Mighty No. 9 Review
Let me be clear with a disclaimer right off the bat here, folks.
I… LOVE Mega Man. Always have. I loved it on NES, SNES, Gameboy… I loved the original series, I love the Mega Man X series… And I am completely annoyed at the lack of any more X titles. (Stop holding out, Capcom! What happened to Axl after Mega Man X8?) Heck, I even enjoyed the turn-based jRPG styled game, Mega Man X: Command Mission. When I was in grade 1 or 2, anytime we had a spelling test, we had to write a sentence using that word. I distinctly remember writing for the word “Needle” a sentence about Mega Man fighting Needle Man, a boss in one of the more recent Mega Man’s of the day. Yeah… I’ve liked Mega Man for almost as long as I can remember.
So when I heard that Kenji Inafune, the king of all things Mega Man, was going to be creating a spiritual successor to the series, I didn’t need to see anything else. I was going to be buying it day one.
Yes, that’s right. Mighty No 9 basically -IS- Mega Man. I’ve been reading all sorts of comments, questions, and tweets about Mighty No 9 for a while now, and I don’t think this can be said enough.
Mighty No 9 is SUPPOSED to be a “rip-off” of Mega Man. The man responsible for Mega Man headed up the project, so no worries folks. I’m no law expert, but I’m pretty sure Inafune isn’t going to sue himself for plagiarism or whatever the digital version of that is. And by the way, it’s a pretty good rip-off, barring a few inferior aspects and control issues.
Mighty No 9, or Beck, is a robot creation of Dr. White (sounds similar to Dr. Light, no?) with the ability to absorb data or enemies or… well, I’m not 100% sure of what it is exactly. It actually looks remarkably like the Data Drain technique from the .Hack series. Basically, as you shoot up the bad guys, they eventually get this data-like particle circulating around them. By dashing in this weakened state, you can absorb them either as weapon energy or various power-ups, depending on the color. For example, red drains will get you increased power on your shots while yellow increases your fire rate and green boosts your movement speed. All of Dr. White’s other creations, Might Numbers 1 through 8, have all gone loopy and need you to drain them back to normal. As a side note, the robot that helps you out from home base is named “Call”. I couldn’t help but wonder if this game’s version of “Roll” was an intentional groaner pun…
First off, they did a great job of delivering a smooth, visually seamless production. I’ve read a few reports of frame rate inferiority to the PC version of the game, and I certainly cannot refute that. But I do not agree that this has somehow caused issues with the PS4 version. I have been playing a number of hours now and have yet to notice anything like screen-tearing, slow down, or anything else of note, really. When you consider how often a vast number of explosions whizzing cars are flying all around you, I have no problem saying the PS4 version is still a worthwhile purchase!
I like the design as a whole, but it is quite cartoonish even for a Mega Man spiritual successor to the point that environments can feel a little too plastic-y. There’s a lot of environmental things happening in the background, and you may notice a few three dimensional effects, as well. For example, a pillar in the background may suddenly fall onto your 2D plane to crush you, or enemies in the background may fire on you in certain levels. But for the most part, you’re looking at a 2D platformer, although the environment does help it seem more encompassing. During one particular boss fight, there are a couple video cameras on the battle arena and you can see the fight take place on screens in the background from the various angles of those cameras. Pretty neat, I thought!
As explained earlier, while you can drain enemies with a dash once they are weakened, you can simply keep shooting to destroy them, too. However, this comes without any sort of benefit as often times, those power ups are necessary for survival. Similarly, as you drain the final bosses, finishing them off will yield their special ability. In Mega Man, you would simply destroy the bad guys. What’s more, after you defeat and help one of the other mighties, during map selection, another option will appear below the map that enemy’s power is strong against. Aside from having the weakness of the next boss you are about to face, that enemy turned ally will periodically appear within that level to help ease the pressure a bit! I gotta say, in principle, I really like these added features. They compliment the game well.
Or rather, it should be a compliment.
The dashing is done with the R1 button, and although I got used it it, it just felt awkward after all those years of dashing with either Circle (or “A” on SNES) or a double tap forward with the D-Pad. It also makes switching weapon types (which in some cases are more like ability types than just a different kind of bullet) more awkward. While fighting, you have to cycle through the weapons with L1 and L2, then press Triangle when you have the one you wish to switch to. These extra steps pry your eyes to the top corner of the screen to figure out what you want while also trying to play frantically in tense situations. In Mega Man games, cycling through with the triggers/bumpers happened instantly and you could tell if you had the right weapon selected just by observing your colour. It’s not a bad control scheme, per-se, but compared to the mastery of Mega Man, it’s a far more cumbersome system.
Oh yeah... there's no charge shots, either, unless it's an ability I never found. Even the early Mega Man games eventually included a charge shot after the first few entries. You'll definitely miss the lack of a charge shot.
Once you have dashing down to comfort, you have to be careful not to over-sensitively dash off platforms or into enemies. The amount of time spent in a dash can change ever so marginally making it difficult to time and measure the amount of distance you’d like to cover. I’m also sad at the absence of wall climbing that we got in the X series. I get that the original Mega Man didn’t really have that either, but you can grab onto ledges. This isn’t so bad except for the fact that “hit detection” with the ledges is not consistent, causing you to fall to your death when other times you grab the ledge no problem.
Aside from these complaints, however, the control system is pretty solid and responsive. It just isn’t as tight as you’d like.
The game has an additional feature of challenges that test your ability to race through a sort of obstacle course or achieve a goal within a set period of time. These can often be very challenging at first, but they are fun in small doses. The main story plot is full of challenge, as well. Many areas of the game can seem unforgiving, whether it’s a giant mechanical drill bearing down on you as you rush through a maze of enemies and obstacles to avoid getting crushed or having to sneak through a narrow pathway traversed only by a lift with insta-kill electric ceilings or heavy damage dealing fire floors, this game definitely delivers on much of the challenge the Mega Man series is known for. In my opinion, it’s still not as difficult, but the challenge is certainly there for fans of the Mega Man series.
And for those who get frustrated easily, after you die, allies will come to give you little power up goodies to help you on your way. You just won’t get the coveted high letter ranking the hard core players can achieve from a fast, errorless runthrough. I believe this helps make the game rewarding for players of all skill levels.
The sound effects in the game are engaging and eclectic, however the voice acting, or more accurately, the voice recordings, really grate on my nerves. It sounds like much of the voice acting was recorded with cheap equipment in not entirely sound-proof rooms. To make it worse, the low quality in the sound of their voices really helps to accent any poor voice acting. It is unfortunately immediately noticeable.
The music is more akin to the X series than the Mega Man series, which I think is a great fit, anyway. However, the quality of the writing seen in X is not present here. While it fits, it’s just very generic sounding music that doesn’t help set the series (can we call MN9 a series?) apart in the same way that Zero’s theme song did for the original X. In short, it’s good and it fits, but it is definitely inferior in the spirit of comparison making. But really, what better time to compare two games, anyway?
The fortunate thing is that this game is very easy to continually revisit from time to time. You can take on enemies in different orders to change the challenge or you can replay levels to aim for a higher ranked score.
In the end, you’re looking at a fairly successful successor to the Mega Man franchise. Don’t listen too closely to the purists. They’re nutty and they might cause you to miss out on something you’d really enjoy. The reports about it being broken or unbalanced are simply untrue. The biggest detractors of this game are the insane hype and unrealistic expecations placed upon it by fans and Inafune himself and whatever it was the backers' leapt to assumptions caused them to believe would be created. Still, I do have a hard time recommending it to players unfamiliar with Mega Man, mainly because it just doesn't feel quite right for this to be your first Mega Man experience.
However, this must be said. Although it truly is not quite as good, with Capcom letting Mega Man collect dust in his cryogenic pod until the year 21XX, this is definitely a serviceable replacement, especially at its affordable price-tag. It certainly has a few minor control issues you’ll eventually overcome, and it isn't mind blowing nor exceptionally special in its own right. But the spirit of Mega Man continues on, and Mighty No. 9 is definite fun for all you 2D platforming action lovers.
6/27/2016 Chris Howlett