X-type story with all the game’s bosses being former friends/colleagues of the titular Beck, his claims that they were once friends and have since been “corrupted” ring hollow. No one should have expected Shakespeare, but Mighty No. 9’s narrative reads like bad fan fiction.
Beyond the story, the voice acting is some of the worst I have heard since the original Resident Evil and the cut scene direction undercuts the dialogue at every turn. Rather than heads emoting next to text while the actors stand on screen, the focus is on the actors in the scene whose mouths do not move and who rarely emote any of the emotion in the dialogue. Combine that with the lifeless table readings being used as voice acting, and it is nails-on-chalkboard bad.
To me, that it is the extent of where Mighty No. 9 fails. The difficulty is uneven and the attempts at story are an utter failure. I do not agree that it is a bad looking game, however, even though I do agree that it could’ve looked better if it followed the concept art for the game closer. I cannot fault that against the game, especially since it released on every last generation platform possible. It was bound to be a little dated looking, but I think it looks fine in motion. If the story cutscenes could be excised wholesale and replaced with almost anything else, it would look even better.
Faults aside, playing is believing, and I think Mighty No. 9 is a lot of fun. This where the game deviates most from Mega Man, and while I wish it hadn’t, I also do not mind it since the gameplay is enjoyable.
Rather than spamming bullets over and over, the gameplay focuses on a dash mechanic that has you absorb an enemy for temporary buffs to your attack (such as the red buff, which adds a piercing effect that lets your projectiles go through multiple enemies or the environment). Dashing speeds up the gameplay, but it also adds an element of risk versus reward.
My one complaint about dashing is in regards to boss battles. Once you weaken a boss to the point of being dashable, you can no longer do damage to the boss. Furthermore, if you fail to dash on them, they gain all that health back. It is a frustrating, stupid mechanic.
I also like how Mighty No. 9 treats boss weapons. Just like other Mega Man games, defeating a boss unlocks a new weapon. Unlike those games, in Mighty No. 9 it is far easier to get energy back for using those weapons repeatedly. Better, the final level has a greater focus on using boss weapons to navigate (which was a pain in some spots, but still a cool idea). Other Mega Man games did this as well, but never to this extent.
There were a few things that I did miss in Mighty No. 9. I would have preferred a wall climb to using ledges. I found ledge controls to be spotty, which was to the detriment of the experience whenever the game required precision ledge work. I also would’ve preferred a charge up mechanic or unlocking new armro abilities ala the Megaman X series. The lack of either of these things did not hurt Mighty No. 9 though.
The End of Mighty No. 9
It is difficult to separate Mighty No. 9 the game from Mighty No. 9 the myth. Fans expected so much more and I am with them in being disappointed. That said, this is not a bad game, it is just a bad sequel to the Mega Man franchise. While my previous post called for non-backers to ignore this game, I cannot in good conscience continue that opinion. I think Mighty No. 9 is worth playing, at least for casual Mega Man fans or gamers wanting a challenging action-platformer.
I wouldn’t fault anyone for skipping it based solely on the game’s reputation though. Mighty No. 9 could have been so much more, but it is what it is and that probably is better than nothing.