By Luke Summerhayes
Mighty No. 9 is disappointing, like an Animé fan’s favourite manga being adapted. Disappointment is the only emotion I can imagine one feeling. For Mega Man fans anticipating a spiritual sequel to the beloved classics, this will disappoint. For Kickstarter backers who followed this game from the promising initial concept to release, it will disappoint. Even for those of us who saw the furore the game caused and came looking for an awful mess to give a good kicking it will disappoint. Mighty No. 9 is textbook mediocre.
Playing as the eponymous ninth robot, also named Beck, this is a side scrolling shooter-platformer straight out of the early Playstation era. When shooting enemies and air dashing into them with a nice flow and a good combo going, it can feel quite good but it soon comes crashing down with a piece of platforming as frustrating as an animé fan trying to get the eyes right on their fan art.
The controls aren’t the worst, but jumping is floaty and imprecise. Like Mega Man, Beck can only shoot directly in front. This is much less forgivable with a big, polygonal, animated character than it was with a tiny little sprite. When enemies are small enough to slink under Beck’s shots, waiting for them to jump into range feels idiotic.
It wasn't until I died for the third time on the same needlessly tricky bit of instant death platforming that I realised this game has a horribly outdated lives system. Run out of lives and a Game Over sends you back to the start of the level. This is doubly annoying as the checkpointing when lives are in stock is actually quite sensible and generous.
Levels, after the initial prologue, are divided into 8 different areas which can be tackled in any order. Each one ends with a boss, and the player can absorb that boss’ weapon. So far, so Mega Man. The powers aren’t especially useful, and most bosses can be handled with the starting weapon. Levels are, for the most part, as generic as jokes about an animé fan’s virginity. The fire boss is in an oil rig, the air boss is atop a skyscraper.
Some levels are a little more original. A battle across moving vehicles on a highway, starting in a night time cityscape and emerging from a tunnel to a backdrop of a desert at sunrise is pretty enough. Mighty Number 8 is fought in a capital building, like a White House or a Houses of Parliament. The robot is a sniper, whose attacks must be avoided all through the level as the player pursues him to the very end.
More of this originality, and less wholesale trading on Mega Man nostalgia, would have been appreciated. For the most part, uninteresting enemy designs and platforming clichés meant I was sleepwalking through this like an animé fan at a sporting event.
The visuals are chunky and crisp, I suppose, but the models are simplistic to the point of ugliness. Cars are made of very few polygons and clearly contain no drivers or passengers. Backgrounds wouldn’t look out of place on the N64 at times, and enemies can sometimes be little more than vague collections of spinning shapes.
Sound design might even be worse than the visuals. The music is utterly forgettable, with nothing to really excite or annoy. Voice acting, on the other hand, is nowhere near as funny as it seems to think, and is shoehorned in all through the game- even though none of the characters have animated mouths.
The game, at least the Xbox One version I played, runs smoothly enough. There are no game-breaking bugs or major performance issues, like an animé fan who watched a bit too much Kill la Kill the night before their date.
After playing this game, I’m struggling to express any emotion at all. Like an animé fan’s mum trying to make sense of her son’s achievements, it all seems meaningless. I can’t condemn this game to the pits of hell or anything, nor can I heartily recommend it. It just exists, a slightly muted lesson in hubris.
If you were hoping for an elaborate punchline to this review, much like Mighty No. 9 I’m going to leave you disappointed. If you’re a Mega Man fan itching for a new game, I’d point you at Shovel Knight, a game that succeeds in capturing the spirit of the era without cynically copying the exact tropes. If you’re looking for a shite game to have a laugh at, we’ve reviewed much worse games here on Gintendo.
As for Mighty No. 9, I think we as a culture should just try to forget it ever happened; like an animé fan trying to forget Dragon Ball GT.