Mighty No. 9 has set our spirits on fire.
I'm not talking about a spark of blazing passion that brings us all the way back in the most glorious Mega Man era nostalgia. I'm talking about an iron claw ripping out your soul through your throat, dumping it in a garbage bin, and tossing the ugliest-looking Zippo lighter you've seen after a healthy dose of gasoline. Yes, that kind of setting on fire.
Look, Mighty No. 9 is not all that bad. It's not good either, far from great. But we expected more. We were promised so much and almost nothing but the mediocre had been delivered.
First of the concern are the visuals. During the Kickstarter campaign launched in 2013, we were shown this god-like figure.
Instead, we got this asshole.
Mighty No. 9 feels like what Mega Man 9 should have been with updated specs. This was, at the very least, how retro things could get. How the characters, enemy bots, and the background look are one thing we can either get used to or ignore. It really isn't that much of a big deal.
The big deal is we were promised cool game mechanics, which were never explored. We were promised manga, anime, and other media to help build hype over the already hyper hyped game and establish a franchise-why those hadn't happened, who knows? Maybe other companies were gauging how Mighty No. 9 will turn out.
The Kickstarter promised that our hero, Beck, would have the ability to transform when getting new weapons and other features. This is akin to Mega Man where defeating a Robot Master would mean acquiring their weapon. However, it was promised that Beck would also be able to transform into other things besides from what he gets from bosses, and these things were meant to help Beck get through obstacles easier - or I would assume, lead to secrets. It's the same idea from Mega Man X8 where Axl copies DNA from enemy bots to get around - though the execution wasn't really impressive.
Sadly, this game mechanic was dropped out of the main game. And that made a lot of difference, turning Mighty No. 9 into more of an ironic knockoff of Mega Man rather than a spiritual successor.
The level designs are decent. None of them are really that impressive, save for one that made me whistle at its elegantly structured level.
For instance, the Power Plant level really needed a lot of redesigning, especially the part where you need to crouch-dash underneath two generators. Finding the right spot to dash is a fine way to see your lives go down the drain. Well, at least Comcept was generous with their checkpoints. And no, it doesn't seem like it's for the kids, since the developers really know people will die a lot on those specific spots.
1-Ups are plenty at least. Some levels have two, mostly which are either locked away in an obvious secret path or in plain sight. However, Comcept is pretty stingy when it comes to health restoring items. Yeah you get a few along the way. But not nearly enough.
One of the saving graces of Mighty No. 9 is the choice to "save" all the robots that have gone rogue. You might notice that when you attack enemies, they become stunned and emit particles called "xel". This is an opportunity for Beck to dash through them and absorb the xels. In-game lore tells us, the robot has gone back to being normal. This is a complete contrast to previous Mega Man games where the only way of stopping wild robots is to blow their mechanical circuits out. Of course, Mighty No. 9 rewards players for saving robots by giving them extra attack boost, speed, and weapon recharge after every xel absorbed. Plus, there's a nice little combo meter, a scoreboard, and at each level completed players get ranked based on xel absorption and other things, just to make things a bit more appealing.
Boss battles are overlong and somewhat tedious. The pellets Beck is originally equipped with do a fine job at damaging them, however, it's when the bosses go purple, leaking with "xel," does it become a slight problem, because if you're not quick enough, bosses will regain health, and every pixel in the boss' health bar means everything. They are difficult assholes to deal with. But in the end, they're just like any Mega Man boss. Get a grip on their patterns, and things will run a bit smoothly.
So, what went wrong? On pure speculation, I'd point toward the Kickstarter "Stretch Goals." Like many small companies that suddenly became rich over a fortnight, things become fragile, and shit can happen at every move. In this case, Comcept's stretch goals for Mighty No. 9 were impressive but too big for the team. They kept on adding new features, building one thing on top of the other, and then adding more layers into it, which resulted into dropping other features, unimpressive level designs, and an unpolished game that could have been so much better after a few more tweaks.
Mighty No. 9 doesn't shine. People will continue to shake their heads in disappointment. But this is Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune's first massive creation without the tentacles of a massive corporation watching over the studio. They have built something for the newest gen when it should have come out during the last generation. And we can tell that Comcept will be learning from this mistake. Mighty No. 9 is under fire right now over a hailstorm of mediocre to bad reviews, and, rightfully so. But I still believe Comcept should opt to bring out a sequel for Mighty No. 9. Though, that looks to be doubtful considering they are focused on the building Mega Man Legends' spiritual successor, Red Ash. If that game turns out anything like Mighty No. 9 then we're in trouble. Should a Mighty No. 9 sequel come out, I hope it would be the polished gem that everyone is expecting.