Mighty No. 9 is a spiritual successor to Mega Man. In the future, robots are used for every day tasks. One day every robot goes haywire except for the hero, Beck, who was programmed differently. Professor Sanda and Beck’s creator, Dr. White, task Beck with curing the other Mighty Numbers and tracking down the culprit behind the incident. Small cut-scenes play out between bosses, every few missions, and dialogue is spoken throughout each stage to give some context to the gameplay. The English voice cast is great, but it’s a shame the actual writing doesn’t back it up. It’s a plot all too familiar that doesn’t expand past winks and nods to the Blue Bomber’s history.
Beck is rigged with an arm cannon and a dash attack. Shooting enemies will eventually weaken their defenses, allowing for a quick charge to finish them off, which is called AcXeleration. They can be vanquished with the gun, but it takes a lot longer. It’s obvious the game leans towards players using the dash ability, as they not only finish off foes faster, but also grant Beck bonuses. These temporary upgrades, or AcXel Boosts, can increase damage, speed, defense, and health recovery.
As always, there are eight robot masters to tackle, each with a corresponding shtick. Pyrogen has the power of flames, locked away in an oil refinery. Cryosphere has the ability of ice and hides in a water treatment facility. The list goes on. And yes, defeating them grants Beck their skills. Yet despite these similarities, Mighty No. 9 actually introduces a few twists to an otherwise tired formula.
Boss weapons have multiple uses other than pummeling foes. For instance, Aviator’s power lets Beck jump higher and float slowly toward the ground. When released, a spinning helicopter blade darts forward. Another example is Battalion’s missiles, which can shatter certain rocks, creating new paths to traverse as well as uncovering secrets. Not only that, but released Mighty Numbers will accompany Beck on missions corresponding to that master’s weakness. It’s a gimmick, sure, but cool nonetheless.
Another great thing about the bosses is that their fights feel dynamic. Well, some at least. Countershade’s room is smaller and filled with various cover stations to hide behind as he aims his sniper rifle, which is not only a boon for him, but tactical players as well. His stage in general is an interesting setup as it’s one big loop wherein players have to track his position down based off of where the shots are coming from. There are other instances of creative boss layers, but it’s important not to give too much away.
It’s a shame more of the game’s overlay wasn’t given as much attention to detail as Countershade’s. The level design would be fine save for a few curious decisions. One, lives are back. Dying will warp players back to a checkpoint, which for the most part, are scattered decently throughout stages. However, certain areas would have warranted better positioning as their dangers are more severe than others. Most of these cases involve instant killing devices such as glowing pink spikes, which by this point in video games, should be outlawed. If these difficult obstacles weren’t hindered by limited lives and obscure checkpoints then, sure, all would be forgiven.
They’re not challenging so much as they are mean spirited and frustrating toward the player. The stage outline isn’t the only issue here. Mighty No. 9 is unpleasant to look at. Characters and enemies all look fantastic, but they’re placed in a lifeless world as if the backgrounds aren’t finished yet. Cryosphere’s level is the worst, featuring murky water and frame rate dips aplenty. The rest of the game runs fine at least.
Other than the story, Mighty No. 9 offers Challenges to get players acquitted with the controls in VR missions. Scores for both Challenges and levels can be uploaded to Leaderboards, which is great for players who follow that sort of trend. There’s also a more prominent online mode where players can race each other in stages. However, even after launch, the network code seemed to be broken. Even when a match was synced, the game would lag and just plain not work making Cryosphere’s problems look infinitesimal.
Mighty No. 9 is a good game worth fighting for. The gameplay feels tight, building combos can be exhilarating, and the bosses are awesome. The worst parts are its unfair difficulty and ugly art aesthetic. It’s plain to see Keiji Inafune’s love in the game, but sometimes things get in the way. It’s hard not to discuss the game’s troubled development when reviewing the game. Further delays could have fixed certain issues, but at a certain point, it’s probably a better strategy to cut losses.
This game will not be heralded as a classic in the same vein as Mega Man. However, the original Mega Man isn’t the best either. Fans debate back and forth between Mega Man 2 and 3 as their favorites (MM3 for this writer’s money). Another example is the first Assassin’s Creed. Great concept, failed delivery. The point is, despite its flaws, Mighty No. 9 is a good step toward reviving the Mega Man style in all but name. Hopefully the team will learn from their mistakes and make the next game the classic fans want it to be.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on June 24, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. It was also Examiner’s official review for the game. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.