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What a mighty letdown.
Mighty No. 9 was supposed to be the Mega Man sequel that fans like me have wanted for years. It’s out for a bunch of platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC now, with 3DS, Vita, Linux, and Mac releases coming at an unspecified time (I played the PS4 version). Its Kickstarter campaign promised a 2D action game full of the stuff that made Capcom’s series so great: fun bosses, creative weapons, and tricky platforming.
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But like any good robot, the best Mega Man games were more than the sum of their screws and bolts. Mighty No. 9 has all of the ingredients, but where Mega Man is rewarding and charming, this successor is frustrating and bland.
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What you’ll like
Nostalgic 2D action
At first, Mighty No. 9 seems like a fitting tribute to the classics that inspired it. Just like in Mega Man, you jump and shoot your way through levels, most of which you can tackle in any order you want. You have to beat a boss at end of every stage, and defeating them unlocks a new weapon. Some bosses are weak to certain attacks, so you can always come back to a difficult stage later when you earn more powers.
It’s a great formula that still works. If one level is driving you crazy, you can always back out and try another one.
Different from Mega Man, you can perform an air dash that also absorbs weakened enemies. Doing this can give you a power up, like by making your bullets move through targets. I did have moments where I was running, jumping, and dashing my way to a good time. The new ability makes Mighty No. 9 feel like a faster game than the old Mega Mans, since you can use it to sprint your way past obstacles and enemies.
What you won’t like
I would often do dash through a level just to be done with it. The stages have decent themes, like a power plant or a military base. One even took place in a government building, which stood out in a game like this. But the levels themselves are repetitive and uninspired. You fight the same enemies, most of which you can easily defeat by shooting a couple of times and then dashing through them. Sometimes you can just use the move to basically fly past large sections.
The level geometry either feels painfully simple or requires you to use your dash to reach far away places, which becomes frustrating since it moves so quickly. Often, I had to use the move to reach a ladder. Half of the time, I’d be able to grab the ladder out of my dash. The other half, I’d fall to my death.
The levels are also long. They seem to stretch forever, featuring rooms you’ll swear you already fought through. Long stages mean that you’re more likely to lose all your lives and have to start over, which becomes frustrating when you’re really just trying to beat the boss at the end.
Yes, the original Mega Man games had difficult levels, but they were also relatively short. If you died, it wasn’t that big of a deal to start over at the beginning. Having to restart a stage in Might No. 9 is a soul-sucking experience.
Boring, frustrating bosses
The bosses themselves have the same problem. Sure, a lot of them are hard. I was expecting that. But the fights also go on forever. Many of them have patterns that put them out of range of most of your attacks, so you have to spend a lot of time just waiting for them to become vulnerable. Even then, if you don’t have the right weapon, it can take a lot of hits before you destroy them.
Every once in a while, they’ll begin to flash, and you need to dash into them. If you don’t do this, they’ll regain a portion of their health. But some of the bosses, depending on where they are in their pattern, will move to areas that you just can’t reach. Sometimes they’ll even be off the screen. Once you can dash into them, it’s often too late, and they regain health. One furiously annoying boss would fly out of range, and the area you fought him in was filled with pits. I’d try to dash into him like an idiot, but he’d be too high, and I’d just fall to my death instead.
Mega Man games have hard bosses. A lot of times, you won’t have a chance against them unless you have the right weapon. It’s a bigger problem in Mighty No. 9 because the levels and boss fights are so long. Even if you hit Game Over during a rough Robot Master in Mega Man 2, it would only take some players a few minutes to go through the level again and reach the boss. Or you could just try another level.
Bland art and story
I could forgive a lot of these problems if Mighty No. 9 had the same charm of the series that inspired it, but it feels like a cheap imitation. The 3D graphics look simple, lacking any texture or detail. Characters in cutscenes either barely move or have short, outlandish animation cycles. The lips don’t have even bother moving when they speak. The practical effects, especially the explosions, look laughably terrible.
Even with these poor graphics, it still has performance issues. At certain times, the framerate would dramatically dip.
Mega Man games aren’t known for their stories. Most of them barely have any. But Mighty No. 9 often stops its action for a lame cutscene, sometimes in the middle of a level. These moments showcase lame characters with bad writing and over-the-top voice acting that would feel at home in a lame ’80s cartoon.
Mighty No. 9 can have its moments when its platforming and shooting tickles that same nostalgic bone that makes us love Mega Man, but its poor design makes it more frustrating than novel.
It’s sad that we haven’t had a proper Mega Man game in a long time, but Capcom created dozens of them before putting the series on hiatus. You could play the Nintendo Entertainment System releases in the Mega Man Legacy Collection. You’d be better off playing that instead of Mighty No. 9.
Mighty No. 9 is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC. The publisher sent us a copy of the PS4 version for this review.
Disclaimer: The author of this review was a Kickstarter backer for Mighty No. 9.
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