Mighty No. 9 attempts to breath fresh life into the 2D platforming genre but it lacks the polish and magic that made Inafune's iconic series such a staple of 90s gaming.
Mighty No. 9 is a crowdfunded project that has put its backers through a rollercoaster of emotions. Teased as a spiritual successor to the Mega Man franchise and helmed by series creator Keiji Inafune, the project reached its funding goal, but its production was littered with delays and bad press. Now, almost three years later, the game has finally arrived on most platforms and nostalgic gamers can begin tackling the 2D platforming adventure.
The platformer fully embraces the 90s Saturday morning cartoon style in both its look and narrative. The game's color palette and character design certainly look old school, but it lacks the charm and hook that games like Mega Man had the first time around. Mighty No. 9 aims for a light-hearted, silly story in an attempt to put the gameplay front and center, but the awkward cut scenes and very slow voice acting don't do the project any favors. For best results, we actually recommend switching to the Japanese voice over and not bothering to follow along with the game's narrative.
The basic premise of Mighty No. 9 is that the protagonist, Beck, needs to take down a series of his former robo-buddies who have been corrupted. In true Mega Man fashion, the hero gains a new skill each time he manages to clear out one of the other mighty numbers. The majority of the levels are unlocked right from the start and players have the freedom to decide which bosses to face off against first. Unlike Mega Man, these primary boss fights can pretty much all be completed with just Beck's starter arm canon, which eliminates some of the puzzle-solving of deciding which boss to tackle first.
Before acquiring any new boss powers, Beck has a pretty standard package of moves to power through the generic enemies in each of the 2D environments (most of which are themed around some kind industrial setting). The hero can jump, shoot from his arm canon, climb, and do a very cool dash. The dash can be used to finish off enemies and steal their energy after they've been damaged, and if players get the timing right they can acquire a boost to armor, power, and speed. Find a few enemies in a row and the dash can start to build up a combo meter. The dash attack and energy drain is the game's most interesting addition to the Mega Man formula and adds a very exciting speed element to every level.
If players time things just right, they are able to zoom through a level and get stronger and stronger without ever stopping. Of course, there are platforms to jump on, pits to avoid, and walls to slide under, so some of the momentum can be unfortunately lost while waiting for the right time to make a leap over a particular gap. The platform riding mechanic seems to clash with the dash momentum and it's a shame because both mechanics are fun on their own.
Although players can probably beat most of the other levels with just the arm canon, the new powers are very fun to play around with. Beck picks up a new skill from each defeated boss and can eventually learn to wield the power of fire, ice, and even become a mini-tank. Replaying old levels with newly acquired skills seems like it wants to be the primary motivation for replayability, but it's likely that only the most hardcore players will take the time to to do that.
Players who are skilled in the 3D platformer genre will likely be able to tackle this campaign from start to finish in about five or six hours. There is motivation for some replayability for players addicted to topping scoreboards and beating their best clear time, but this seems like the kind of title that will likely go back up on the shelf after one play through. At $30 on consoles and $20 on Steam, it will be up to each consumer to decide if that's enough playtime to justify the cost.
Inafune's Mighty No. 9 succeeds in capturing some of the magic of old school 2D platformers, but doesn't provide an engaging and interesting enough experience to lead to the kind of replay sessions that Mega Man or the other classics did. The core mechanics are all there, but the game lacks the polish and world-building that made its inspirations so memorable.
Mighty No. 9 is now available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 , Wii U, and PC, with plans for the game to also be ported to Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.