Mighty No. 9 is a study why a game should not be funded through Kickstarter. Called the “spiritual successor to Mega Man” with Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man, attached to its production, Mighty No. 9 garnered 70,000 backers and fast-tracked itself into reality. Only then its development was plagued with problems and delays and, now that it’s here, it’s underwhelming its loyal fanbase. This is not the Mega Man game we were looking for.
Part of the problem is unreasonably high expectations. The pedigree of the developers combined with the long drought of actual games featuring the blue robot hero of our formative gaming years had many of us foaming at the mouth for the curtain to be pulled back on MN9. Short of perfection, innovation beyond our wildest dreams and graphics that rival those of modded 4K PC games, we were all destined to be disappointed. Unfortunately, Mighty No. 9 doesn’t come anywhere near those lofty expectations. In fact, in many aspects, it falls short of what might have been normal expectations of an SNES Mega Man game. Evolution of video games aside, MN9 misses the point on the spirit of both the character and the gameplay.
The twin pillars of problems with Mighty No. 9 are clear. One, the main character, Beck, has no personality, no attachment to the supporting cast, no purpose other than “go do this.” We remember having genuine care for Mega Man and Dr. Light and their Pinnocio/Geppetto relationship. None of that comes across in Mighty No. 9, as we were all too happy jumping past the dialogue after trying really hard to get into it.
The other, and it’s a much bigger problem, is that the game tries to use the original Mega Man formula of beat a boss, take his ability, use it on the next boss. Only there’s no reason you need those abilities when your blaster and air-dash are more than enough to carry you through every level if you have a bit of skill and a lot of patience. Once you figure out that only one ability is worth adding to your arsenal - we won’t say which but you get it early on — it makes the point of every level, well, pointless.
Perhaps deserving its own problem pillar is the technical issues that span the entirety of the game. Framerate drops are horribly noticeable and, in a game that’s been attacked for graphics that aren’t up to snuff, seeing those drops are more indicative of laziness by the developers than genuine issues that couldn’t be avoided because of graphic ambition. Load times are frustratingly long, checkpoints are weirdly inconsistent and, when a framerate drops while you’re in the midst of navigating a particularly treacherous area and kills you, that frustration becomes downright infuriating.
Long list of gripes aside, there is good to be found in Mighty No. 9. Beck does handle very much like Mega Man did. His Blaster and Dash are fun to use, especially with the combo system that pays you off for getting your combo multiplier up. The level design can be a slog sometimes but, for the most part, it’s enjoyable to play even without the wow-factors we were hoping would be included. If you’ve been starved for a follow up to Mega Man’s reign, this will probably scratch the itch, at least for a little while. Hopefully Inafune gets the message that 70,000 fans want more but it needs to be better. Or, you know, just give us a new Mega Man game already. Geez.