Mighty No 9 is a game that has had a bump road to its release, not only was it delayed a number of times, but the game was under the careful eye of thousands of people who backed in on Kickstarter, of course now that it is out, did it live up to the insane expectation it had set upon it?
You play as Beck, who is the 9th in a series of Mighty robots, thus the name and when a virus infects all of the robots in America, there is nothing that can stop them, except Beck. After a brief intro level, Beck and the rest of his gang, Dr White, Dr Sanda and Call, determine they are on their own and start to undo the action, because Beck is immune and has the ability to absorb the virus, he can return the other Mighty numbers back too normal and help find a cure for all the remaining robots across the country. Sadly though, that is about all the story you really get, when you first meet the villain, there is little room to discuss if it is the villain and even the other Mighties have no really story to tell.
When it comes down the gameplay though, it has a balance of pixel perfect platforming and frustrating level design, which sadly gave me more desire to stop playing that most any game of late. For the most part, if you have played a Mega Man game, you will be familiar with how things play out here, Beck has a blaster that can shoot enemies from a distance, but there are enemies that will have protection against frontal attacks, so blasting and jumping do work hand in hand. Where this diverge from the Mega Man formula though is that the enemies, after sustaining some damage will start to flash and if you get close enough and dash through the, you can absorb their powers, giving you boosts in certain fields.
These power boosts are only temporary, but you can continually absorb enemies, if you are quick enough. The powers you collect are elemental in nature, such as fire or earth and are represented by the colours you might expect, collecting only one of them with only net you a small boost, but if you collect enough of them, you can keep increasing the duration if that elemental effect. When you have the boosts active, you will deal more damage to different enemies and while, you don’t need to use the dash mechanic to get the power ups, doing so will help you out. These power ups also come into play when you die, if you die to often past a singular check point, when you respawn a bot will be there to grant you some temporary powers, die again and you will get some stronger ones when you respawn, helping you out a little more.
In addition to the temporary powers you can get by dashing through enemies, once you defeat a Mighty number, you will gain their power, take down Pyrogen and you will gain his ability to blast heat out in all directions, dealing damage all around you. This system is similar to the one from Mega Man, however while in that game you could swap to any defeated robots power at any time, here before each mission, once you have more than three, you will need to decide which three to take in battle with you, you can equip them in each stage easily enough, but you won’t be able to use any of the others you did not bring with you. These help, especially when you are fighting the levels final boss, as they usually have a weakness to a different attack, rather than the default Beck has. For example, Seismic is able to have more damage dealt to him if you use the attack of Battalion, so while you can defeat him without it, if you have the power you will be better placed.
Of course, while there are many instances of things being similar to the older Mega Man games, there are just as many new elements, all of which are not done well, at all. During my first boss fight, with the aforementioned Pyrogen, I learnt that he makes calls, for when he is going to do a specific attack, which made the boss fight pretty easy once I figured that out, sadly what happened next was rage inducing. At half health, he jumped to the foreground of the screen, powered up a bit and jumped back, but as he was doing that, Dr White used that time to explain that Pyrogen was doing the exact thing I was watching him do, but as his speech went far past the actions of Pyrogen, he ended up covering up the calls that were being made and resulted in my death many times.
Sadly, there were other issues the game had, the purple instant spikes were annoying, with some of them being very oddly placed, but they did not really cause to many issues, until I found the giant spinning blades version in the Power Plant level, which after I touched them and died, proceed to tell me how to pass them. There were times when I would take damage from an enemy hit, only to be ignored by the next shot, while I was still flashing, but all the world damage would still affect me, so I would take a hit, be unable to do much while I flashed, only to be taken out by an object that I could not avoid, simply because of a lucky shot by an enemy.
The visuals also suffer from this issue, the character models look nice enough, but when you watch cutscenes, you will notice that is because they do nothing other than move up and down, giving them a distinct Nintendo 64 quality about them. Enemy design is really thoughtful, but I was not able to appreciate all of the subtle touches until I look at the artbook, which again highlights how bland things can appear in the game. The voice acting is decent enough, but the dialogue they are given to read is what kills things, it reminds me of the campy Resident Evil type of storytelling, which sad to say, was never good, even as a joke. From a presentation stand point, the games music is really well done, in fact, it would be my highlight from the game and if you don’t like the modern style of the music, you can actually hit up the retro tracks, which gave me a very strong nostalgia vibe and would do well on their own.
Mighty No 9 is a victim of its own successes, the game was thrust into the spotlight from day one and under that amount of pressure, things were bound to break. Sadly, though it is the games presentation that suffers the most and while some platforming sections can be frustrating, the core of the game is solid, it is just most everything else is not.