The thought of a spiritual successor to the Mega Man series making its way to Steam proved enticing enough for me to pick up Mighty No. 9, even if it were just for the nostalgia factor alone. I was very much looking forward to playing this title and finished Mighty No. 9 on the heels of its release on Steam. I liked how so many fans contributed toward this game’s creation through a very successful Kickstarter campaign. After all, project lead Keiji Inafune played a large part in creating the original Mega Man character. However, I felt disappointed after completing Mighty No. 9 in all of its glory.
We’re put in a fictional world where sentient robots coexist with humans. But one day, the robots go haywire and start wreaking havoc because of a mysterious virus. In particular, special robots called the “Mighty Numbers” have also been infected and are extra dangerous due to their enhanced combat capabilities.
It prompts the ninth Mighty Number, a robot named Beck who is immune to the virus, to fight his Mighty Number brethren and save the world. It is a very barebones story.
Mighty No. 9 shares many signature aspects of classic Mega Man games. Players get to choose the stage of the
Robot Master/Mighty Number they wish to play in any order they want. You traverse the stage as Beck until you defeat the Mighty Number at the end to acquire their unique power. Rinse and repeat.
Now, there is nothing wrong about Mighty No. 9 using the Mega Man formula to a T. That is the point. My gripes lie with the actual execution of its gameplay and how it all plays out.
For one thing, the major difference with Mighty No. 9‘s gameplay revolves around a mechanic of “Xel Absorption.” Xel is the essence of the robots in this world and Beck’s special power is the ability to absorb Xel and utilize it.
In combat, the main plan of attack with every enemy is to damage them just enough so their Xel becomes exposed. You then dash into them and absorb their Xel to defeat them instantly. By absorbing their Xel, you can unlock bonuses like more damage, defense, and speed.
Speed is a major emphasis for this game. It is supposed to appeal to the hardcore crowd of this genre, but the optimal playstyle entails blazing through each stage section while blasting enemies and dashing through them to absorb the Xel, raking in bonuses and all while trying to navigate through a stage’s hazards. When done properly, you establish a cadence to zip through levels really fast.
However, this design choice of encouraging speed felt like it took away from the gameplay. I really noticed that many stages had lackluster elements from a platforming standpoint. Some stages felt plain and generic and left me wishing for more enemies or traps to add toward the level themselves.
Combined with controls that did not feel as tight as they could have been, I found myself either falling into pitfalls a lot (you will learn to hate electric spikes as well) or getting nailed by random attacks. Regardless, the game elevates the difficulty by putting you in situations where you must jump precisely in weird arcs to avoid incoming threats. Let’s just say I got frustrated a lot from countless “cheap hits.”
Like a Boss
Bosses are a huge staple for Mega Man titles. In comparison, I found most of the aesthetic designs of the bosses in Mighty No. 9’s were a bit tacky, while the actual boss fights left a lot to be desired. Disregarding the fact that you are supposed to abuse a boss’ weakness, the Mighty Numbers themselves choreograph their attacks in set patterns. The deviation is their desperation attack once their health gets low. Once you get a boss pattern down through trial and error, you essentially solve the puzzle to take each of them down, with or without their weakness.
Unfortunately, I was frustrated by the Xel Absorption mechanic when it came to boss fights. You deal a set amount of damage to them to make a boss’ Xel “bleed” that you have to absorb. Otherwise, you run the risk of them healing back the damage you just did to them before any of it sticks as permanent damage. It makes boss fights quicker, but it can also can get annoying rather than dynamic.
Hopeful for Next Time
Mighty No. 9 will no doubt get future titles down the road. This debut game did not come off strong in a few regards. Still, Mighty No. 9 is very playable for an action-platform video game. I look forward to future games, where it can escape the shadows of Mega Man.
All Mighty No. 9 images belong to Comcept.