It's pretty hard to talk about Mighty No 9 without mentioning Kickstarter. I suppose crowdfunding is still a pretty big deal. But it seemed like there was a time there in the mid-twenty-tens when every new game was a Kickstarter campaign filled with hype and promises. And sure, we got some good games out of the fad. But we also saw a lot of gamers throwing a lot of money at all kinds of weird ideas. Remember the Ouya?
Mighty No 9 got a lot of hype when its campaign launched in 2013. It was to be created by Comcept, the new company that Keiji Inafune was running. He, of Mega Man fame of course. The game would be co-developed with Inti Creates, a company made up of ex-Capcom staffers who had worked on the Mega Man Zero and ZX series. Oh, and the game was a straight up spiritual successor to Mega Man. It all sounded too good to be true. If Capcom wouldn't make new Mega Man games, then who better than this team with actual honest-to-goodness experience?
Early screenshots looked promising. Our new hero, Beck (whose name sounds nothing like Mega Man's original Japanese name "Rock") looked a heck of a lot like an HD reimagining of the blue bomber himself. And I mean, great! Because Capcom had released Mega Man 9 and 10 previously, but clung to a retro NES look for those games. Here we were going to get a brand new modern version of the formula. Everything sounded legit. There were scientists in lab coats, there were robot bosses who would grant you new abilities once defeated – it all seemed tried and true.
Fast forward to 2016, and after delays and failed promises I think gamers were starting to feel a bit of crowdfund-fatigue. Not just with this game, but with the whole thing. Again, remember the Ouya? And the thing is, given the pedigree of who was working on this game, and the semi-promise that this would be our new Mega Man series, the stakes were really high as was the media exposure. When Mighty No 9 finally hit consoles, it was panned by critics and seemingly hated by gamers.
Although I picked up a copy on deep discount back in 2017, I never actually got around to playing the game until 2022 when I kind of shrugged and figured I'd give myself a chance to see how it really was now that all the dust had settled. I tend to be a bit of a gaming optimist. I like to try to look for the good in even failed games. So I went into this one with an attitude of "it can't really be as bad as everyone says... right?" But, after spending the past two nights with Mighty No 9, I can confidently say "it stinks!"
Things start off on a kind of good note, though. The opening level which is meant as a sort of pseudo-tutorial is clearly inspired by the opening of Mega Man X. I like that. And so I started the game thinking that maybe there was enough nostalgia and fan-nods to make this one enjoyable. But then the game itself started and... meh.
The big change in gameplay is a new mechanic where you don't just kill stuff, but rather you weaken enemies and then dash through them to gain some kind of buff (to your strength, shield, or health). It's not a horrible idea, exactly, but it completely changes to flow of combat verses what you'd be used to in a Mega Man game. Why not just kill enemies and let them drop these buffs? This addition, to me, adds a whole lot of tedium to even getting through a level.
Speaking of levels, the level design is pretty awful. Traversing stages feels like a mix of simply walking to the right and sometimes doing simple platforming, and then suddenly being confronted with ridiculous insta-death traps or poorly placed platforms and enemies. It's such a mixed bag that's only made worse by the shockingly long load times and lousy checkpoint section that often has you going replaying the tedium to a degree worth of just quitting the game out of disgust.
I really had to force myself to stick with this game for two solid nights. And I only did so because I wanted to give myself the chance to see each stage and fight through bosses to check out new weapons. But as I trudged forward, what I found was that these weapon upgrades were often fairly useless. In the few hours I put into this game, I never bothered with the upgrades. Or rather, I attempted to use them at first only to find that they weren't actually helping me in any meaningful way and that I was better off to just stick with the stock blaster.
I kept telling myself that I'd suffered through worse games than this for the sake of experience. I kept trying to push myself to just stick it out and see Mighty No 9 to the end. But I just can't do it. It's such an unlikeable game.
To add further insult to injury, a couple years later Capcom shocked everyone when they finally delivered Mega Man 11 – an honest to goodness HD modern take on the real deal Mega Man formula. While it wasn't perfect, it certainly blew this game out of the water. And while I think Comcept's intentions were good, I highly doubt we'll ever seen a Mighty No 10.