Game Review: Mighty No. 9 (Xbox One)

While not as iconic as Sonic or Mario, Mega Man is a well known and beloved gaming icon. There have been countless games across a varied wealth of series that have depicted the blue bomber in 2D, 3D and everything in between. Keiji Inafune, who has been part of the Mega Man franchise since the NES and SNES day, went to Kickstarter to craft his own version of a Mega Man-like game. He really shouldn’t have.

Mighty No.9 started out with a fantastic concept; Make a Mega Man inspired game that looks both current and modern. The art assets looked fantastic, and showed us a flat-out gorgeous side scroller that after you see the finished product, you’ll ask yourself “What the hell happened?” In fact, check out this concept art and then compare that with the other screenshots of gameplay, it’s not even close..

There has been much discussion about where the 3.8 million dollars raised during the Kickstarter went, as most Indie titles that have a third of that budget outshine and outpace this title in nearly every aspect. While taxes and outsourcing can definitely eat up a good percentage of that money, there doesn’t appear to be a game here made with anything close to that amount of coin.

I was hesitant to write a review for Mighty No. 9 as I’ll state this right now, in case I haven’t hinted enough, Mighty No. 9 is awful. I’d love to say there is something redeemable about it, but other than some awesome art in the included art booklet and poster, the game itself is a lazy attempt to capitalize on our love for another robot boy in blue.

Mighty No. 9 has a similar set of skill learning as the Mega Man games do; you’ll defeat various robot villains and then gain their powers in return. Mighty No. 9 also brings with it the ability to absorb the Xel energy of smaller foes. This energy, if absorbed fast enough, will grant Beck, your hero, temporary boosts to speed and health. These boosts would actually mean something if it wasn’t for the instant death sections in nearly every level.

Mighty No. 9 would have been a lot more fun had it been a simple platform shooter with fun mechanics and deep gameplay, but sadly it is a game about memorizing patterns and following a set linear path to the boss room. If you miss the moment to strike, move or jump, you’re more than likely set to die. This is even more apparent in the forced moving highway level where you jump from car to car. Each of the levels included in the game are short few minute experiences that are created longer by trial and error to learn the in’s and out’s of each zone. The problem with the game is there are just too many instant death traps to contend with and your allotment of lives will eat up very quickly. Often I would get to the boss room with one or two lives left, if I was lucky enough to even get there, and have to use those lives to figure out the fight patterns for how the boss works, only to die and have to restart the whole level again.

Even the bosses, which usually are the best parts of the Mega Man games, are mediocre and uninspiring here. The fire boss has an instant death hug attack that is just brutal to have for such an early fight in the game. Now, you can sort of pick the levels you want to do in whatever order you want, but completing certain ones in a certain order will make progress in some far easier, or even at all. I recommend unlocking the ICE power first as that ability can freeze enemies and cause poison-like damage to them. It basically straight up wrecks any one of the bosses far more than any of the other abilities earned seemed to do.

You play as Beck, the 9th in a series of Mighty Number’d robots. These bosses you attack and gain powers from are the eight that came before you. For some reason, you are unaffected by a virus that has caused these robots to malfunction and wreak havoc across the city. As I’ve mentioned, you can take them on in almost any order you see fit, and again, remember to spam that ICE attack on them. As you tackle each of the Mighty Number’s and take their powers, you are then treated to cutscenes that further flesh out the plot, although, I think ‘treated’ isn’t the right word.. more like ‘subjected to’.

Cutscenes featured in the game are just the awful character models simply standing around talking, featuring no animations at all. It’s a process that seems to be lazy and wasn’t given a second thought or any form of effort what-so-ever. The 2D art assets are stunning and if they were going to do static cutscenes, why not just have them in that art style? It would have added so much to the game’s visual scope.

Visuals for the platforming part of the game are blurry, poorly textured and basic, at best. Explosions look like a cheap pizza texture just spammed around. If you look at early shots of the game, Beck himself is full of energy and just fun to look at. The Beck that is here looks bored and just zapped of any form of life. Each level is just basic, lacks any good lighting and seems to just be reused assets over and over. If this game was to be summed up in a few words it would be “bare minimum effort”.

The voice acting in the game is downright bad. Everyone is so over the top it’s almost as if the cast was trying to out do one another at every turn. I’ve heard that the Japanese audio is better, but honesntly, even better audio in any language just wouldn’t save this game.

My expectations were somewhat compromised during the bad press and troubled development this game had since the Kickstarter launched. I knew I was going to get a game that felt troubled, but it goes beyond that. There isn’t anything joyful here, nothing that even comes close to the quality of any Mega Man title before it. Now, granted this isn’t Mega Man, but when you have one of the men behind the early Mega Man games pitching a game about a little blue boy robot who gains the powers of those he defeats, you sort of expect something similar in quality. Mighty No. 9 at the end of the day is painful, lazy and just not good. Had the game been entirely in the 2D artwork and not a pattern memorizing poorly textured platformer, well then we may have had something worthwhile to talk about.


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