First Impressions on “Mighty No. 9” and a Cautionary Tale

Meanwhile at Capcom…

Mighty No. 9 poster

Moar Powah’s Inverseman signing on, and after long amounts of waiting, delays, and a helping of internal politics, “Mighty No. 9” is here. It’s been three years since the original Kickstarter. How do the first moments of the game stack up? What must we be aware of? Well, let’s find out.

I currently think it’s very difficult to put a clear verdict on this game. We’ve spent three long years with plenty of failed promises and inner nepotism rearing their ugly heads. Of course we all feel betrayed to some extent (definitely the backers), but because of that investment outside of the game, it’s all too easy to avoid evaluating it on its merits and faults. Unlike say, “Final Fantasy XV”, which has now tenuous to no expectations after a decade of stunted development, “Mighty No. 9” was conflated to a “savior of games” with Inafune’s team as the “good guys” who would use our money to save Mega Man from the “bad guys” at Capcom. Delays tempered our excitement from passionate flames to a dull roar. Reneged promises and early release footage soon created bitterness, and ultimately the finalized [Steam and PS4 edition, Xbox and handhelds still delayed] release date flew under all our radars forgotten.

Azure Striker Gunvolt sc

All the while, expectations have been rising consciously and unconsciously to terribly unrealistic levels. Believers in the project who kept the faith were setting themselves up for disillusionment, detractors got more ammunition, and everyone on the sidelines made it out to be a taboo they’d rather not touch. Comcept would have to win all these hearts and more. The shame is that some of the development team, at least the members of Inti Creates that lent a hand to Inafune’s team, have proven themselves before, such as with “Azure Striker Gunvolt”.

So in a way, the Mega Man spiritual successor does exist, just in Gunvolt instead. The core danger here was Comcept setting themselves up for failure when they could have avoided it, and how we, as the audience, let ourselves get carried away with the spectacle. Myself included! Perhaps we would have all been more lenient on the game had it not had the words “Mega Man” hidden on the box or if the game flew out on a smaller budget with fewer boasts.

Mighty No. 9 stage sc

Finally onto the game itself. We all know the Mega Man recipe: defeat eight evil robots, steal their powers, exploit said powers, and take the fight to an evil mad scientist’s fortress, rinse, repeat next game. What “Mighty No. 9” does a little different is include a dash system similar to “Mega Man X”. Beck can AcXelerate Dash through weakened enemies and absorb them for various power ups that increase in potency the sooner you execute it. The game tries to emphasize it, but sometimes at the cost of making it a little on the easy side during stage portions, or during some boss attacks laughably easy to dodge.

Though not every moment seems to gel with the AcXelerate Dash. I would clear half a boss’ HP into the weakened state, but she would leap into the air before my dash could reach. By the time she landed, I missed my window and she was back at full health. On the bright side though, I do commend the mechanic, it’s very sound, gives a good rush which I fear may wear thing, and it tells the inner “X series” fan in me says this is how Axl of “Mega Man X7” infamy should have worked.

Mighty No. 9 vs Cryo

The stages, at least from my first brush with Mighty No. 2 Cryo, leave something to be desired. In this case, I was dropped immediately into a murky sea where the dark greens overshadowed the already very dull looking graphics, nearly blinding me with the dark. Upon reaching the ice section of our Ice Woman’s stage, the dark greens where replaced with blues and whites that all blended in with the stage platforms and hazards, blinding me with light. As for the stage itself, there wasn’t much cohesion to the themes, if any, which is a shame since Mega Man stages always had a thematic flow.

Here it was just haphazard generic stage designs, but with a few ice slicks and ice blocks. It wasn’t unplayable, but it wasn’t memorable as a stage good or bad. It’s been minutes and I cannot even remember the music, which is quite a shame. The boss fared similarly, she was doable, but still somewhat frustrating. In one moment I had a “sweet spot” where my Mega Buster did nearly half her damage, putting her into the absorption state, which I missed the window for into her long invulnerability phase until it finally closed with her back at full health. It makes me wonder if I had the “Fire Man” weapon ahead of time, would that have destroyed her quicker than Metal Man to his own blades? Or is Beck’s Mega Buster a little on the strong side? We may have a balance problem, but I’d need more weapons first.

Update: Just got the Ice Shot and used it in the next stage according to the boss order, it made an entire section of the stage irrelevant and the area boss literally could not move or act for a significant portion of the battle.

Sadly, our encounter with "Zero" is not as cool as this awesome art makes it out to be.

Sadly, our encounter with “Zero” is not as cool as this awesome art makes it out to be.

Another stage I started out with, and had an easier time with, was the DLC Ray stage. Ray is our Zero/Bass/Protoman stand-in the Mighty No. 0. Ray might have been intended as an extra boss after getting significant power ups and the game’s equivalent of E-Tanks since her stage was filled with aggressive enemies and her attacks were  very potent. However, they became predictable very quickly and the oddly powerful Mega Buster struck again. Ray herself is a novel character, having to always need fresh kills lest she start losing health, so anyone looking for a “Zero” experience knows who to turn to. There are fun concepts embedded within the game, but there’s one very damning part of it that reared its head right away, its technical flaws.

Mighty No. 9 Beck render

Now I’m not one to rag on graphics, but for a three year development cycle, the art is extremely questionable, resembling a GCN or PS2 game. Ironically, it brings memories of travesties like “Mega Man X7”. While I don’t have too many issues with the voice work, seeing static deadpan 3D models and static CGs pasted onto the rendered backgrounds only further exacerbated the distinct lack of polish.  You could send a screenshot of the game back in time to the early 2000s and it would look right at home. Again, graphics are not particularly a priority for me, but what really damns the game is its performance issues, and of course, the aforementioned issue of the visuals actually interfering with gameplay.

I had the game initially running on high settings and played through the intro stage at full 60FPS, and with its simplistic graphics, it seemed high settings were the way to go. Once I hit the stages, I noticed the frame rate dropping, coupled making the visual cacophony and slippery mechanics of the ice stage, and the game became almost unplayable. I reduced my computer’s settings, in spite of a relatively decent graphics card, and rebooted the game. The frame rate was more stable, but there were still frame drops even when simply dashing through two or more enemies. I normally am first in line to blame my equipment rather than the game, but at this point it’s rather silly to have such a technically dated game perform so sub-optimally in a genre that prioritizes control over trifling embellishments.

Mighty No. 9 prototype

Only just getting my hands on the game, I cannot give a fair verdict yet. It’s certainly neither a 10 nor what was promised like the above concept but I hope to find the time and willpower to invest in the game and let my own biases blow over. I was also excited for this game too… Though if there’s something to be learned, this was the gaming world’s first run with crowd funded big games, and since, we’ve learned a ton. We’ve learned to hold developers accountable and think smart about who we back. The best part is that it’s already showing. “Shovel Knight” was a runaway success and upcoming titles like “Yooka Laylee” with empirical evidence of promise are signs that both developers and consumers are learning. Join me next time when maybe I’ll have a review up, or maybe I just cannot defeat Airman.

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Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

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