Screen grab from Mighty No 9.

Review | Mighty No 9 – spiritual sequel to iconic series Mega Man bogged down by nostalgia

The game, created by Mega Man lead designer Keiji Inafune and funded by fans on Kickstarter, is a throwback to 1980s side-scrollers

Mighty No 9

Deep Silver

2.5/5 stars

After several years in limbo, Capcom’s Blue Bomber returned to consoles with two well-received retro-style titles – Mega Man 9 in 2008 and Mega Man 10 two years later. They brought a wave of nostalgia to gamers who had grown up with the robot hero, as well as the tough-as-nails challenges of the 1980s platformers.

With the success of those titles, it appeared more Mega Man games might be on the way. But fans’ dreams were dashed with the cancellation of a high-profile project aimed at rebooting the franchise. All signs indicated the iconic hero was being mothballed for good.

A few years later, however, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune introduced the project Mighty No 9 on Kickstarter. Starring a blue protagonist who fought battles with his robot brethren, it looked eerily familiar. True, the visuals were updated, and the gameplay had been tweaked. But most of all, it reminded fans of Mega Man.

For better or worse, Mighty No 9 is indeed a spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber, with a similar narrative to the original. Beck, the ninth major robot created by Dr Will White, must fight eight other machines that suddenly have started running amok. Beck possesses the power to fix their coding and absorb their abilities.

As in Mega Man, players are free to tackle bosses in any order, but there’s a golden path that makes the adventure easier.
The side-scrolling structure resembles video games of the ’80s and ’90s

After Beck defeats a boss and absorbs her power, his new ReXelection abilities give him an edge against another robot adversary. For example, Beck’s defeat of Pyrogen wins him fire abilities he can use against Cryosphere, a robot with ice powers.

The structure of Mighty No 9 (for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Wii U) is similar to the one gamers fell in love with years ago, but a few improvements are apparent.

Beating bosses and returning them to the side of the good robots allows them to assist Beck. Aviator, for example, can save Beck from oil refinery smokestacks that would mean certain death on Pyrogen’s stage. On a different level, Brandish clears the way for Beck by mowing down Dynatron’s minions.

Alas, Inafune’s project needed several more such touches to give Mighty No 9 its own an identity. At times, its narrative and style hew too closely to Mega Man. The new game is at its best when Beck is clearly different from the Blue Bomber.
A screen grab from the game.

One key difference is the AcXelerate dash, on which players must depend during platforming and boss fights. The dash is critical for defeating the enemy. Beck fires his weapon to destabilise foes. Then, while they’re vulnerable, he zips through them absorbing their energy, and eliminates them.

His action moves also include a high jump and a downward leap. These could have added more depth to the gameplay, but they don’t.
Mighty No 9 looks very similar to Mega Man.

Another distinction between Mega Man and Mighty No 9 is the opportunity for players of the latter to control Call, Beck’s female counterpart. Though mostly a talking head in the campaign, she gets a chance to shine in moves that demand stealth.

What’s just right about Mighty No 9 is its level of difficulty. The side-scrolling platformer forces a player to repeat stages over and over until each jump and enemy encounter has been perfected – repetitions that hark back to the golden age of the 8-bit era.

But Mighty No 9 is frustrating, since it doesn’t provide enough instruction or training in use of the ReXelection powers Beck gains by defeating bosses. The in-game tips don’t do the job – especially when players attempt platforming gymnastics on levels such as the Robot Factory.

Though a semi-successful Mega Man remake, Mighty No 9 relies too much on an old-school mentality, rather than giving Beck an identity of his own. Nonetheless, the new title’s forward-thinking improvements keep hope alive for the future of this young franchise.

Tribune News Service

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: A Mega clone that’s less than Mighty