Mighty No. 9 Review: Less Than Mighty

Credit: Comcept
Credit: Comcept /

Long-awaited, perpetually delayed Mega Man spiritual successor is competent but is it everything it aspired to be?

Developer: Comcept

Publisher: Deep Silver

Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac

Release Date: June 21st, 2016

There are moments in Mighty No. 9 when the feel-good nostalgia of the Blue Bomber is realized, but, sadly, those instances are fleeting. In the end, Mighty No. 9 more aptly resembles an under the radar, low budget independent title than a game attached to legendary game producer, Keiji Inafune and AAA publisher, Deep Silver.

For those who do not know the origin story of Mighty No. 9, let us explain: Originally revealed at the 2013 Penny Arcade Expo, Infanune announced that the project would seek Kickstarter support. They reached their initial goal of $900,000 in a mere two days, largely because of the promise that Mighty No. 9 would be the 21st century Mega Man that fans have been clamoring for.

Throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014, Inafune and his team at Comcept (Soul Sacrifice, ReCore) raised just over $4 million to reach stretch goals that included: voice acting, multiplatform support, and, presumably, marketing costs and overhead. The project then suffered from continuous delays. Originally slated for April 2015, Mighty No. 9 was delayed until September2015, and then was subsequently pushed back to February of this year. Its third delay would be its last, and Mighty No. 9 is finally available.

Because of the three-year gap between reveal and launch, the lofty promises and multiple delays, the 67,000 backers and Mega Man-like expectations, the game leaves itself open for intense scrutiny. Unfortunately, given what we already thought we knew about the game before now, it is impossible to play it without acknowledging what went wrong.

Before the list of complaints, it must be stated that Mighty No. 9 actually sports some solid 2D action, and throughout all of its missions, I’d be hard pressed to tell you more than a couple occasions when I wasn’t having “fun.”

Credit: Comcept
Credit: Comcept /

The basic story premise: sentient robots have malfunctioned into a state of evil and need to be stopped (shocking). The only man (robot) fit for the job is a newer model, Beck. After a preliminary stage to set up the story progression and introduce the player to the gameplay mechanics, Beck is off to recalibrate the other “Mighty” androids. There are eight others, with Beck serving as the ninth as the game’s title so keenly states.

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The only way to bring the other androids back into the fold is to, of course, defeat them in battle. Like Mega Man, Beck is armed with a blaster which serves as the main weapon to defeat for defeating foes. The “fun” that is had comes with the combo system. As Beck, players blast enemies until they become frazzled and stagnant then dash into them to eliminate their presence entirely. This process racks up points for the final level score as well as steadily fills a pack that can be used to replenish Beck’s health bar when it reaches 100%. Admittedly, the enemy designs that are sped through are flavorless and repetitive. Beck’s dashing capability is also employed for dodging enemy attacks and traversing through stages.

Largely, the core mechanics of Mighty No. 9 are satisfying and enjoyable, and if the game was intended to be minimalist experience with one weapon and a single unique character ability, it might have made more sense if fine-tuned around those aspects. Its surrounding pitfalls would’ve been less of an issue as a result.

However, it wants to do much more than just this.

Throughout the eight mains stages, Beck gains a new ability by absorbing the power of each unmemorable boss conquered. Basically, he transforms into an android with a different suit with an alternative weapon. The problem is, the game makes little use of these acquired abilities and doesn’t compel the player even to remember that a new weapon is available. It doesn’t help that, by and large, the default blaster is often quicker and easier to handle than these fancier options. Additionally, scrolling through the cumbersome strip of weapon icons to find and eventually choose the desired choice actually impedes progress in many cases, subjecting Beck to taking needless damage when the player can just fire the blaster constantly instead.

Credit: Comcept
Credit: Comcept /

This is the main problem with Mighty No. 9. While, in general, it is solid, there comes a time three or four missions into the story when the player will likely ask: what am I progressing towards and why?

This is a classic case of not utilizing big facets of a work effectively. The framework is here, but the moving pieces and parts do not add up to a satisfying experience overall. In the final three levels, when it comes time to use the powers gained from eight bosses, it feels as if the developers realized that they had overlooked key features, and threw it all together in a last ditch effort to make the climax rewarding.

Instead, the opposite reaction is earned. Some the weapons and abilities that are mandatory to proceed in the later stages are difficult to control properly and are less refined than the core mechanics. This creates unnecessary frustration for a game that slightly teeters on challenging already.

The game has one difficult level to start, with three additional modes unlocking after the 12 main levels are completed. There are checkpoints interspersed within each stage, but after using up three lives, all progress from that level is lost. Tricky bits of platforming and discovering optimal boss strategies will likely bring players to at least a few “Game Over” screens. But its never overly difficult, the balance is just about right. For longtime Mega Man players, Mighty No. 9 isn’t as hard, but it certainly isn’t something to scoff at. Once the campaign is finished, there’s challenges and a boss rush to test your skills.

Credit: Comcept
Credit: Comcept /

Disregarding the fanfare and expectations, Mighty No. 9 ends up disappointing on its own merits. The visuals are lackluster with uneven textures, bland colors, and poor lighting effects. Technically speaking, the game only suffers from a few noticeable drops in framerate. Probably not coincidentally, those drops come when in one of the eight transformations. None of these issues are dramatic enough to ruin the experience. For those looking for a tough action sidescroller, Mighty No. 9 is decent enough to recommend given its bargain price ($20 digitally, $30 retail), and replay value (4-5 hour campaign, an additional few hours of challenge content).

Comcept. . Mighty No. 9. 6. While there is fun to be had here, it’s impossible to block out the half-baked pieces that surround its basic premise. In the end, there’s too much poorly executed filler to save <em>Mighty No. 9’s</em> fun nucleus from banality. It falls short of becoming the spiritual successor to <em>Mega Man</em> that it was expected to be.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.