If you follow gaming news at all, you’ve no doubt heard of Mighty No. 9. It was billed as a spiritual successor to Mega Man since Capcom had done little with the franchise in years. Fans turned their pockets out at the thought — Mighty No. 9 is one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history, raising nearly $4M from over 67,000 backers, including yours truly. The campaign ended in August 2013 with an estimated ship date of April 2015, but a number of delays plagued the game — the disastrous Red Ash Kickstarter, stretch goals to port Mighty No. 9 to every console in the world — until it finally released just last week.
A trailer came out a few weeks ago that had people wondering just what the hell they were in for. Visually it was a huge downgrade from even alpha test video years back. Also, what was up with the announcer’s dialogue? So, did Mighty No. 9 fall prey to “a developer promises too much and can’t possibly deliver” syndrome? Not completely, no. I’ve come away from Mighty No. 9 a bit disappointed in my $20 investment, but it’s not terrible.
- TL;DR: A fairly average experience that falls well below the promises and hype of new age Mega Man
- Platform: PS4
- Time Played: 5:45
- What I Played: Completed the campaign, a handful of challenge missions, and a few missions as Ray
Robots have gone haywire, leading to chaos in the streets. It’s up to Dr. White’s latest creation, Beck aka Mighty No. 9, to take down the eight other mighty numbers and save the day. There is more at play here with the head of a corporation, an “evil” Dr. Blackwell, the bumbling oaf Dr. Sanda, and Dr White’s assistant Call, but I didn’t waste my time digging into that. There are eight evil boss-type robots and Beck needs to stop them. Carry on.
There are a ton of similarities between Mighty No. 9 and Mega Man, specifically Mega Man X games which I love. Beck warps into each stage as the words READY……GO flash across the screen. His life gauge, lives counter, and available weapons energy are all in the top left of the screen. Beck’s look is trying desperately to evoke the blue bomber, as well. He’s mainly blue with a round helmet, big spherical hands and feet, and a small torso. He even runs and jumps like Mega Man with his hands moving in an exaggerated fashion as he runs and straight up as he falls down from a jump.
Beck is armed with a blaster on one hand, although it bothered me probably more than it should have that the blaster seems to form around his hand at will instead of constantly being present like Mega Man or Samus. Inexplicably, Beck cannot charge up a shot and can only shoot smaller bullets. Beck can dash infinitely, which I’ll get into more in a minute, but there is no wall jumping. This really sucks when you come up just shy of a ledge and while you can dash into the wall over and over to slow down your fall, there is no climbing back up.
Dashing is an important gameplay element in Mighty No. 9 and a fairly large departure from Mega Man. As you weaken enemies with Beck’s pea shooter, they will stagger and begin to blink. This is when Beck can dash, or AcXelerate if you want to use the rad 90’s in-game term, into an enemy to absorb them. Enemy absorption results in one of four boosts: red for damage, green for speed, yellow for armor, or blue to fill reserve health tanks. Performing dash combos and absorbing enemies quickly after they stagger instead of letting them recover will give you a higher score. This is what I meant by a big difference from Mega Man games. You are rewarded with pushing the pace and getting up in the faces of enemies rather than dodging and picking your spots. It works fairly well, it’s just different.
Each of the eight main stages have a boss in a set, no-scrolling room that matches the theme of the level. The oil platform pits you against Pyrogen, the power plant ends in a fight with Dynatron, etc. A small speech about why they are causing such havoc, a splash screen showing their name/height/weight, and a giant health bar across the bottom of the screen lead you into the fight. Bosses all have predictable attack patterns and memorizing those patterns are key to victory. Bosses will become staggered four or five times during a fight and it’s important to dash into them ASAP because they will slowly regenerate their to-be-lost health if you don’t. It’s kind of unfortunate that there are many one-hit kill areas in levels as I found that most times I only had one or two lives to fight a boss with. This usually ended with me learning almost everything about the boss when my lives were spent, forcing me to replay the level completely. Once you empty a boss’s life gauge, Beck dives into a five second cut scene where he creates a circle of energy in front of him and punches through it to disable/shackle/stop the enemy’s aggression. It reminded me of former Miami Dolphin great Jason Taylor.
Another similarity to Mega Man is that Beck will gain the ability of each defeated boss. Battalion, pictured above, gives Beck the power to shoot a missile that pulses a few times for fairly heavy damage. My favorite powerup is definitely Brandish, the sword wielder. Each boss is weak to exactly one other boss, meaning their is an optimal order of play. If you want to see the obviously spoiler-packed order, you can check out this Reddit post. You can also figure them out for yourself in-game pretty easily. When you are in stage select, if you have the power that a boss is weak against, an [Advice] button will show up just under the [Start] button for the stage. When you click that, the boss whose power you should use against the upcoming boss will give you some intel on the stage and even help you out during play. It’s never a game-changing play or something you wouldn’t be able to handle on your own, but it’s a cool touch.
Stages end with a recap screen showing your time, score, average absorption percentage, and a letter grade. The letter grade system is trying to encourage you to go back and play levels over and over again, but with no permanent upgrades to find like the extra pieces of the X armor or a hadouken attack, I don’t really see a need to. Pieces of certain levels are designed incredibly well while other sections are flat out frustrating in difficulty. Too often it felt like a fairly easy platforming section was followed up with a maze of auto-death electric walls that forced me to spend all of my lives to narrowly escape. The most frustrating section is during the power plant stage when you have to crouch dash underneath two large turbines. First of all, the game tells you to use the crouch dash because it’s never used anywhere else in the game and you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t specifically told right then. Secondly, you have to walk incredibly close to each of the back-to-back automatic kill turbines before using the crouch dash. I probably spent 10 lives on this small section, meaning I was very good at replaying that level.
Comcept packed a lot of extra goodies into Mighty No. 9 for those who want it. There is a challenge mode that you’ve seen in tons of games recently with conditions like defeating X enemies in a small window of time, surviving with only a certain amount of shots, breaking a set of targets with each boss, and so on. Challenges can also be completed in co-op with the other player using Call, a female robot with a different playstyle from Beck (get it? Beck and Call?). Call shoots a single, large bullet and can deflect incoming fire with an energy shield. She is meant to be played more stealthily and in the one campaign mission where I got to use her, that was definitely the way to go. There is also an online race mode to compete against other players in timed missions and a boss rush mode where your remaining health carries over from each of the eight bosses. I’m far too aggressive to even think about trying that.
The coolest extra feature in the game is easily the included DLC of a completely new character, Ray. Ray is red instead of Beck’s blue and attacks with claws instead of a blaster. She is effectively Zero from Mega Man X. The stage to unlock Ray is pretty cool in that the fight against her feels more like a duel of equals than a boss fight. I really enjoyed it. Once you unlock Ray, you can play through the entire campaign as her. Ray is a predator robot and is constantly losing health over time. Absorbing a staggered enemy is similar to a boss regenerating their health, but taking any damage will result in any partially lost health to become completely lost. This ratchets up the intensity since you are already playing even more aggressively than you would be with Beck due to Ray’s melee attacks, but need to move fast and absorb enemies to live. The red color scheme, satisfying woosh of each attack, and guttural sound that accompanies each dash all help with that theme.
Honestly, playing the opening city mission as Ray was the most fun stage in my nearly six hours of playing Mighty No. 9. Her origin story is told through detailed images with text on the bottom of the screen and a voice over, which is much more well done than the weak cut scenes spliced into Beck’s campaign. It’s disappointing that playing the eight boss levels with Ray don’t translate quite as well. There isn’t a separate or modified version of each level, so you are playing through them as they were designed for Beck’s moveset of ranged attacks. This really shines through in boss fights as you’ll need to be nearly perfect in avoiding attacks and make sure you get as close to a 100% absorption each time you can. Obviously, this is pretty difficult when you are trying to avoid many projectile attacks that originate from the boss as you are trying to slash them with claws.
There’s no easy way to put this, but Mighty No. 9 looks like garbage. If you watch the trailer I linked earlier you’ll see the horrible fire effects that would look out of date on an N64. Beck is not nearly as cool looking as he was in early demo videos that backers saw so long ago. Frankly, it looks like a poorly made PS3 or Xbox 360 game instead of a current-gen PS4 game. Maybe that’s because the PS3 and Xbox 360 were two of the nearly dozen platforms promised for Mighty No. 9. Throughout all of the delays and the backlash, it does seem like Comcept is truly thankful for the support they received. Each of the 67,226 backers are listed in the nearly FOUR HOUR LONG credits. I did stick around to see myself, mighty number 3537, scroll by.
Mighty No. 9 promised so much. It skipped shooting for the moon and went right for Mars. While it undoubtedly fell flat, it’s not a bad game. It’s got a lot of bits and pieces of Mega Man games, but it’s definitely it’s own entity mainly due to the dash/absorb mechanic. Visually it’s crap, there’s no way to sugar coat that. If you enjoy Mega Man games, you may enjoy Mighty No. 9 enough to warrant its $20 price tag. If you’re just a curious party, it might be better to pass.