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CONSOLE: Wii U DEVELOPER: Inti Creates/Comcept PUBLISHER: Deep Silver
RELEASE DATE (NA): June 21, 2016 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Mighty No. Punchline.

Frequent readers of Random.access may be aware of the fact that when it comes to reviewing video games, I've become more and more cynical over the years. Once a fairly easily impressed person, I'm more judgmental than I've ever been in determining whether a game is great or whether it should be swept into the dust bin along with the stray tumblefluffs of my apartment. In the process, I've made a few controversial grading decisions on certain games that have caused my friends to either raise a furrowed brow in disbelief or to tease me for flagrant disregard of a game they really enjoy that I found to be less than a stellar outing. Perhaps I am too rough on some of the games I play. Perhaps I don't give them the chance they deserve to shine. Perhaps I am getting older, getting a bit more enfeebled as a gamer...

Yet after playing Mighty No. 9 for a while, I feel as though I still need to retain a certain level of cynicism. I can't give this game a free pass. It's a bit of a disaster, really. Not a total disaster, but far from a thing of beauty.

As was widely publicized, Mighty No. 9 had a truly remarkable development process. And by "remarkable", I mean "cataclysmic". Yes, that's the better word. After leaving Capcom, producer Keiji Inafune formed his own development company, Comcept (though it doesn't really have any programmers, per se — I guess it's more of a video game consulting firm than anything else). He worked on a number of titles, including Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (which received negative reviews), Soul Sacrifice (with more positive reception), and a miscellaneous game for the 3DS called "Bugs vs. Tanks", which predictably involved bugs and tanks. But, having spearheaded the Mega Man franchise for over two decades, that type of game stuck in Inafune's mind; he wanted to create a game just like it. Without the Mega Man license, however, he had to come up with his own character. So began the process of Mighty No. 9.

Comcept was without capital. Inafune needed money to get this ball rolling, so he made a plea to his fans to help fund his new project, Mighty No. 9, via Kickstarter. With countless Mega Man titles on his resumé, we believed — and with good reason — that he could deliver on a game that offers the same awesome gameplay of all the Mega Man games before it. After all, Capcom certainly wasn't putting forth any effort, aside from re-releasing everything on digital stores and re-packaging old games once again into new collections. So fans backed his Kickstarter project, and they backed it hard. Inafune asked for $900,000; he met that goal in two days. By the end, he had earned $4,046,579 for Mighty No. 9. That should have been more than enough.

Except there were problems. Mainly, Comcept wanted to release it on not one, not two, but TEN separate platforms. It's a difficult enough task to get a game released on two systems simultaneously, but TEN?! It sounds like they bit off far more than they could chew, and they bit off so much, they ended up gagging on the giant meaty chunk. And then, the game was delayed. Multiple times. Into the following year, until the darn thing was finally released in June 2016. They claimed that the difficulty in finessing the multiplayer aspect was holding them back, but by the third delay, there was really no excuse other than, "We blew it. We should've set the release date for, say, 2046, and then totally impressed people by dropping it way early, like in 2039 when it would be absolutely perfect." And to make matters even worse, four of the platforms still have not received a version of the game. Mighty No. 9 for the 3DS, the PS Vita, OS X, and Linux all are still hovering in limbo. Here I am, finally writing about it in November 2016, and they're still not out, with no word if they will ever see the light of day. Promising a product, asking for money, receiving that money, and then not following through... isn't that fraud?

The Kickstarter project also had quite a number of rewards, depending on how much you gave to the cause. Strategy guides, soundtrack CDs, T-shirts, plush toys, getting your voice in the ending theme... everything you ever wanted and possibly even didn't was listed to tantalize potential backers. Heck, if you donated $10,000 or more, you got to have dinner with Keiji Inafune himself, an exciting prospect indeed — that is, until you discover that you needed to cover your own costs for the flight to Japan, the hotel room, and any other expenses incurred during your trip. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if, after the meal, Inafune opens his wallet and says, "Ummm, I'm a little short tonight. Do you mind covering the bill?" Yet I highly doubt any of the upper-tier rewards were actually delivered. I highly doubt Inafune wants to have dinner with a backer right now, given the high level of controversy.

Might Need-to-deCline.

But, ultimately, the game did get a release, and I have indeed acquired it out of pure curiosity, despite middling critical reviews over the past half a year. Unfortunately, I am not particularly wise in that I purchased (yes, purchased) the Wii U version of Mighty No. 9. Declared the technical black sheep, this one was probably the least favourable of them all. Yet I believe that I should get a decent product, no matter what console I buy it for. Whether it's for the PlayStation 3, for PC, for Wii U, for Xbox One... it shouldn't matter — I expect a game optimized for that system. And Mighty No. 9 isn't ready for the Wii U at all.

Let's start with the loading time. It's horrendous. Reaching the title screen takes long enough, but the fact that there's a thirty-some-odd second wait just to get to the Options menu is unacceptable. No other game does this. No other game is so poorly coded that it confuses itself on the title screen. Once you get to the game itself, there's typically a 20-second delay when loading a stage, EVERY time you load it. If you die, you have to wait a good 20 seconds before you can play again. This negatively impacts the flow of action. I want to get back in there and try my luck again, but instead, I'm just given the time to stop and scratch myself a few good times before re-entering.

As well, normally I don't get much into framerate issues because generally, I'm not one to notice these kinds of things, but Mighty No. 9 turned me around on that. Some areas are fine and send me on my merry way with decent fluidity. Others, like an area where you are being chased by a giant electrically-charged piston with very limited time for escape, chug like Grandma doing the Charleston. And I mean CHUG, as in down to maybe 6 frames per second. As in, are they trying to run PlayStation 7 software on a Wii U? When I need the most clarity, Mighty No. 9 can offer the least.

Beyond the technical elements is the presentation itself, which, for four million dollars, should be of high enough quality. I can't speak for the other versions of this game, but the Wii U edition looks pretty sad. Graphically, the system could do better; I think they're holding back on us because we could get better resolution in the environments than this. They're not horrible, but they're assuredly last-gen, which is why the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are also getting this game, as is the Nintendo 3DS (well, maybe). As well, it doesn't help that the character models are jovial but a bit lame. Dr. Sanda's a rotund smiling git. Dr. White's hair looks like he melded with an ERTL Bumble Ball, and that's the only thing I can look at whenever he's on screen. And Beck, the main character I've taken this long to NOT talk about? He's okay, although his face is a bit too cute for a shooter. It's a shame their mouths don't move while they talk, though; instead, they just change poses, so you know who's having their say.

And there's a rap song during the credit roll. I don't think I expected or wanted that.

One of the game's stretch goals was full-on English voice acting for an additional $200,000. I'm not sure they spent all that money wisely... or on voice acting. Some voices are listenable (Dr. Sanda comes to mind as a lovable, bumbling fool, although he DID swear once when he said "poppycock"), but others are either too quiet or just downright cringeworthy. And if I never have to hear another one of the squeaky-voiced Cryo's colon-cleansing ice puns and battle cries of "Pew pew pew!" again, I'll die a happy man.

But let's forget all of these factors and get right down to the most important question: is Mighty No. 9 fun? And the answer to that question — as I draw it out in dramatic and overly verbose fashion — is that it has its moments. Mighty No. 9 is peppered with decent ideas amidst a soup of cheap level design that should have been fine-tuned. I can tell they were trying to suckle some of the life from the now dried-up Mega Man franchise and give it a new, modern spin, but there's still a long way to go before Mighty No. 9 meets the quality standards of its Capcom-based gaming brethren. In the meantime, I can kick back and get frustrated by electrified spikes in all the wrong places and mid-boss battles that are actually just waves of regular enemies with the intent to whittle down your health bar to extend an already lengthy level.

Yes, levels are long. Twenty minutes long. That's too long, especially if you lose all your lives and have to repeat the whole thing. And yes, it'll happen. Plus, the boss battles are just too drawn out.

Beck, also known as Mighty No. 9, is a thinly veiled Mega Man clone. (Oh. Within all the confusion, I tend to forget there's even a story.) Built by Dr. Light — errr, sorry, I mean, Dr. WHITE, since there's a huge difference there — Beck (not that band, but just a terribly-named robot) has to hunt down eight other robots known as the Mighty Numbers constructed by Dr. White who have gone berserk and bring them to their senses before they tear down the city. Actually, come to think of it, that basically IS the plot of the original Mega Man, just with less Guts Man and more of some angry drill sargeant robot named "Battalion".

I couldn't come up with another decent pun on the title.

Anyhow, Beck has many of Mega Man's signature qualities. He's a robot that runs and guns things down with his blaster. And once he defeated any of the other Mighty Numbers, he magically absorbs their power, even though the original robots aren't actually gone. (They're just "fixed" and help out in other stages.) Things aren't EXACTLY like Mega Man, however: he doesn't have a robot dog or any such equivalent to fly him across tough spots, and he can't slide. In place of the latter is a quick dash ability, essentially a parody of Mega Man's slide, which can be done on the ground or in mid-air, similarly to Mega Man X's dash. This is a key element of the game, one you'll be using constantly for a number of reasons. For starters, it just gets him around faster, and it's the only way to sneak through corridors with low ceilings, as well as over chasms and electrified spikes. The best part is, he can dash multiple times in a chain (it's a requirement in some cases), making for some enjoyable fast-paced action. It's a shame the spiked sections are so cruel...

But Beck's dash serves a second purpose. When you shoot enemies, they will eventually change colour and be stunned for a short period. It is at this time that Beck can dash right through them to destroy them and collect Xel by doing so. Xel is energy that can be used in a variety of ways, and the faster you go through them, the more Xel you gain. The type of Xel you earn is dependent on its colour. Red Xel can briefly enhance your offensive power; yellow Xel will give you greater defense; green Xel speeds you up. There is also blue Xel, which can be accumulated and used later to refill your health meter, not unlike Mega Man's E-Tanks, though they act more like Mega Man X's Sub-Tanks. This is another primary element of Mighty No. 9, and though it's not entirely well-explained at first, eventually getting the Xel becomes second nature.

Generally, Beck controls well enough. At first, playing Mighty No. 9 feels awkward after you've been raised from childhood on the controls of Mega Man, but after a while, you get used to things and controlling Beck beck-omes second nature. You start to realize that the controls are fine; it's the lazily-implemented level traps that really get you. Funny thing: the development team delayed the game to spend more time on the multiplayer parts of the game and that the solo mission was complete. They should have spent more time fine-tuning the stages.

Once the solo mission was completed, I didn't have much further desire to re-attempt the game, though there is additional content to explore in challenge modes, unlocked by getting through certain stages. Or, if you're insane, you can select a higher difficulty mode: Hard, Hyper, and Maniac. Plus, if you want to play as some guy named Ray, there's DLC for that. For the purist, there's more to explore; for me, I think I'm good with what I've played.

Could Mighty No. 9 have been executed better? Absolutely. There's no doubt that the whole development process was a brutal fiasco that could have been avoided had Comcept not promised so much at once and just spent their time crafting something beautiful. Instead, there's a rushed feel to Mighty No. 9, evident in its lack of optimization and presentation. As a Mega Man successor, it really pales in comparison to its inspiration. Mega Man games are simply more polished and more enjoyable to play. That being said, although Mighty No. 9 will go down in video game history as an abysmal failure, the game has some redeeming qualities, and I did find myself having periods of gratification from it. Finding a copy at a discount is what I would most likely recommend, as there IS a labour of love to be found somewhere in here. You just have to dig through a lot of crust before you reach a satisfying core.

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