Reviews: Mighty No 9

A flawed but solid gem undeserving of its toxic hatedom

As someone who has stuck with Mighty No. 9 from its inception in 2013 to its disastrous launch in 2016, I didn't had high expectations compared to those that now (and pathetically still) bashes the game and Inafune, but I held some optimism for the game. After waiting roughly over a year since pre-ordering the Wii U version until the fateful release date, what I got was a decent game still brimming with potential. Yes, there are design flaws and dumb ideas that did hurt the game in some ways, but ultimately, most of that did not matter to me.

While not a visual showcase game, it could have been much far worse and I don't think it looks that bad. The English voice-overs aren't bad but the localization could/should have been better and more true to what the developers wanted to convey. Mighty No. 9's story isn't amazing, and a few characters are flatter than paper, but what I did find some charming characters with the Mighty Numbers that feel like a family that stick together. Soundtrack's not too shabby either.

Gameplay is where Mighty No. 9 shines. To separate itself from Mega Man, Beck must weaken his enemies first then dash at them to defeat them, though the can be defeated with enough damage. I've seen many berate the game for the dash mechanics, but I doubt many of them even tried to find some of the nuances of the gameplay, much less experiment with the weapons unless it's the Remote Cannon.

The stages can be rough, especially when the level designers got carried away with death traps, but what I noticed from is there is a bit of flexibility of how you want to approach them, whether its for speed or score. This is where some of the weapons complements these stages since they can elevate the gameplay to a more puzzle-like action platformer by picking weapons that helps in some situations. Controls are also spot on and responsive (unlike A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda), so whatever mistakes I made did feel like they were my own more than the game.

Other problems I can fit here are the game can be kinda easy on Normal, and to be honest the harder difficulties feel more appropriate challenge-wise, and tutorials felt unneeded and badly implemented. The Wii U version, while not the console bricking mess some claim, it's not a version I'd recommend thanks to the frame-rate issues, frequent loading, crashes on some occasions, and glitches (ranging from mostly harmless to game-breaking).

However, since purchasing the game again on Steam during the Autumn 2016 Sale, my expectations were blown away by how smooth it played. I didn't expect my medium-spec PC to play the game that well, but my experience has been nothing but rock-solid unlike the detractors are claiming. Runs beautifully for me on max settings with barely any dropped frames, and I haven't ran into any major bugs unlike the Wii U version. When it's firing on all cylinders, the sense of speed Mighty No. 9 offers can be a fast-paced and fun experience.

Meh

This game isn't terrible, but it's pretty mediocre. It's basically a Mega Man clone without any of the charm. It's just not that interesting, or frankly, fun. I think it's not worth it's price. Buy the Mega Man Legacy Collection instead.

Don\'t expect Mega Man, but instead, expect a Spiritual Successor with some changes of its own

Expectations can color one's perceptions. Some of the complaints I've seen thrown at this Kickstarted game by Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune are that it's too much like Mega Man, and that it's not enough like Mega Man. Other complaints are that the graphics look old and unfinished, particularly the total lack of mouth movements during dialog (something my then-7-year-old nephew remarked on twice!).

But coming in with low expectations, I'm pretty happy with what I got.

Mighty No. 9 follows the same basic formula as the old Mega Man games. There's an intro level, then you pick which level to go to next from a set of eight, before finally making your way to the final area. You shoot enemies, and defeated bosses give you their powers.

It's better to point out how this game differs from Mega Man. And it does, in a few ways that took me by surprise, but which I came to appreciate.

You defeat enemies not simply by shooting them, but by "absorbing" them - that is, the nanobots they are made of (think Disney's Big Hero 6) - once they've been shot enough. For bosses, you must absorb them after they've taken a certain amount of damage, or else they recover that damage - and this must be repeated multiple times.

This is a surprising touch of brilliance, as it does something shooter games generally don't do: encourage/force you to get close to enemies. You can't simply hang back at a distance and feel safe being far away. You have to throw yourself right into the danger, changing the tempo of the gameplay considerably.

Boss weapons each have their own specific purpose. Use the sniper weapon and you can reflect a shot that hits multiple enemies. The missile weapon can be exploded manually in a fiery circle. The sword can do a lot of close-range damage if swung rapidly. The electric weapon targets multiple enemies and slowly electrocutes them, if it connects.

Rather than having to recover weapon energy to use them, weapons recharge automatically over time, encouraging players to experiment and actually use them. More arguably overpowered weapons take longer to recharge.

The theme is quite different from Mega Man. Without giving too much away, the main villain isn't of the "mwahaha I'm going to take over the world" variety. Instead it's... let's say a bit more "plausible" and original. In a way, there kinda is no true "villain" of this game in the traditional sense. The story caught me by surprise.

The level design is fairly creative, though I think it could have tried some more ideas. During levels, there's a lot of in-game dialog that occurs as you walk around and fight, giving the whole thing a lot of character. Combine that with frantic action of the "Nintendo Hard, yet learnable with practice" variety, and the whole thing scratches an action itch I hadn't had scratched since Freedom Planet. In all, it's a very good, short game.
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