Mighty No. 9

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Description

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Complete Review & Description

Mighty No. 9 (MN9) has trodden a turbulent path to its recent release. Beginning as a highly anticipated spirit spiritual successor to Mega Man, Keiji Inafune and Comcept successfully funded the game on Kickstarter thanks to overwhelming fan enthusiasm. Comcept’s ill-advised decision to attempt to crowdfund Red Ash, coupled with multiple delays, stole the wind from the its sails to leave it in a sad limp toward launch.

Right out of the gate MN9’s story plays like a tribute act cynically banking on nostalgia as opposed to trying to introduce new ideas. Beck, the titular Mighty No. 9, sets out on a mission with his trusty blaster to intervene when the eight other Mighty Numbers are running amok. Along the way, Beck acquires new powers by defeating his fellows that will aid him in his quest to return each to their benevolent selves. It’s a basic premise that offers nothing engaging or original, barely offering a reason for its existence.

As if Comcept were dedicated to the idea of making an underwhelming story, cutscenes are fully animated yet bizarrely characters barely move. They will occasionally make a hand gesture, but character mouths are wired shut in what seems like a lazy attempt at reproducing a retro aesthetic. This makes for an incredibly cold and distant experience, especially in close ups where characters are speaking without emoting in even the smallest way. The game’s voice acting does little to help this with some obnoxious and uninspired performances, leaving Beck especially devoid of likeability.

On top of this, MN9’s visual style is lacking in any kind of flair. That the art card that appears upon booting the game has an abundance of vibrant colours is incredibly frustrating when what follows looks so uninspired. The colour is intact but everything else appears bland. It’s hard not to be disappointed when the earliest concept art was so visually striking, yet the final product displays such a lack of ambition.

Luckily there is fun to be had in what is a decent action platformer. The core mechanic adds a new wrinkle to the typical formula, with damage on an enemy changing their colour to indicate an exposed weak point. Reacting quickly and dashing into them in this state will snatch all of their xel (energy) for a chance at some temporary buffs and a higher score that decreases the longer the weak point is exposed. I enjoyed the addition of pace with the dash mechanic, but unfortunately it isn’t enough to completely forgive cliche enemy designs and attack patterns.

Boss fights provide a much more intriguing prospect than their underlings to cap off each level. All have a variety of devastating attacks and learning their tells to determine when to dodge or strike provides the game with its strongest hook. There are certainly some bosses I was ambivalent toward, but besting Shadowstrike in a claustrophobic arena where bullets bounce off the walls, or outsmarting Pyrogen as he attempted to grab me for a one hit kill was suitably satisfying.

Of course defeating bosses also delivers alternate weapons. Each one offers a different playstyle, with my favourite being Battalion’s remote triggering missiles. Their massive splash damage makes for an incredibly versatile weapon, especially when handling a number of the game’s bosses. Other useful weapons include Brandish with short range slicing attacks, Cryogen’s ice blasts that slow enemies, and Aviator’s propeller that grants additional jump height. I’m not sure what Seismic’s charging tank attack is good for other than charging into damage or careening into pitfalls, but that aside each weapon had a purpose.

Each Mighty Number has a weakness to a weapon earned from another foe. While this is yet another example of an unoriginal idea, it is well implemented. A defeated Mighty Number whose ability will be advantageous in a given level appears as an ally. This makes for a fun distraction, and offers replayability in order to see how each ally appears in previously beaten levels.

Call, a side character to Beck, also gets her own level with a number of unique gameplay changes that lean toward patience. She has less firepower and can’t absorb xel, which necessitates staying out of sight and picking the right moment to strike. She is also equipped with a jetpack and longer dash than Beck to improve mobility, while a shield offers an impenetrable defence in a pinch. She also charmingly voices her actions to deliver the kind of personality that is sorely lacking with Beck.

Mighty No. 9 began life as one of the most anticipated concepts in recent memory. While there is fun to be had – especially where boss fights are concerned – there is an overall lack of fresh ideas to bring it all to life. Frustratingly the game also has underwhelming graphics and perhaps the coldest and most awkward story I’ve ever played. Instead of the love letter to fans of Capcom’s blue bomber the game was meant to be, the cynically average final product is a sad example of potential well and truly squandered.

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