Mighty No. 9 was a game I had absurdly low expectations for. When it came out, it was hit with several people bashing it over how disappointing it was that this was the result of a 4 million dollar Kickstarter campaign, and how this was supposed to be the spiritual successor to Mega Man. Among the complaints were the several delays the game had, the fact that the graphics were leagues below the quality set by the concept art, and its horrible marketing scheme that insulted anime fans.
The reason I decided to play Mighty No. 9 despite the poor reputation it had was because there was nothing about the actual gameplay to be noticed from these observations, and the fact that these games can often be over hated. I myself often have managed to enjoy games that were otherwise panned by critics and have been adamant defenders of them. As such, I was really hoping that I would find something to enjoy about Mighty No. 9 but that turned out not to be the case.
Unfortunately, Mighty No. 9 simply is not a good game. Many have tried to defend it as just being an average or mediocre game with ridiculously high expectations, but it isn’t. Mighty No. 9 is a flat out bad game with tedious and frustrating design, cheap production values, a dull artstyle, generic uninspired music, and an overall soulless aesthetic that lacks the charm of the Mega Man series.
The story of Mighty No. 9 will seem very similar to anyone who has played a Mega Man game. The story is about Beck, a robot who looks about as close to Mega Man as you can get without plagiarism, needing to stop a bunch of robots from running amok. These robots are all controlled by Dr. Wily err I mean Dr. Blackwell, or at least the game leads you to believe so. So yes, the story is virtually the same as Mega Man just with a different character cast. There is also that same campy style to Mighty No. 9 with its character but no actual substance to the plot, which was never really the appeal of Mega Man anyway; although I will give credit that there is a decent twist towards the end. Unfortunately, Mighty No. 9 is only like Mega Man on the surface level, and even then not by much.
The art style for instance, looks very muddy and dull. This comes across as very boring and bland when you compare it to the art style of any of the classic Mega Man titles, even the mediocre Mega Man 8. The graphical quality is also that of a PS2 game, which is far below the standards of a game with a 40 million dollar budget, one made up of donations at that. Cutscenes are even more pitifully animated. There is not only a lack of mouth movement; there is a lack of movement PERIOD. All the characters stand still when speaking and every scene looks like something from a poorly drawn visual novel. The default backgrounds also have a blueprint like appearance that appears during practically all of the cutscenes, which drains a lot of the life out of them. The levels themselves also look unimaginative and there is a lack of any sort of contrast involved artistically. As a result, you have what are some really dull looking levels.
The English voice acting is decent, but not particularly noteworthy. It does feel like some of the voice actors are a bit over the top but that could also be due to the corniness of the writing. The Japanese voice-overs are naturally superior. The sound effects also resemble that of Mega Man 7 more than any of the classic games, which is not a good thing considering both games ended up making the arm cannon sound weak and like you weren’t doing any real damage. The music is mostly made up of unmemorable techno tracks that will not stick out in anyone’s mind. Certain versions of the game also include the option to set the music to an 8 bit style, but that changes nothing and they still sound just as boring.
The gameplay of Mighty No. 9 has the same basic formula as that of Mega Man; you have to take down eight robot masters and absorb each of their powers in order to use them against the remaining robots. Each of these robot masters have their own stage to go through in order to get to them and you choose which stage to play through first. Also note that they aren’t actually called robot masters in Mighty No. 9 but I will be calling them that simply because that is what they basically are.
This game’s eight robot masters are the typical fire, ice, electric, earth, wind, bomb, sword, and gun elements; each of which has been done at least once in a previous Mega Man title. This is one factor that makes it difficult to view Mighty No. 9 as an advancement of the Mega Man series and not as a soulless imitator. However, it is not the only reason.
Another factor in this assessment is that most of the abilities you get are useless during regular levels. In the classic Mega Man games, a lot of these abilities helped you get through the stages more easily and actually had an effect on the overall gameplay instead of just allowing you to defeat the bosses easily. Just about everyone who has played Mega Man 2 has gotten a lot of use out of the metal blades, and who can forget the first time one thought to use the time stopper to get past those lasers on quick man’s stage?
Mighty No. 9 on the other hand, will have none of that. The closest you get is the game removing obstacles from a level of a robot master whose weakness weapon you have, which is an admittedly decent idea. Otherwise, you will not so much as touch these weapons outside of boss battles and in the “Blackwell stages” (which will just be my code name for the stages that you play after beating the “robot masters”) where they are flat out required to pass by, at which point the player won’t know to use them due to having never used them prior. This means that Mighty No. 9 forgot to implement one of Mega Man’s most defining mechanics.
Another change that Mighty No. 9 has from Mega Man is that shooting enemies is no longer enough to destroy them. You instead you need to shoot at them until they change color and then use the dash ability to absorb them. This mechanic is not only gimmicky and unnecessary, but it also creates a bunch of problems in and of itself. First of all, enemies still damage you upon contact when they have changed color and can still attack. This makes things irritating since they are often placed in close spaces and are annoying to absorb. The second problem is that enemies no longer drop health. Instead, the only way to regain health is through the AcXel recover ability, the game’s equivalent to an E-Tank.
The difference between the AcXel tanks and E-tanks is that AcXel tanks are filled up by how well the player can build up combos when absorbing enemies, which is done by absorbing them as close as possible to when you changed their color. Unfortunately, you also lose them as soon as you die, which will happen a lot due to this game’s obsession with instant death traps. This means that you will almost never be able to use AcXel tanks on on bosses, which is frustrating considering how certain battles are absolutely absurd without or even with a robot master’s weakness weapon (*cough* Pyro). This is in addition to the fact that the AcXel tanks and absorption based gameplay is just a way to over complicate things instead of making improvements.
All of this is without even touching the level design itself. The level design in Mighty No. 9 is simply awful, and is what kills this game despite any potential it may have had. The first issue with the levels is the length. Each stage in Mighty No. 9 is about twice as long as the average Mega Man stage. This sounds like it would be a good thing at first, but the problem is that the stages are uninspired and oftentimes needlessly difficult. Seeing as how this game still uses the lives system, this means you will often need to replay these overly long stages again, and game-overs have a strong *punch to the gut* feeling.
This would not be a problem if the levels were fun to play, but that ship has pretty much sailed. Levels are often padded out with repeated mini bosses and enemy gauntlets that serve no purpose other than to make the levels longer for instance. There are also other amateur design choices like requiring precise platforming in levels with ice and wind physics, and untelegraphed, I Wanna Be the Guy like traps that kill you instantly.
However, the worst of these has to do with the game’s obsession with instant kill objects and putting them everywhere. I seriously wonder why Inafune decided to even include a health bar if everything in the game kills you in one hit. From the giant drills on Seismic’s stage, to the electrical beams on Countershade’s, and the fact that touching the floor on Brandish’s stage kills you and that you are hopping from cars with enemies bumping you off all the time. EVERY STAGE of Mighty No. 9 has some form of instant kill trap, oftentimes untelegraphed ones that will always kill the player on the first attempt… and the second, and third, etc. These do NOT make the game any more fun or challenging; they just make you need to memorize a lot of shit, which is not good game design.
Lastly, there are the technical issues. The load times on Mighty No. 9 can last up to 20 seconds. This isn’t normally a problem unless you are in the options menu and you have multiple load screens. God help you if you accidentally press the wrong button and go back a page. Also consider yourself lucky if the game does not freeze at least once every two hours. Luckily though, the rumors about the Wii U version bricking your console are completely false.
I did not back the Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No. 9; I simply bought the physical version of the game for $30.00 because I was curious about it. That being said, I feel bad for those that did back the game. After four years of delays, Mighty No. 9 turned out to be a disaster. What especially hurts about Mighty No. 9 was that this was supposed to be the revival of the Mega Man series that Capcom left to die. However, if Keiji Inafune won’t treat Mega Man well either, then the series is dead in spirit as well.
Mighty No. 9 has just about everything going against it. It looks and sounds boring, and it is not fun to play. While it is not shovelware by any means, as much as the game crashes, a game still loses its worth if there is no reason to play it. The only people I can recommend Mighty No. 9 are the ones whom are still curious about the game despite everything that was said against it, and even then proceed with caution. Otherwise, there are other Mega Man like games out there that should fill the void such as Shovel Knight, Azure Striker Gunvolt, 20XX, or Rosenkreutzstilette. Mighty No. 9 is sadder than an anime fan on prom night.
This review was originally posted as a user review on GameFAQs and has been edited and touched up for posting here.
If you want to play Mighty No. 9 for yourself for some god forsaken reason, it can be purchased here (PS4 Physical), here (PS4 Digital), here (PS3 Digital), here (XBox One Physical), here (XBox One Digital), here (XBox 360 Digital), here, (Wii U Physical), here (Wii U Digital), and here (PC Digital).
But don’t do that, buy Shovel Knight instead, which can be bought here (3DS Physical), here (3DS Digital), here (Wii U Physical), here (Wii U Digital), here (Switch Digital), here (PS4 Physical), here (PS4 Digital), and here (PC Digital).
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