Review: Mighty No. 9 (Wii U)

Mega Masochist.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/27/2016 10:00 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Plays like Mega Man sometimes; Beck and company are well-designed; good soundtrack (when in Retro mode)
Poison Mushroom for...
Flawed, flawed, flawed; shaky framerate; dashing is forced on players but doesn't mesh with the gameplay and environments; awful writing and dialogue; pitifully inept graphics

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way before I say anything else: Mighty No. 9 is not the worst game in the world. Following its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, Mighty No. 9 had become the darling of the crowdfunding world, promising a spiritual successor to Capcom’s currently neglected Mega Man franchise from a key mind behind the Blue Bomber himself, Keiji Inafune. With a sterling pedigree of developers working on the title and massive fan enthusiasm, the expectations for Mighty No. 9 skyrocketed, but sadly Inafune and company weren’t able to deliver. It’s the way that Mighty No. 9 has failed, however, that really makes this one rankle, as the mistakes and shortsightedness of the end product are virtually unforgivable. Comcept and Inti Creates might have made a game that’s playable, but Mighty No. 9 feels more like a slap in the face than a carrying of the torch that Mega Man ignited. If it wasn’t phoned in, it was darned close.

If nothing else, Mighty No. 9 at least got its window dressing down pat. Beck, the plucky robot of Dr. White, looks the part of Mega Man, with just enough blue thrown into his look to evoke Rock while still standing out on his own. All of the character and robot designs are solid (though somewhat busy), but they are letdown by some abysmal writing and dialogue. Dr. Sanda, an associate of Dr. White’s, had me wanting to lower the volume on my stereo every single time he started talking; his odd mix of English and French phrases (“bloody heck,” “sacré bleu”) delivered in an American accent were bewildering, and his constant braying and neurosis, nauseating.

Meanwhile, Call, Beck’s fellow-robot sister, felt sterile and cold. Dr. White, though a nice counterpoint to Mega Man’s Dr. Light in that he’s more youthful, lacks the gravitas and presence needed to feel like any sort of father figure to Beck. On one hand, it’s obvious why there would be an appeal to make Beck and friends stick close to the mold of Mega Man and his cast; after all, with Capcom currently not doing anything with the Blue Bomber, Mighty No. 9 is theoretically the only place that fans can go for a Mega Man fix. On the other hand, what’s been presented here lacks the spark that had made Mega Man so enduring; Beck and his pals are the worst kind of cardboard cutouts.

Mighty No. 9 delivers the basics of 2D Mega Man platforming well enough. Beck is precise when running and jumping, and the rapid three-shot volley of blasts that his arm cannon gives off is properly akin to the Blue Bomber’s. Sadly, it’s the additions to Beck’s move set that prove flawed. The game all but forces players to use Beck’s AcXelerate (dash) function to swoop in and absorb enemy Xel, which they begin to emit after being shot enough times. Xel grants a variety of buffs like AcXel Shoot, Armor, Speed, and Recover, which make Beck more powerful. It’s fun to amp Beck up, but again, the game design forces players into gathering Xel, as most enemies will linger for quite a long time after Beck has disabled them with his arm cannon; many times I’d just want to blast a baddie bot to bits, but the game would do everything it could to dissuade me of that. That wouldn’t be so bad if the levels were accommodating of Beck’s flourishes of speed, but sadly they’re not, and more frequently than I’d prefer I’d let off a chain of dashes only to quickly come to a halt in front of a wall or obstacle, or worst of all, fly to my death down a pit or hitting some spikes. Had the design team adopted a dash mechanic more in line with the one in the Mega Man X series, where speed was encouraged but not entirely essential, Mighty No. 9 would have fared better.

There are also a number of superfluous moves in Beck’s arsenal, like Back-Jump and Back-Jump Shot, both of which I never used outside of experimenting with them just to see that they functioned. They do, but they aren’t useful, at least not to me. The Crouch Dash was also similarly unnecessary, save for a couple of segments of the game’s stages where it’s required to get through a couple of death traps. Otherwise, it’s another mechanic that I largely ignored. There’s an option to assign AcXelerating to a double-tap of the D-Pad or analog stick, which would be great if it didn’t work so inconsistently; I stuck to the R Button, myself. Oddly, since we’re talking about button configurations, the game opens with the B Button assigned to confirming choices and the A Button for going back/rejecting… which is just weird. Okay, yes, the cross and circle buttons on Japanese PlayStation controllers are swapped with those in the west, so maybe it’s a carryover from that. I get it. Still, the fact that the default setting (which can be adjusted, thankfully) for the most basic of control options is reversed I think says a lot about Mighty No. 9 as a game, in general. Seriously, the title screen prompts the player to “Press B,” which 99 percent of the time means to go back. Mighty No. 9 starts by telling players to go back, basically. More often than not, I found myself wanting to do just that while I was playing.

As I said above, Mighty No. 9 does the basics of Mega Man well enough, but the flow is muddled with all that poorly executed dashing. It also doesn’t help that the game sometimes feels like it’s running on a dumpy high school computer. Mighty No. 9 isn’t ugly, but it doesn’t do much to impress, either. There’s some really clever art direction on display, especially stages like Radio Tower and Highway, but the actual assets in place are bland. Wii U, despite pumping out gorgeous 2D titles like Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, apparently just didn’t have what it takes for Mighty No. 9 to run without the framerate dropping or having an occasional fit of screen tearing. Lest I forget, I’m also sad to inform you all that yes, the load times are atrocious. Mighty No. 9 is reminiscent of a launch title on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and in 2016 that’s just unacceptable. It’s hard to play Mighty No. 9 and not wonder where all the development time went, because clearly the game itself could have benefited from baking longer in the oven. Even when the game gets something right, it finds a way to screw it up. The music, for example, is boring until the option to turn on the “Retro” version of it is selected. Replaced with an 8-bit-sounding version of the soundtrack, I was much happier, except for the fact that the Retro version is muffled and hard to hear. Sigh.

There are a couple of things left to cover, like EX mode, where players take on basic challenges in a large hologram simulation, and there’s also some online play to consider. Actually, don’t consider them. They’re not fun. EX mode is a lifeless afterthought, with the same iffy gameplay compressed into blander environments than the ones in the main campaign, and multiplayer, well, it’s broken. Shaky. Incompetent. I rather enjoyed the day-one DLC featuring the creepy vampiric character Ray, however. She’s Mighty No. 9’s version of Proto Man (including the color scheme) and she brings with her an ever-depleting life meter that constantly needs to be maintained with fresh Xel. The tradeoff is that she’s stronger than Beck, which made her some good fun to slash and dash through each stage with. Unfortunately, as this is DLC and not on-disc content, I can’t technically incorporate it into my final verdict, but I wanted to give those of you out there who were looking forward to the game something to cling to– I’d round my score up to a C- if she was included for all, with every copy of the game.

As it stands, though, Mighty No. 9 isn’t unplayable, it’s just trifling and uninspired. The core gunplay is sound, the nonlinear level progression/weapon upgrades/basic Mega Man fundamentals are strong, but Infaune and his team managed to ruin it all with a mass of slop piled on top. It’s probably the biggest letdown I’ve ever experienced as a gamer, and as someone who still regularly plays every Mega Man game (I was playing Mega Man 7 on my New 3DS XL as I waited for Mighty No. 9 to download!), I felt this disappointment very, very strongly. Who knows, a lot of folks thought Mega Man was going to be it for the Blue Bomber, but then along came the much better Mega Man 2. Maybe we’ll just have to wait for Mighty No. 9 2 for Inafune to get it right. It’s worth a peek, but probably not until it’s on sale for about $5, and even then I’d be wary.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

2 Responses to “Review: Mighty No. 9 (Wii U)”

  • 819 points
    Toadlord says...

    Man, I don’t think this game got a single bit of good press since the Kickstarter closed. And all that pain was self inflicted.

    I definitely feel bad for the backers of the project who had to suffer through all the delays. Hopefully it at least partly satisfies that Mega Man itch for them. I think I’ll pass though.

  • 1561 points
    penduin says...

    Man, this game is really getting raked over the coals. Here’s my own personal take:

    To me, Mighty No. 9 feels like decades ago when I sat down with the original Mega Man. Tricky but clever levels each ending in a tough boss fight, and so begins the process of determining which ones I can beat without a special weapon, and then on to figuring out where that weapon is most effective.

    Load times seem like they ought to be faster. Dialog can and should be skipped because nobody has ever cared about story in a game like this. Default settings for button mapping and audio levels are odd. Those are valid complaints, though they don’t ruin anything as far as I’m concerned.

    I was afraid the dashing mechanic would fight against me as it has evidently fought against others. But in practice I’ve found it a very natural move, and contrary to some reviews, I see it as having been fully accounted-for in the level design.

    The graphics don’t contend with the likes of Tropical Freeze, but it all looks and feels quite solid to me. People complain about blandness; I want to know where these complaints are when every single Lego game comes out. Compared to those (which people gush over) Mighty No. 9’s bots and locales absolutely ooze character and personality.

    I guess I’ve noticed dropped frames here and there, certainly less frequent (and no more disruptive) than the flickering and slowdown found in the NES, Game Boy, and SNES Mega Man games.

    I suppose it’s only natural to crave bigger and better and whatever. I backed Mighty No. 9 because I missed having new Mega Man platformers, and I feel like I’ve got one now. I haven’t finished the game, and maybe the quality takes a serious dive at some point, but so far, I just don’t see what all the great disappointment is about.

    Overall I’d rank it exactly on par with Mega Man 1. Not my favorite in the genre, room for improvement, but lots of fun and challenge.

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