Mighty No. 9 Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Apple Mac, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii-U, PC, Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Linux
Development for Mighty No. 9 started with so much promise back in 2013. Fans jumped at the chance to play a spiritual successor to MegaMan from some of the original creators, even if it meant reskinning it as something new. The developers, Comcept, took to Kickstarter to fund their game only asking for $900,000, yet through stretch goals and incentives the project gained a huge following and earned $4 million! Unfortunately, since it closed, the project gained much controversy with three delays and other negativity. Let’s not talk about anime fans on prom night. Yet, here we are, three years later and Mighty No. 9 has been released. Does it live up to that MegaMan appeal that retro gamers are looking for?
Mighty No. 9 certainly takes players on a trip down memory lane with its familiar play style but it hasn’t necessarily learnt anything. You take the role of Beck, the 9th mighty robot in a line of machines with their own unique abilities created by Dr. White. We enter as all other robots in the world have gone rogue and are attacking everyone. Beck is our only hope to save the day by finding each of his friends and blasting some sense into them.
Just like MegaMan, this is a side-scrolling action platformer. Players jump and dash their way through to the end of each level where they will face off against their respective themed boss. What makes this play style stand out is Beck’s dash ability. You can use his Arm Cannon to initially damage enemies then dash into them and absorb their “Xel”. The speed at which you dash into them when they start to flash dictates your combo score and powers. Continuously get 100% and you'll create combos, not that they are that helpful. Usually you just hope for a HP refill for times of low health during those tricky bosses. Speed, armour and bullets that make your gun slower but more powerful don’t count for much.
Dashing can create a nice flow of combat forcing players to find a pattern to each level layout and where enemies spawn. Bosses have an extra layer as the only way to cause damage is to shoot them enough then get close enough to actually dash into them - miss your chance and they’ll heal. However at times enemies are dotted so randomly across levels that it’s difficult to shoot, dash, and repeat without being blocked by something else. Players need to think who and where to shoot first to get the 100% combo but Beck's gun doesn't have the most precise aim, especially against airborne enemies. Considering he can only shoot straight in front of him this involved a lot of jumping and hoping you’ve shot at the right time.
Dashing also comes in handy for those platforms and jumps, but not so much when levels are designed with limited space in mind. The “Highway” level takes place on a road which involves Beck jumping from car to car. Touching the floor is an insta-kill so when enemies are placed on tiny cars and Beck dashes into them to earn Xels, well you can imagine lots of death will happen.
This leads us onto the level design as a whole. What makes a platforming game enjoyable are the challenging levels that utilise the character’s movements and interesting enemy layouts. Not so much here. A lot of them felt boring and repetitive. Sometimes pacing is mixed up, fixing us in one section and forcing the player to kill a wave of spawned enemies until they can move on, but that's about it. Each level tried to add something new but nothing we haven't seen before. You’ve got your generic ice/water levels with annoying slippery physics and chase sequences, working against the camera as it forces you to scroll. One level is just a long corridor which involved chasing the boss from room to room. Once the enemies are defeated you’re just running down empty rooms to find him. Visually, everything doesn't look great either. Textures are bland and flat, especially the water level which looks murky and ugly. Everything looks unpolished and considering its budget and the use of the Unreal engine we expected something more.
The concept of lives isn’t something you see very often these days. Mighty No. 9 truly does go back to those times but man will it cause rage. You better harvest those lives because at the end of each level is a boss which involves a lot of pattern recognition. These sequences take some time to even understand, let alone get used to. So when you’re out of lives it’s game over and time to reset. No more checkpoints or powerups, you have to plough through from the start of that level to reach that mighty boss. Hopefully you have enough left to then survive the boss or otherwise; here we go again, back to the start!
Luckily levels are pretty short, depending on where you get stuck. In fact, just accept the fact you’ll be restarting these levels a good few times. You're going to die a lot, even if you are the most vigilant player! Unfair sections of trial and error such as falling downward with no visual cues as to what you're falling into or pixel perfect platform jumps with only seconds to think where you're going. This is what to expect on first playthroughs. You'll repeat levels so many times you'll know them like the back of your hand so you’ll get back to that boss fight in no time... hopefully.
Each boss battle offers its own unique pattern but once you’ve learnt when and where to jump you’ll end up just spamming the square button (shoot) until you are ready to dash and deplete a small amount of its health. In fact this is mostly how you complete the majority of the game which is a shame since you earn a new ability at the end of each level. At one point we do get to play as Call who is Beck’s female robot friend (Beck and Call...get it?), but you'll be grateful it's short and not so sweet. She’s supposed to take a stealthy approach according to the in-game guide, which we would advise you read as the game doesn't teach much in terms of tutorial or design. Her gun is slow and weak yet they still throw you into situations where you're cornered until killing a wave of enemies to move on. She also doesn't have the ability to absorb Xel (also not taught unless you read the guide) so going through this with her weaker gun doesn't feel like a great mix to the pacing. To make things worse, her voice makes everything that bit more irritating.
Speaking of voices, these characters are so cringy and annoying you’ll be close to changing the language! They were clearly going down the Saturday morning cartoons route here but the acting isn’t great and for the amount of times you'll find yourself restarting levels you'll hear the same track a lot. You’ve got to appreciate they tried to give each robot their own character and quirky attitude but none of them are cute. Cyro only speaks in puns, Dynatron adds “zzz” to most of her words as she’s an electric mighty and Aviator is overly cheesy friendly with lines like “tyrannosaurus-beck” when addressing you. Even playable characters repeat the same thing a lot. Everytime Beck hits a combo he will repeat “that's more like it”. Every. Damn. Time. Call will repeat every action she does too like “hold on” when grabbing onto ledges, “error” when she’s hit, “jump” when she jumps. This stuff got old so quick, especially after all those replays.
If by any chance you did want to sink some extra hours into this game then it offers local co-op, solo and multiplayer challenges. The game was actually delayed for these additions yet unfortunately on PS4 the multiplayer didn't match us with anyone. For the amount of times we had to replay levels and bosses during the story we didn't feel compelled enough to keep playing. Some of the challenges were fun like time trials however the platforming and controls weren't on point enough to feel satisfying.
On completing Mighty No. 9 you’ll feel some sense of achievement. The fact you can put up with repeating yourself and forgive a game that can’t forgive you for not knowing what’s ahead can feel nice, but mostly frustrating. It’s an OK game; completing bosses does feel nice considering all the crap you just went through and overcoming the risk of having to redo it all again. It’s a shame the rewards for doing so don’t impact the game in any way minus the last level. While it doesn’t look or sound great the combat mechanic does get you trying to do better to reach those combos, even if it’s to get more lives.