Hey, so, I never played Mega Man when I was little. Is Mighty No 9 how Mega Man was? If so, then I’m glad my mom snuck me into casinos in her rolling luggage instead of letting me play that blue bomber.
But seriously, I’ve played the Mega since then and it’s lent some arm-crossing context to the existence of this supposed love-letter. Keiji Inafune may not have actually discovered Mega Man, but he did enough of the lifting to know what the games were all about. He sat shotgun during much of the series’ lifespan, even shifting into some pretty pivotal roles for spinoff series. His ideas helped bring the character Zero to life. His resume may as well have the Mega Man theme music play every time a page turns.
So why in the bluest of hells does Mighty No 9 feel like an amateur attempt to recapture the worst parts of the first few games without any of the evolutions?
Even if I preclude all of the Kickstarter shenanigans as preamble and focus solely on this product, Comcept never feels in control of the formula. The hero Beck is goofy-looking with a hapless gaze. Take it from me, not every game character has to be the same testoster-splosion for me to grab up a sword in defense; my bar for characterization is pretty low. Beck, though, tries to come off intense with a faux-furrowed brow when he shoots followed by friendly talk to bring back his old friend – the game never chooses a characteristic for him to be. Thus follows a hapless gaze where no one emotion can be sensed by the player strongly enough to define him.
As he is, Beck has to hunt down robot masters and
bring them back from some evil takeover of their minds (read: “save the world”). Every character is a naked embrace of Mega Man basics that Capcom has since returned to with tremendous success. That makes Mighty No 9 feel even more dated with the original company executing with more passion in one level than this entire experience.
Every single level feels exactly like the designers hate you. Like your mother knows what you did to her garden and is under cooking your breakfast or purposefully not buying you chocolate syrup. That passive-aggressive voice over your shoulder bitterly asking “Oh, did you die again?” – on repeat.
Early on in an ice-based stage, you’ll be using Beck’s sluggish abilities to float your way through some ice blocks. Everything else has been ho-hum but tolerable until you knock up against a small configuration of tubes and a single flying enemy. The tubes are arranged in such a way to where you have to jump through a space just large enough for Beck’s body, and the enemy is arranged smack-dab in the center. Beck can’t shoot up and there isn’t enough room to skim either side. You have to take damage here at the valley of piss-poor design and punishment for just entering this product at all. From there, any goodwill is vapor.
Mighty No 9 is intentional in its delivery of pain. It simply must be. The enemies are arranged at juuusssttt the right spot in otherwise lifeless, depleted levels. It is extremely common for you and your enemy to be the only actual shapes on the screen, including the backgrounds. This is a collapse of detail covered with a searing band-aid; you can’t focus on what’s not there if you’re being pulverized, right? This is a snake eating its own tail in video game form while you’re expected to trot along inside of the constricting choke you know is coming.
Again, Beck does not control well with a slow run, no charge shot, and a sluggish dash. None of the areas feel designed for you to avoid damage. You’re just constantly taking cheap shots and gathering extra lives wherever you can. Exploration feels vital to survival in the worst way as a result. It seriously gets to the point of Stockholm Syndrome when you feel overjoyed at the presence of a new life, adding another couple of minutes onto your current run’s tedium.
Checkpoints are a slight bright point compared to boss fights that feel like a hammer to your genitals. Mid-boss and end boss fights are unbalanced messes in arenas too constricted to allow for anything but a break-neck offensive barrage. The only change you ever have to out-damage main bosses is to use the powers of the previous. Too bad the energy bars run dry as quickly as a Los Angeles waterway after as little as 5 attacks, which, due to the length of fights, makes some feel worthless beyond the opening moments of a fight.
Might No 9 has a single additional concept that it bungles terrifically in the power absorption. You hit enemies enough and dash through them to gain one of 4 color-based advantages. Those breakdown into power, speed, etc. and also serve to inflate your score if that turns your crank. Mkay, sounds fine on paper. The AI feels programmed by a post-it note and can leave you aching if more than one enemy is on the screen at a time. Your shots don’t penetrate at all. If a baddie glows yellow with another behind it, a dash will take away more health than the boon is worth.
Absolutely no part of Mighty No 9 feels either worthwhile or even accepting of your effort. I’ve been able to game the system a few times and actually receive acknowledgement, but that’s effort I’d honestly rather gone elsewhere. I don’t care if it’s a smaller team or a smaller game. This didn’t have to be a full-fledged Mega Man copy in the sense that a puppet is a real boy. This could have just been a game that is striving to be good first and a callback second. Mighty No 9 has shown me in every sense that this interest was lost early on in this bungled project.
Mighty No 9 Score: