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Mighty No. 9 (PlayStation 4) artwork

Mighty No. 9 (PlayStation 4) review

"Akira Kitamura is rolling in his bed."

I may have stopped paying attention to Mighty No. 9's development history after its initial reveal back in 2013, but considering Keiji Inafune was at the helm, I had a "sneaking" suspicion this was going to play like Mega Man. However, I was taken aback at how much this game really wants to be Mega Man: you control a little robot, Beck, who shoots projectiles from his hand cannon, receives support from his creator, Dr. White, and a blonde girl robot, Call, and fights eight robots gone rogue, obtaining their powers after giving them a good beat down. There's also DLC content featuring a mysterious robot character donning red colors and a pointy helmet! Can't wait to know more about this thrilling new character that's been around for 26 years.

Joking aside, Mighty No. 9 is inexcusable. I'm not talking about the aforementioned similarities, or such things as the PR disaster that surrounded the game during its development cycle, Dreamcast-era visuals, and the exaggerated, irritating voice direction for some of the characters; all that stuff became background noise after the first hour of play. If there was one thing this game could have gotten right without even lifting a finger, it would have been the grueling, creative level designs that the Mega Man series is known for. Yet, Mighty No. 9 has managed to do the unthinkable: it spectacularly stumbles through its adventure in sub-par fashion.

Unless things get a major overhaul in a sequel, the days of constant, reflex-heavy action, dastardly enemies, and a barrage of puzzle-savvy obstacle courses seem to be long behind us. A slew of uninspired levels are in their stead, where you just constantly speed forward with your omnipotent, midair-capable dash move, try climbing up and over a ton of walls, destroy enemies that casually charge you with no actual attacks, and occasionally be stuck in single-screen horde rushes. Worse, the rogues gallery is so small, that they are constantly recycled between stages. So get used to seeing the stupid "rushing" melee robots that just go through you, the green robots with a shield, the forklift robots that use a crate as a temporary shield before "rushing" you, and the hanging gorilla robots for the bizillionth time. They are as unoriginal as they sound.

Mighty No. 9 has some challenging segments, such as having to quickly outrun a giant drill with objects in your path, or dashing across falling platforms while avoiding a rain of flames and collapsing towers. But these sections are so few and far between, that they come off as shocking moments within a mass of mediocrity. Whatever happened to legitimate, varied threats that greeted you at every corner? Giant snake heads used to keep you at a distance with its huge projectiles. You were forced to shoot eggs before they hit the ground, in fear of being swarmed by chicks. Giant enemies cornered you near pits with homing missiles. Ceilings crushed. Blocks disappeared in patterns.

Of the 12 included stages, Water Works Bureau and Highway are the most "complete" in terms of stages that present real challenges throughout. The former has slippery platforms, a free fall area where you dodge purple electricity (this game's version of one-hit kill spikes), and interesting enemies, such as one that builds an ice block tower that's advantageous to reaching higher areas. The latter is the most reflex-heavy of all the stages, since it forces enemy encounters down your throat, featuring malfunctioning signs and Lakitu-style robots that stalk from above while dispensing homing bombs. All this while jumping from vehicle to vehicle on a speeding highway. Unfortunately, every other stage just comes off like pale imitations, which unfortunately includes the clever and absurdly-underutilized sniper gimmick stage where you must locate Steve Blum while dodging persistent shots from his hiding locations.

If there's one aspect that feels as if any genuine effort was put into it on a consistent basis, it would have to be the boss battles. Dynatron, for example, is a hovering boss that unleashes electrical currents; she does this by first performing a spreadshot attack that can, if you fail to dodge one or more of its projectiles, latch on to your character's body. If you don't shake them off in time, you know what's coming next. One boss arena also shrinks in size as you battle Seismic, an obvious variation of the Guts Man "tough guy" model, who tosses boulders and further crowds the screen by dropping crates from the ceiling. These fights provide players the much needed agility and reflex-based combat that nearly all the stages lack for some reason. Like, seriously, if you can incorporate this stuff into the boss battles, then why not do the same for the bulk of the game?

I really wish I could only judge this game on its own merits instead of constantly making comparisons to its spiritual predecessors, but that's downright impossible when it's painfully obvious Inafune wants Mighty No. 9 to be the next Mega Man. That's also why it's so depressing this turned out the way it did, since the development team has members that have been involved with numerous Mega Man titles throughout the last several decades; I wasn't expecting a revolution in game mechanics and design, but I was expecting the veteran crew to bring their 29 years of combined experience to the table, giving players something to cherish.

I'll say this: Mega Man 2's development history. It was a game that almost never happened because the higher-ups at Capcom weren't impressed with the first game's sales. After some pleading, they finally approved of a sequel, but only if it didn't get in the way of other projects, so the team pretty much had to make the game on free time. But Mega Man 2 was made and completed in mere months with love and passion, because they believed this product would turn out great. To this day, it's one of the most celebrated games in its genre. Compare this to Mighty No. 9: has a nearly $4 million budget funded by very generous people, took three years and several questionable delays before finally being released, and the end result is a product so embarrassingly half-assed, that an indie developer could easily churn out a higher quality product with much less money.

I can't even begin to understand.


pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (June 27, 2016)

Even after reviewing all these Double Dragon games, it's crazy to think there's still a ton of games left to review due to varying interpretations.


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EmP posted June 27, 2016:

I appreciate your bravery. Mostly for still going ahead and playing this game after it became obvious what an embarrassing shambles this project has devolved into. It has been an amusing timeline, though. Guess the finished game is the punchline.
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pickhut posted June 27, 2016:

After tons of delays, I actually almost forgot this was coming out until I saw it in passing on Amazon, so I thought, "What the hell, I'll try it out." Since I just recently finished doing Legacy Collection and MM10 reviews, forming my thoughts for this one was thankfully easier than I anticipated, so that was a blessing in disguise. I don't think I would have done the review otherwise.

This game is such a weird trainwreck...

Also, if anyone is curious, I found this fantastic, in-depth interview about Akira Kitamura as I was putting the finishing touches on my review. It gives some interesting insight in how he went about creating stages and enemy placement.

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