Reviews// Mighty No. 9

Posted 30 Jun 2016 12:22 by
Companies:
Games: Mighty No. 9
My thumb hurts. I don't think I have hammered an attack button quite so vigorously since playing on my Master System back in the late 1980s. This makes sense as Mighty No. 9, in many respects, feels like a throwback to another era.

Perhaps not quite as far back as the generation of the NES and MasterSystem, but it certainly feels like the game, at its core, is rooted in the past. Visually, it reminds me of a PlayStation 2 game, mechanically a PSOne game. I'm not going to go into the history of Mighty No. 9's development in any great detail. I wasn't a backer for the Kickstarter project and I don't have any great affinity with Mega Man. That's not to say that I don't find the series interesting, it just never hooked me.

I was excited to be given the chance to play Mighty No. 9, primarily because I really wanted to see how a venerable series of yesteryear could be brought back from the dead and reimagined for this generation. After a thorough play-through of Mighty No. 9 I think I now have some idea of how this can be achieved. Overall, the result, simply put is, 'it's better than nothing.'

Contrary to some of the more hyperbolic opinions currently circulating, I would have to say that Mighty No. 9 is not a terrible game. It is far from 'the worst game ever made?' or the reason why Kickstarter shouldn't exist. It's not awful, but it's also not very good and is rather difficult to recommend. The game is pretty short: my experience lasted around four hours. This would have been even shorter had load times been reduced.

As this is the kind of game where 'insta-death' is very possible, loading can become quite frustrating. I've been playing the game on Xbox One and the ten to fifteen second wait as the level reloads is noticeable enough to make it irritating. However, aside from the load times, the game appears relatively bug free. I encountered no glitches and when in motion the game runs well enough.

In seeking to be a 'spiritual successor' to Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 apes the same design structure. Initially, the player is given the choice of a number of levels of similar difficulty, the aim being to choose the best order in which to tackle them to make weapons most effective during boss encounters. So, for example, by choosing to fight 'Pyro,' a fire-based boss first, the weapon gained following his defeat will aid the player in fighting 'Cryosphere,' an ice-based robot. In the Mega Man series, the order in which bosses were tackled was central to the player's overall strategy for the entire game. In Mighty No. 9 the effect is largely negated by the fact that the player's standard weapon is powerful enough and indeed often the most effective one to use at any given time. This makes the 'strategy' of level selection largely pointless.

Mighty No. 9 does introduce one interesting and useful play mechanic: the dash. When an attacked enemy is stunned, the player can then dash through them and absorb their energy. This process does not restore health, but instead contributes to a power restore option that can be used when the player's health has been depleted. However, this mechanic is not communicated adequately and I discovered it by chance.

Prior to this I thought that the only reason to use the dash and absorb, was to increase the rating given at the end of the level. In Mighty No. 9's favour, the controls are tight and mistakes mostly felt like they were my responsibility. However, some levels, particularly those that feature electrical energy fields, feel unnecessarily cheap and one boss in particular, 'Mighty Number 6' also known as 'Aviator', had me close to giving up as attacks became impossible to avoid making death feel cheap. In general the game suffers from extremely uneven difficulty as some levels can be beaten very quickly whilst others take numerous attempts and often end in frustration.

For a game that is ostensibly a platform shooter, Mighty No. 9's level design is particularly uninspired. Each level has a set route to the end, with little to no possibility of further exploration. Whilst functional, each level feels like a bit of a grind to the inevitable boss at the end. The Movement of 'Beck' (Mighty No. 9) makes platforming reasonably fun, however there is a lack of challenge and imagination in design that prevents levels from ever being very memorable.

In addition, character designs are rather bland and the less said about the voice acting, the better. I am not going to touch on the story here because it is so inconsequential that it isn't really worth mentioning. The idea that the game could see spin-off series in other media is perhaps rather questionable, given the quality of the characters on display here.

I realise that the majority of this review has been spent complaining about the game, which is not entirely fair. During the time I have spent with the game I have genuinely, in places, had quite a lot of fun. That's what is so frustrating. The game is functional, it's not broken and there is potential here. Some of the boss encounters are imaginative and really get the adrenaline pumping. However, these experiences are few and far between. There may be sparks of a good game here, but they are just that, sparks. Mighty No. 9 never really fires the imagination or engaged me as a player. Platform shooters are a rare breed these days so I guess, in that case, Mighty No. 9 is better than nothing.

Pros:
+ Dash mechanic is well implemented.
+ Imaginative (in places) enemy design.
+ Reasonably polished.

Cons:
- Voice acting.
- Level design.
- Visually unimpressive.

SPOnG Score: 5/10
Companies:
Games: Mighty No. 9

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