By Josh Speer / June 28th, 2016
|Title||Mighty No. 9|
|Developer||Comcept, Inti Creates|
|Publisher||Deep Silver (NA), Spike Chunsoft (JP)|
|Release Date||June 21, 2016|
|Platform||Wii U, 3DS, PC, PS4, PS3, VIta, XBox One, XBox 360|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Cartoon Violence|
Author’s Note: I backed Mighty No. 9 for $60.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me clarify something — I am a giant Mega Man nerd. There is hardly any iteration of the long-running series that I’m not a fan of, and, despite the series’ ups and downs, I have always proudly supported it. Which is why I was so upset when Capcom seemingly decided to stop supporting the Blue Bomber, only releasing remixes like Mega Man Legacy Collection without developing any new titles in what feels like forever. As such, it should be no surprise to anyone that I happily backed Mighty No. 9 a few years ago. I got to actually see the project get unveiled by Keiji Inafune himself at PAX Prime, and I was a true believer from go. That sense of euphoria lasted a good long time — a couple years, in fact — only starting to dim when the updates I kept getting in my inbox started getting composed by a new face — Dina. I’m not sure what it was about her, as I’ve never met the woman, but with her at the helm, my enthusiasm started to wane. That could be a coincidence, maybe I was just getting tired of waiting, but for me that was the point things started to go downhill.
Fast forward later to several delays, speculation about Inafune’s greed, extraneous funding for a television show and many other hiccups, and my enthusiasm was all but gone. However, I am an extremely loyal and optimistic person by nature, and when Comcept said Mighty No. 9 was coming out this June, I was cautiously optimistic. Then I got my long-awaited backer codes, and I was ready to jump out of my seat. Unfortunately, my happy attitude was met with nothing but vitriol and hatred online. To say that the early reviews disliked the game would be a huge understatement, and I started to worry my patience and loyalty was for naught. Thus, I decided to do this review, basing it solely off my own perceptions and experiences with the game, to answer a simple question – is Mighty No. 9 a steaming pile of garbage, or did Beck get a bad rap?
The story of Mighty No. 9, set in a world that stylistically reminds me of a mix of Mega Man and Astro Boy, revolving around a society where the Mighty Numbers alternate between doing their jobs and fighting for fun in a Battle Colliseum. Cue something going wrong and robots running amok. If this sounds familiar, then there’s a good chance you’ve played a few Mega Man games. While it’s very true that the game borrows many conventions from the entire Mega Man series, most notably the plot of the original games, mechanics from the X series, voice acting from Mega Man 8 and difficulty from the Zero and ZX series, Mighty No. 9 did a good job of playing around with all these elements, as well as turning my expectations on their heads. When you hear about a nefarious doctor who may be behind everything, the notorious Dr. Blackwell, you instantly think you know where the plot is going, and you would also be wrong.
One of the things I enjoyed about the story in Mighty No. 9 is how it threw in unexpected twists and turns, relayed by cutscenes between missions. I also appreciated that, unlike most Mega Man games, this one tried hard to give every character a distinct voice. From the compassionate and steadfast Beck to the nervous, kind giant Dr. Sanda to the mild mannered, almost cold Dr. White to the machine-like, yet somehow adorable, Call, everybody is well expressed. This goes double for all the Mighty Numbers themselves, as each and every boss is distinct, and relayed with a unique voice, thanks in large part to the tremendous voice acting in the game. This even translated to how each stage reflected the personality and style of their particular boss! Each and every character sounded very different and had a totally individual tone, which was one of the highlights of the game for me. But no spiritual successor of Mega Man is really about the plot, so let’s move on to the good stuff — the gameplay mechanics!
The combat in the game is focused largely around one mechanic — AcXelerating, or dashing, right into a weakened enemy. See, every robot in the world of Mighty No. 9 is composed of particles of Xel (think nanobots) and is, thus, somewhat organic in nature. The upside of that is to truly defeat one, you need to damage them until they start glowing, and then AcXelerate into them, using Beck’s unique abilities to absorb them. Depending on the type of enemy, you may also get a temporary color-coded boost, such as shot power or speed, running speed and other nice bonuses. The game is very focused on smart and fast running and gunning, and it most definitely offers players risk and reward. You will get very good at making risky decisions to charge into the fray, and be rewarded for competently doing so with the combo system.
Now, while I have nothing against the combo system, I also wasn’t that enthralled by it. On the surface level, this just helps determine your score at the end of each stage, but Comcept took it a bit further and also utilized it to reward you with this game’s version of an E Tank, called AcXel Recover. Here’s the downside; you never own them as permanent inventory items, so if you manage to play really well and obtain one or two AcXel Recovers, and then you die, you lose them. While I have nothing against utilizing the combos to reward the player, players also shouldn’t be punished for making mistakes. Luckily, that’s a relatively minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.
Now that we’ve gotten the basic mechanics out of the way, let’s get to my favorite topic; the bosses. Every Mighty Number is immaculately designed and visually stands out from the others. From the ghost-like No. 3 to the irritating braggart No. 6 to the calm and deadly No. 8, each of the bosses is a joy. Likewise, each and every boss also presents you with a challenging and dynamic boss fight. Most of these are challenging yet fair, though a couple do err a bit on the mean side. Luckily, if you have the patience to learn their patterns, or better yet, are equipped with their weakness, then you’ll do fine. By far my favorite was the utterly epic boss fight against Mighty No. 7.
I consider it a high mark in any Mega Man game’s favor when you can beat most every boss with your stock weapon, and that is certainly true of Mighty No. 9. The only exceptions to that rule are Mighty No. 2, which was almost impossible to beat without Number 1’s power, and Mighty No. 6, which was almost impossible for me to beat without a recovery item. All told, I thoroughly enjoyed all the bosses in the game, with one exception; the final boss. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but found it unnecessarily difficult. This was in large part due to not gating sections of that fight with checkpoints, and, as a result, I spent a good three hours of my total 12-hour playtime just crunching through that stage again and again until I managed to scrape by with a victory.
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