Back in the late 80's, Keiji Inafune created a new videogame character that would become not only a gaming icon, but also a cultural icon: Mega Man
. The platforming-based games have since spanned decades and have appeared on just about every system from the 16-bit era onwards. Despite the success and the fan base, Capcom decided not to publish any further new titles in the franchise, leading Inafune to announce that he would take the series further in the form of Mighty No. 9
, the original series' spiritual successor. Despite a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, development was plagued with problems, uncertainty and allegations of mismanagement. Finally after many delays, the latest installment has arrived but can it live up to all of the promises and meet the expectations of the fans? Can it recapture the glory of times past?
Players take on the role of Beck, an android and the ninth automaton in the 'Mighty Number' series. He is the only one that remains unaffected by a virus that has taken over all of the other machines and robots across the world, turning them into destructive killing machines. Naturally, it falls to Beck to unravel what is going on, defeat the other eight Mighty's and return order to the world. For fans of the earlier Mega Man
series it should be a relatively familiar story that is told over a number of cut-scenes and dialogues throughout the various levels.
The gameplay seems to come directly from its predecessor too, more specifically the Mega-Man X
series of titles. The world is represented through 2D or 2.5D environments that provide the platforming elements and challenges for the player. Rogue androids and robots provide the enemies throughout the levels and the remaining eight Mighty Numbers provide boss-fights at the end of each level. Defeating a boss enables Beck, Mighty No. 9, to absorb or take over the powers from that Mighty and use those abilities in combat in later levels. This too will seem familiar to fans of the previous titles and it is here that things start to go a little awry: it is all just a little too familiar. In fact, as you work your way through the game, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were playing a HD remake - albeit with slightly different characters and slightly improved graphics - more than a new game that is expected to kickstart a whole new direction for the franchise. It feels more like a resuscitation than a rebirth.
All of the essential elements of the original titles remain -- the platforming, difficulty spikes, and the boss fights. Just as in previous titles, the levels can be tackled in any order once the introductory level is completed and there is no pre-defined path through the title. The game seems to stick to the design ethos from many years ago; whilst commendable in some respects, time has marched on leaving the game feeling just a little dated and restricted in its design. Levels could have been much larger with multiple routes, or even backtracking, but this is not the case. The levels are straightforward and relatively short, and once you've worked out some of the instant death challenges that occasionally pop up, they are quick to navigate through.
Even in the prerequisite boss fight at the end of each level, the decades old design ethos comes back again. Each boss fight requires the player to establish the first attack pattern of the boss while generally dying in process, before going back to a checkpoint and restarting the boss fight from the beginning. Then players work out the next attack pattern from the boss, usually dying again and restarting before trying to negotiate the next attack pattern. With limited lives, it can be a frustrating process. If the player loses all lives - easily done with the limited number at the start - then the whole level will have to be replayed. Fortunately, the brevity of the levels - you can blast through a level quickly without losing a life (once you've learnt the path and the tricks/traps) - still gives enough encouragement to try again, despite the challenge that is just tough enough to thwart you.
Combat does put one new weapon in the player's arsenal. The dash game mechanic remains but now includes an additional feature. The player can use Beck's cannon to stun enemies and can then dash through them whilst they are stunned, which enables him to absorb Xels (cels) from the enemies. These Xels provide the character with temporary boosts depending on the enemy from which they are absorbed. The faster that the Xels are absorbed after the enemy is stunned, the higher percentage of Xels that the player will absorb. This is a clever little addition - sadly the only one - that encourages the player to be more selective with their attacks in combat. Players will find themselves stunning and dashing through waves of enemies just to build up combos and different power-ups.
Outside of the main campaign, players can test themselves against a number of VR challenges that task them to complete the level either in a specific way, or with certain restrictions placed on the player's character, before comparing their scores against leaderboards. Unfortunately, there's little here to keep casual players coming back and it seems to be aimed towards the more hardcore fans of the title.
The game never strays far from the original design ethos and maintaining the feeling of nostalgia, so it's no surprise that the graphical representation also remains true to the game's history. The world is as large, bold and colourful as it ever was, but even here you can't help feeling that the graphics could have been just a little bit sharper and more polished. The music too remains true to the game's heritage, mimicking the 16-bit era but in a modern way. No doubt it will keep the fans happy. Overall, this idea of keeping the fans content seems to be the overarching theme running through the entire title, but it all feels a little too 'safe' and you can't help but feel disappointed that very little has been to done to advance the game. There are other minor gripes, too, such as the lack of prompts and help, the in-game dialogues between characters that pause the game, and occasional frame rate dips.
Achievement hunters might want to be a little wary of the title. Whilst there are whopping 70 achievements to be earned, some of them are very specific and require the player to complete levels in a particular way or within defined limits. This could take some time and it's hard to predict just how long it would take to complete all of them. Luckily there are a few simpler achievements for completion and combat, but they make up only a small number in the overall list. Ultimately, the game may well appeal to fans and to those who supported the title on Kickstarter; as a nice touch, all of those backers are named in the end credits and are given their own 'Mighty Number'. Given the thousands of backers, it allegedly takes a number of hours to scroll through the list, so there is a handy search box to let you find your own entry quickly. Fortunately, there's no achievement demanding that you watch them all.
SummaryMighty No. 9
fails to fill the shiny blue, metallic, oversized boots of its predecessor. The game manages to capture the essentials of the previous titles without capturing the essence. Remaining true to the original design ethos from a decade ago has perhaps been too restrictive and it feels more like a HD remake or re-imagining of the Mega Man
games than an attempt to breathe new life into an aged franchise, advancing it and introducing it to a new generation of players. Fans of the title might have some feelings of nostalgia but those looking beyond that for a challenging platform title will be left disappointed; there are simply better and more challenging platforming titles available. Sadly, there is a feeling that the title could have been so much more and it has ultimately failed to live up to the ambitions of the designer and the expectations of the fans. It's a real missed opportunity.
- Captures the essential elements from the franchise
- Challenging enough to encourage players to keep trying
- Nostalgic feeling for fans
- Fails to capture the essence of the original titles
- Nothing to advance the franchise
- Platforming is not particularly challenging
The reviewer spent around 8 hours dashing through levels and absorbing Xels while unlocking 9 out of the 70 achievements. The Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.