Mighty No. 9 Preview
So, you remember Mega Man, don't you? The Blue Bomber? The character who helped pave the way for brutally difficult side-scrolling action games? If so, then you've probably been following the Mighty No. 9 saga, which began as a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign and will ultimately end up in the hands of Western gamers later this year. If you want to relive the good ol' days when extreme difficulty was par for the course, and when repetition and diligence were prerequisites for success, you need to dive into Keiji Inafune's brainchild. His comcept studio is prepared to bring you a nostalgic-laden funfest!
The first thing to bear in mind is the twist on the standard Mega Man gameplay. As those who have played the Japanese version will tell you, the addition of the Absorption Dash dramatically alters the experience. As enemies take damage from your handy-dandy blaster, they fall into a destabilized state. Once in that state, the fearless protagonist - Beck - can dash forward, destroy the foe, and absorb something called "Xel." This is a resource or currency that can be used to earn more powerful shots or a variety of special bonuses. Obviously, you have to be close enough for the Absorption Dash, which might change your strategy.
Thing is, when playing most side-scrolling 2D games, you were typically very cautious. Pressing forward was often a rash and dangerous move, with death being almost a foregone conclusion. But here, you're actually encouraged to press forward because doing so will result in more power and ability. Furthermore, if you waste time in getting to the eliminated enemy, the Xel will begin to deteriorate very quickly. Hence, being too far away from any given enemy is actually a detriment to your progress, as you can't earn the necessary power-ups. All this being said, you'll still want to exercise at least some modicum of tact.
The platforming should also be quite challenging, especially as you'll have to contend with all manner of nasty obstacles. Spikes and things that go boom will definitely get in your way, and environmental hazards will always play a role. They'll even play a role in some of the game's tough boss fights, but the question is whether or not you can use the environment to your advantage. In the olden days, you usually couldn't. Just about anything happening in the background was bad and something you desperately wanted to avoid. But I'm not so sure that's the case with Inafune's vision. As for the visual style, it's reminiscent of the golden age of gaming, but with a distinct modern polish.
Running, jumping, shooting; it's all here and it's all crazy fast. Players can choose their weapons and those weapons may change frequently depending on the level. Speaking of levels, there will be 8 in all (not including an introductory level to help you get your feet wet), and it's not entirely linear. In another modern-day addition, players get the opportunity to choose a level they wish to play, although presumably, you have to conquer a level to enable this option. You will also have some difficulty options as well, which may prove critical to those who seek a more casual old-school-inspired adventure. Not everyone wants to die a hundred times before being able to pass a level, ya know. We're not all arcade purists.
This project is a testament to the good ol' days when people had to struggle to beat a video game. But it's also an homage to a particular type of gameplay, which is very different from the normal 3D gameplay we have today. Plus, given the long experience of the development team, we should be able to expect a combination of retro and fresh; a heady mixture that will undoubtedly put a smile on one's face. Well, perhaps that person needs to be over a certain age, but whatever. Mighty No. 9 is scheduled to release in North America for most major platforms on September 15. As per usual, the European launch is three days later. Looking forward to it!
4/29/2015 Ben Dutka