Kickstarter projects have become increasingly popular during recent years and as soon as the Kickstarter was announced for Mighty No. 9 the hype surrounding it quickly escalated. Keiji Inafune and a team of Mega Man designers are the group behind this new take on the Mega Man series. The game does clearly have similarities to the beloved classics in the franchise but what I found was a game with a different feel and mechanics.
I followed the game from its very early stages and even considered putting in some money, but thankfully I didn’t in the end, as promises ultimately fell short. The Kickstarter project was hugely successful, which was then followed by several delays which disappointed fans. There was then the trailer that released just before its launch which also received a tonne of negative fan feedback. The trailer ended up feeling bland and the voice-over was pretty horrendous.
The game is a 2D platformer which still draws inspiration from the classic series, but this time it has a mix of 2D and 3D elements, giving the environments and gameplay depth. You play as Beck, who is on a mission to put a stop to the robot uprising, with help from an odd looking scientist called Dr. White and a few other friends. Beck uses his handy arm-canon like the classic Mega Man games and you pick up different abilities and boosts along the way as you blast through enemies.
The game has a fun mechanic which allows you to quickly dash sideways, so you can jump over gaps and also absorb ‘Xel’ energy from glowing enemies, a bit like the melee system in the new Doom game. What also makes this feature more interesting is that if you dash through enemies as quick as possible you receive more points. You can also dash through multiple ‘downed’ enemies to reach even higher scores. You can also find you will pick up various boosts for things like your weapon and speed. Its also important to mention that you can actually hit the dash button multiple times and whizz across large spaces. This mechanic basically encourages you to play quickly but you still need to be aware of environmental hazards.
The enemies are varied throughout the different stages but I didn’t find them as interesting or challenging as in the original Mega Man games. At the end of you stage you face a boss, like the classic titles and in my opinion is one of the most iconic parts of the Mega Man franchise. Defeating each new boss grants you with a new attack, which can then be used against another specific boss. This is what I loved most about the classic games and unfortunately it doesn’t feel as compelling or influential in Mighty No. 9. You can freely select whatever stage to attempt and at the start screen you can actually get some advice and insight into what you will be dealing with. The bosses are okay but no way near as unique or engaging as bosses in previous Mega Man games.
The old Mega Man games were challenging and at times brutally difficult, but it was always fair and the games always did a fantastic job of introducing new mechanics and slowly building your skills. This is where Mighty No. 9 fails, as it doesn’t do a great job of teaching you skills, the controls can feel unresponsive and there are quite frankly some infuriating difficulty spikes throughout. Enemies are unpredictable and the game becomes more about fast movement and luck rather than you fine tuning your platforming skills. In old Mega Man games, you could assess where you went wrong, go back and improve your technique and approach to each situation.
Like I said, you’re encouraged to be fast and precise, with stages begging to be beaten in the shortest time possible. At the end of each stage you’re given a ranking based on damage taken and how effective you were at stringing together attack combos. What makes the stages difficult isn’t the enemies but the environmental obstacles in your way, like spikes, pits and fire. If you die three times you get sent back to the very beginning of that stage. There are 12 stages in total, eight to start with and another four once those are completed. If you know Mega Man games you know that you can approach each stage whenever you like, but the charm of using specific weapons against bosses is lost here as you can quite easily defeat all enemies just using your standard weapon and dash attack. You do pick up a good range of special weapons, like fire and magnet power, but I rarely felt the need to use them.
The game does offer plenty to do with the replayability factor in the ranking system and multiple challenge modes like an online race feature. Although the Kickstarter was a huge success in terms of funding, it failed to deliver what it set out to do. The presentation looks ok but not great and to me it lacked any sort of depth or personality and therefore felt a little bland at times. The 3D character designs look decent enough but the cutscenes are another aspect that doesn’t work, with characters looking static and awkward and the voice-over aren’t great. I did actually like the sound design and the music actually works really well and it gave me a change to try out my new wireless headsets for PS4 from Gearbest (shipping details). I have always been a huge fan of the music from classic Mega Man games and whilst this soundtrack is very different it still suits the tone of the game.
If you went into this game knowing nothing about Mega Man games or have never played them, then this will just feel like a mediocre platformer with some unique gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately for Mega Man fans I can see this being a bit of a disappointment, as the controls feel sloppy and the level design feels uninspired compared to the beloved games. The hype for Mighty No. 9 far exceeded what the game achieved and therefore it was always going to suffer because of that. I actually enjoyed certain aspects of the game and I could see some really interesting gameplay ideas hidden underneath what ultimately feels a little bland and void of personality. Its not to say it’s a bad game its just not what it could have been, which is a shame as I really wanted to love this game.
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