Mighty No. 9 is known for many things – none of which are good. The past two years of delay announcements made it seem like the game might never even come to fruition. However, for better or for worse, it finally launched last month to tremendous disapproval. How did all this happen? Well, this title basically lost almost all its backer support along the way due to mismanagement and multiple Kickstarter campaigns. Some projects manage to stay on fans’ good sides with constant contact and clear updates. Despite promises to keep backers in the loop continuously, it often felt as though release date delays were sprung at the last minute and that backer voices weren’t being heard at all.
Non-backers caught wind of backer remorse.
Without even the most die-hard initial backers still interested in the project, there was little room for anyone else to get excited. Instead of hype, non-backers caught wind of backer remorse and felt like they too were spurned. Mighty No. 9 didn’t look like Mega Man (aside from visual similarities between Beck and Mega Man) and apparently was super short and janky. Instead of excitement, the project was met with insults and repulsion at launch. Did the game even live up to those original Kickstarter promises? Given backers have long since been disenfranchised, it is hard to tell for most folks. I did not back the project, but after going over the original campaign… well, it’s a little hard to determine.
The reason for this is simple. Mighty No. 9’s original Kickstarter page actually doesn’t say very much at all. It lets folks know that the game would be a 2D action platformer focused on robots. It also revealed the concept that Beck himself would gain abilities to change his attacks/skills. Beyond that, basically everything else was left up to the imagination. Interestingly enough, the gorgeous original concept art that many have used as a reason to hate on the game (for not looking at all like the image) was clearly labeled as concept art. It would have been outrageously cool if the actual product could have looked anything like that, but concept art rarely conveys exactly what a real game ends up looking like.
Another intriguing fact was that so many expected this to be the second coming of Mega Man. At the time of this Kickstarter (2013), Capcom hate was at an all-time high. The company had gone from friend to foe and many looked at them the same way gamers now view Konami. This was the perfect time for Keiji Inafune to become the public face for a Kickstarter channeling the spirit of Mega Man – because obviously Capcom were never going to make a good Mega Man game ever again according to the prevailing sentiment of the period. Yet, the project never directly compared itself to Mega Man on the Kickstarter page. Everyone else did that for them.
That’s not to say there was no implication of Mega Man informing Mighty No. 9. If one looked down to the project staff they would immediately get the impression that the team were heading toward something of Mega Man’s caliber. Nearly every person on the team is described by their relation to Mega Man (ex: as a programmer of one of the titles or composer of their soundtracks). These sections in particular were bolded as their defining trait. Not everyone on staff had a Mega Man mention, but it’s obvious that whoever wrote the campaign description wanted to get people thinking about Mega Man when viewing Mighty No. 9. When directly comparing any main Mega Man game (and many of its spin-offs), Mighty No. 9 does not come anywhere close to them.
But again, it was not initially stated to actually be the “next” Mega Man. It was meant to be a game from people who had serious game development histories looking to create something new – but still retro-inspired. If one divorces all the modern day hate for Mighty No. 9, does it actually manage to impress? Unfortunately, that’s not the case either. Despite a similar shell (fight a small collection of robot masters in themed stages and then collect their powers), gameplay does actually feel different. In many ways, it feels like something designed with speedrunners in mind due to a focus on dashing.
Yes, that infamous trailer mentioned this, but not really in any helpful way. Dashing is key to gameplay. Once an enemy is near death, you can dash into them to boost your combo. The ideal is to keep fighting so darn fast that there are always new enemies to dash into. By keeping up your combo, you’re rewarded with better scores at the end of a stage. When you actually get into the flow of dashing continuously it is surprisingly fun. The issue is that this seems to be the only real meat to the game. In other instances, Mighty No. 9 feels poorly designed. All its weird lingo is never described in game and instead requires a player to look through the long in-game manual, for example.
Then there is the fact that bosses and their patterns are completely uninspired. Sure, Mega Man boss designs sometimes looked a little weak over the years, but absolutely nothing stands out here. Besides, when boss patterns are so simple it leaves little room for excitement once you’ve memorized their three main attacks. Other components, such as music and visuals, also negate any goodwill. Voice acting is honestly really badly done in many instances. The actors and actresses might be great on their own, but the direction they took with the character voices is just annoying. For example, upon quitting the game, you will always be forced to hear Call’s incredibly slow “robotic” speaking as she signs off. Visually, well, the less said of that the better.
It feels downright awesome to fly through a stage.
Mighty No. 9 is occasionally given the chance to shine when a player starts to get good at the core dashing concept. It feels downright awesome to fly through a stage, destroying robots right and left, and ending up with a full combo at the end. The problem is that getting to that point is fraught with frustration. Poor stage design leads to a lot of failure, as does the potential randomness of drops (leaving you without healing orbs when they’re truly needed). The game is not the worst ever made, not by a long shot. Nor is it the biggest Kickstarter “fail” – at least it came out! The fact remains, though, that Mighty No. 9 is mundane in execution. All the original hopes for this project were dashed over time. Any hope still remaining finally died with the lackluster final product.