[It's better than nothing!]

[Mighty No. 9 original artwork]

System: Nintendo Wii U
Publisher: Deep Silver
Designer: Comcept/Inti Creates
Release Date: June 2016
Genre: Action Platformer
Players: 1
Save Feature? Yes

I truly wish that I could just come out and discuss how amazing this game is. While it certainly isn't as bad a game as the general public makes it out to be, Mighty No. 9 comes across as a middling disappointment...particularly for us lifelong Mega Man fans who were hoping that Keiji Inafune could rekindle some of the same magic in Mighty No. 9. If this game is truly the spiritual successor to Mega Man, then our childhood hero is in great peril to say the least. Hearing Inafune defend Mighty No. 9 by stating that "It's better than nothing!" does not help matters either. To be fair, this game does have moments when it plays very well and you can tell that it wants to be great. The problem is that it gets in its own way with frame rate issues, horrific loading times, and dialogue during boss fights. It is such a shame too because this game could have been great.

Overview: To be perfectly honest, I feel like I have led quite the charmed life in regards to my video game purchases/gifts/rentals over the years. Even as a youngster, I had a real eye for talent as I chose all-time classics such as Mega Man 2, Blaster Master, and Tecmo Super Bowl instead of some stinkers like Hydlide and Bayou Billy (those games still give me nightmares btw). Even my rental choices were solid as I was able to experience some real hidden gems like Snow Brothers, Felix the Cat, or even a really off-the-wall title like Krazy Kreatures. To be fair, I would occasionally stumble across something decidedly mediocre such as Snake's Revenge or Thundercade but you can't win them all, right?

Believe it or not, there is a point that I am trying to make here. If I could make sound video game decisions during an era with no internet, no cellphones, and limited resources like my trusty copy of Nintendo Power Magazine, then how in the world could I screw up and purchase a mediocre title in, say 2016? That shouldn't be possible, right?

Well, the resources are certainly in place to prevent unwanted purchases nowadays. Within mere seconds, you can pull up reviews from a wealth of reputable sources to get a general idea of just how good (or bad) a particular game might be. And normally, I would do this simply as a safeguard to ensure that I don't screw up and experience the dreaded "buyer's remorse." Granted, there are exceptions like when a sequel to a great game is released and you just know that it is a safe buy. For the Wii U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a great example because of how amazing the entire DKC series is. It was a low-risk purchase for sure and the game was predictably a very fun experience.

Sigh...let me just say that my brother Nate and I felt very confident that Mighty No. 9 was going to be a great video game. We are both longtime Mega Man fans so we were naturally excited about Keiji Inafune being the producer and when he billed Mighty No. 9 as the "spiritual successor" to Mega Man, we were enthralled! I mean...this is Keiji Inafune we are talking about! The man who came up with an idea (Mega Man) that would give Mario and Link all they could handle during the 8 and 16-bit eras. And here Inafune was some 25-30 years later ready to kick start a project for the Wii U with its HD graphics and whatnot? I mean come on! Where do I sign?

It is important to understand that Mega Man is a legendary figure in the gaming community and that his fans are faithful and loyal...to a fault. When Keiji Inafune left Capcom (on bad terms apparently), it was like Mega Man went out the door with him because no one with the Blue Bomber's illustrious history has ever received more lackadaisical treatment. Capcom (or Crapcom as I like to call them nowadays) clearly does not know what to do other than to re-release games that came out 25 years ago or offer up some silver-coated Mega Man figure with the "collectible" tag. Yeah...that is exactly what my mancave needs. A freaking statue of Mega Man instead of...you know, an actual NEW Mega Man game!

Now to be completely fair, it does thrill me to see the classic Mega Man games get re-released so that future generations can experience these wonderful games for themselves. But Capcom has to create something new for the older fans as well. That is all we want. All I can say is thank goodness for Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U! That game is fantastic in its own right but seeing Mega Man in the game is at least something to give us fans a much-needed glimmer of hope.

Back to Mighty No. 9 (This is a review after all.), when Keiji Inafune announced this game and made his famous "spiritual successor" claim, you could see how that could affect us Mega Man aficionados who were so desperate for something new. Thanks to Capcom's standoff-ish stance towards Mega Man, us fans were vulnerable and it didn't take much for Mighty No. 9 to became our new hope.

Well, to say that the Mighty No. 9 project was a rocky one would be quite the understatement. Despite Keiji Inafune receiving a flood of donations from fans and this game essentially being a simple, old-school platformer, it was delayed on several occasions. You would almost reach the release date only to hear of yet another delay. Usually, Inafune was good about communicating why the game was being delayed. Still, it was a little odd hearing about Inafune's team needing to "work out the bugs" and "enhance the gameplay." I mean...this was a simple old-school game, right? Still, we all trusted Inafune and just naturally assumed that he was trying his darndest to create the best possible game. The man's track record spoke for itself.

Well, the long awaited day finally arrived just this past June. I went to GameStop, picked up my pre-ordered copy of Mighty No. 9 as it glistened in its shrinkwrap, and took it home! Now my brother would be visiting my wife and I the following month so I decided to wait until then so that we could experience this game together. What's another month after a year of delays, right?

Shortly after my brother arrived, we got settled in the man cave and we fired up Mighty No. 9 my friend. We fired that sucker up! Everything seemed promising early on too as the opening theme just sounded deliciously old-school and the intro stage provided a nice training ground for learning the controls/gameplay. While there are some clear Mega Man elements such as jumping and shooting enemies, Mighty No. 9 incorporates a somewhat intuitive feature where you want to dash through defeated enemies instead of simply blasting them away. By firing a few shots to incapacitate your foes then dashing through them, you can absorb their xel and obtain AcXel boosts that essentially give you offensive and defensive buffs. In addition, you can snag AcXel Recovery items that serve as the game's energy tanks. You are also given a score for your performance in each stage and learning how to create combos is actually surprisingly addictive and fun...despite some of the game's other shortcomings.

In any case, after I managed to complete the satisfying opening level, I handed the control to my brother. Nate toggled through the stage select screen and decided on the oil refinery stage. Sigh...of all the stages in the game, we had to choose that one didn't we? Anyway, as my bro played through this level, I couldn't help but notice the sparkle in his eyes. It was very brief mind you but in that fleeting moment, he looked like he was having fun!

Ugh...if only the entire game had been like this, we could be discussing a potential sequel or something. However, my task here is to be objective and the truth is that, shortly after my brother's "moment," we started to notice some glaring issues in this game. There is a section late in the oil refinery stage where pillars start to collapse and you have to dash between platforms all while dodging said pillars along with the insta-kill lava pits below. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem but in Mighty No. 9, the controls get very clunky when the action becomes super-intense. It is almost as if the frame rate simply can't keep up so I don't know if the graphics or the controls are to blame here. Just know going in that you will die cheaply at times in Mighty No. 9.

I have to note here that the loading times in this game take me back to the PlayStation One days because they are so freaking long! After losing a life cheaply, nothing infuriates you more than having to wait 20-30 seconds before getting another shot. Even in the stage select/option menus, you will think twice before making any changes because each time you select to save your changes or simply go to a new menu screen, it takes forever to load. What is up with this Inafune? This game was delayed so that "enhancements" could be made to the gameplay and we still ended up with frame rate issues and ultra-long loading times? Seriously?!

Despite the frustration, we did manage to eventually reach the boss of the oil refinery level: Pyrogen. Lord have mercy...of all the bosses we could have faced...the first one just had to be Pyrogen didn't it? I say this because my brother nearly lost his mind during the boss fight. For one thing, your pea shooter of a gun hardly causes any damage while conversely, Pyrogen's attacks can make your life bar plummet faster than the price tag for this game (how is that for an insult?) However, this isn't even the worst of it. You see, Pyrogen telegraphs his attacks by saying certain things in battle. While this can get annoying very quickly (Mega Man X7 anyone?), it at least helps you to dodge the otherwise unpredictable attacks. Now halfway through the battle, Pyrogen becomes enraged and apparently eats a can of spinach or something because some of his attacks can kill you with one hit. Even with a nearly full life bar, you can be wiped out just like that. To add insult to injury, certain characters that have nothing to do with the battle suddenly appear and dialogue boxes pop up on the bottom of the screen. Note that this happens while you are fighting for your life! On top of that, as this worthless conversation takes place, you cannot hear what Pyrogen is saying before he attacks you which makes dodging his attacks purely luck-based. That's right...you have to literally guess and hope that you avoid his attack and, since his attacks at this point can be one-hit kills...you can see the problem. These are gargantuan-sized mistakes and I simply cannot believe that the programmers tested the game and felt that this was acceptable. The Mega Man series never had boss fights that were this screwed-up! The good news is that most of the other boss fights are actually okay despite some unnecessary dialogue here and there. The Pyrogen fight is a complete joke though.

While the oil refinery stage contains some glaring flaws, the remainder of the game is a real love-hate relationship...at least for me. I can say this because I have beaten Mighty No. 9 and I have not simply played one or two stages of the game like most critics. There are some enjoyable stages in this game such as the Highway where you have to leap from car to car all while fighting enemies (this one reminded me of Mega Man X4's train stage) and yet conversely, there are some real uninspired levels like the air base and underwater ones that I couldn't finish fast enough! For every fleeting thumbs up that this game gets, there are plenty of "meh" moments as well. Little nuances in the game such as the ability to air dash and move upwards thanks to the wind gusts found in both the tower and final levels was clever. Despite the lack of originality on many fronts, Mighty No. 9 does manage to include some fun little nuances at times. The flaws are still there to be sure but, like I said in the intro excerpt, the programmers definitely tried. Don't be fooled into thinking that Mighty No. 9 is on Mega Man's level though because that is simply not the case.

Lastly, I just want to comment on the special weapons in Mighty No. 9. When I first played the game, I was underwhelmed with the fire and ice special weapons. However, there are a couple of really fun weapons to use such as the missiles that you can shoot and detonate at will as well as the way cool sword weapon. Using some of the abilities can be difficult unless the terrain is perfect but overall, I would still give the weapons/abilities a passing grade.

[A fiery proposition]

Graphics: Aesthetically, I expected Mighty No. 9 to be a throwback of sorts and perhaps mimic some of the 8-bit visuals found in Mega Man 9 and 10. However, after playing through the entire game, I get the distinct impression that the developers couldn't quite figure out what they wanted from a visual standpoint. I say this because, while certain stages have a sharp/crisp feel (e.g. Highway, Battle Colosseum), others such as the underwater and air base levels feel haphazard, uninspired, and just plain yucky. The mixture of colors sometimes looks fine and other times it couldn't look worse which is odd since we are discussing the same game here. The cel-shading effects are a mixed bag as well. This game isn't a bad one visually but it lacks the consistency of better platformers such as Shovel Knight.

Music: Not to be outdone but the iffy graphics, the music in Mighty No. 9 is every bit the mixed bag as well. It does help that Manami Matsumae composed this soundtrack since she worked with Keiji Inafune on the original Mega Man game in addition to her Mega Man 10 and Shovel Knight contributions. She has quite the track record and, while the Mighty No. 9 soundtrack doesn't stand out like you would expect from a Mega Man-esque game, there are some decent tunes to be found here. The water stage track really grew on me with its catchy beat while the simple melody that plays right before fighting a boss sounds nostalgic and is definitely one of my favorites. I also enjoyed the final stage theme with its sentimental nature and pleasant piano segment. At the same time, there are several tracks that function as nothing more than shoddy background music. You can barely hear some of them (even with the BGM volume turned all the way up) which is very odd when you consider how important the music is in virtually every Mega Man title. This takes what could have been a memorable soundtrack and reduces it to mere background noise. To be fair, many of the stage tunes are mediocre at best so perhaps the quiet nature of the music is a blessing in disguise.

On a related note, I really like the option to change the music and listen to it retro-style! This gives the game more of an 8-bit feel if that is what you desire. As a whole, the soundtrack is still a very mediocre one, however.

While the music is okay, the voice acting is also hit-and-miss. Dr. White and some of the Mighty Numbers actually sound okay but Dr. Sanda can be extremely annoying at times. Nothing instills confidence like having to fight enemies in an enclosed area while hearing Dr. Sanda cry like a schoolgirl. It certainly does not reach the nadir known as Mega Man 8 but still...the voice acting is pedestrian at best.

Play Control: The controls in Mighty No. 9 want to be great. I can honestly sense this while playing the game. Everything feels smooth and fluid at times and yet, when the action really heats up and the game slows down, everything just goes to hell in a hand basket. Granted, this doesn't happen too often but it can be a real game-breaker when it crops up. Other than that issue, the control scheme actually works quite well! The dash feature in particular is very responsive and I like that you can make a light dash or a full dash depending on how long you hold down the R button (I used a classic controller while playing the game btw.) Selecting special weapons can be a bit of a pain since you have to switch through and select what you want on the fly (you can't simply pause and select your weapon like in Mega Man) but that is a fairly minor complaint. Overall, I can live with Mighty No. 9 in this area.

[Ice Ice Baby!]

Challenge: Like everything else about Mighty No. 9, there are positives and negatives in regards to the challenge level. The game does provide a plentiful amount of extra lives, Recovery items, and "Patch" moments when one of Dr. White's service robots will give you items...Fliptop style! On the flip side, you will lose lives in a very cheap fashion which will result in lots of frustration/swearing/tossed controllers/etc. I remember one time when a screw literally popped out of a wall the second I jumped downwards which knocked me into the spikes resulting in an insta-kill. You could say I got "screwed" (I'll be here all week by the way.) but seriously, the fact that you receive no brief moment of invincibility when it comes to insta-kills is disappointing to say the least. The cheap nature of some enemy attacks (and the immense kickback at times) does not help either.

Some of the boss fights (chiefly Pyrogen) are absolutely stupid with their one-hit kills and untimely dialogue too. I just cannot comprehend how some of these issues survived the beta testing phase. As a result, Mighty No. 9 is probably a game that you will play through once and then throw on the shelf to collect dust. The average gamer will simply be too frustrated to ever come back to it which is truly unfortunate.

Storyline: Average...average...average...that pretty much sums up the game's story. You play as the robot/android Beck who is the ninth entry in an army of combat robots known as the Mighty Numbers. That at least explains the game's title, right? In any case, the game begins with the other eight Mighty Numbers becoming infected with a strange virus. The fact that this virus is affecting all of the robots and machines of the world doesn't help either. The good news is that Beck, due to his special programming, is unaffected by said virus (I might have known...) It isn't the worst story ever but good golly how unoriginal can you get?

This game is chock-full of Mega Man rip-offs too. Beck's creator is none other the world-renowned scientist Dr. White. No, no, no...not Dr. Light silly! Say it loud and say it proud! Dr. White! Good heavens...is this seriously the best that Inafune could do? I honestly don't mind watching Inafune try to stick it to Capcom but he needed to at least give this game so originality you know?

Moving right along, the game involves Beck fighting the other Mighty Numbers (giving us our token eight stages) and doing his best to save them from the virus all while discovering the one behind it all (Hint: It is a Matrix reference.). There are additional characters such as Dr. Sanda who assists Dr. White and the robot Call who is the "Roll" of this series. I did enjoy the Prison stage where you play as Call and have to use stealth since she isn't really built to be a fighter like Beck. Speaking of which, you just knew that the person who created "Rock and Roll" would follow that up with "Beck and Call," right? I mean come on!

[Dr. White]
[Fancy graphics...or not...]

Funfactor: It isn't all that often that I review a game that tries so hard to be fun and yet comes across as a relatively average game but that pretty much sums up Mighty No. 9. At times, this game is actually quite fun with its somewhat intuitive gameplay and clever (at times) stage design. However, Mighty No. 9 is simply too inconsistent to be considered a great game because, for each positive aspect, there is a negative one lurking. Some of the visuals, music, and stage designs are simply as mediocre as it gets which is a shame when you consider how the game is actually decent in these areas at times. There are simply too many great action-platformers in the gaming world to mess around with an average one like Mighty No. 9. If you want to play the real spiritual successor to Mega Man, just do yourself a huge favor and fire up Shovel Knight. You'll thank me later.

You can pretty much sum up Mighty No. 9's legacy by listening to Keiji Inafune's recent broadcast. In response to the negative criticism that Mighty No. 9 has generated from the gaming community as a whole, Inafune defiantly stated that Mighty No. 9 is still "better than nothing!" This does not exactly instill confidence in a community thirsting for greatness and it is quite insulting to those who donated money to this project. Better than nothing?! Seriously?! I really do appreciate all that Keiji Inafune has done in regards to the Mega Man series because those games are still some of the greatest games ever made. Inafune's legacy is secure in that fact. However, Mighty No. 9 will likely be remembered as Inafune's greatest disappointment. Oh what might have been!

Negatives: I swear that I wrote several paragraphs here! I suppose that the page is still loading. ;)

[Highway stage]

Ratings: Graphics: 3.5 Music: 3.4 Play Control: 3.8 Challenge: 3.0 Storyline: 2.8 Funfactor: 3.4 Overall Score: 19.9 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Mystery Meat

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Last Updated: October 11, 2016
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