It’s a familiar story, to hear of a classic game series or genre being revived by way of a crowdfunding campaign, and Mighty No. 9’s tale sits happily amongst one of the most successful. With Keiji Inafune and a team of former Mega Man developers returning to the style of action platforming that series was so popular for, it was bound to be a popular project. With a release early next month, the wait is almost over for those who backed it or have been looking forward to this game.
Obviously, without the Mega Man license, Mighty No. 9 features an all new protagonist called Beck, who is the 9th of the Mighty robots. A potent computer virus has ravaged the world’s computer networks, including Beck’s eight predecessors who’ve all gone rogue. With Dr. White, his creator, Dr. Sanda and fellow robot Call providing what help they can, it’s up to Beck to go and defeat his former comrades, and put a stop to whatever villainous plan is in action.
It’s a simple enough story, and it’s one that lends itself well to a Mega Man-like structure, wherein you can choose the order in which you wish to tackle the missions. However, while it’s a spiritual successor to that series and feels beholden to the past in a number of ways, Mighty No. 9 is not a game that’s bereft of new ideas.
In particular, the way in which you defeat enemies encourages you to play in a riskier, faster paced fashion. Deal enough damage to an enemy, whether it’s just a couple of shots or requiring more effort, and they’ll start to glow in a particular colour. It’s at this point that you can perform an Absorption Dash through them to finish them off and absorb a substance known as Xel, which can boost Beck’s power or speed, or is used as ammo for the different transformations you can switch between.
There’s also a lot of skill required to get the best out of the system. You want to dash through an enemy as quickly as you can, once it’s vulnerable, because the longer you wait, the lower the amount of Xel you can pick up. It’s fairly forgiving with the amount of time that you have, so that getting the 100% absorptions which you can chain together for combo scores isn’t too punishing, but you’ll still need to be fairly nimble and quick in order to climb the score attack leaderboards.
The dash is also a great tool for around the levels, letting you cross large gaps or blaze through an opening in a wall, but I feel that the effect it will have on boss battles is more interesting. Each level has a boss fight at the end, and potentially mini-boss fights part way through, but instead of simply dealing damage over time, you have to deal enough damage to trigger a moment where you can dash through and absorb a chunk of their health bar before it regenerates.
This isn’t a particularly easy game – you can always stick it on Maniac or Insane difficulties if you disagree – with the classic trick of having just a few lives with which to try and complete a level before it boots you back out to the level selection screen. That’s compounded by some of the enemies being quite awkward to hit with your standard suit’s gunfire, which only fires horizontally and makes hitting enemies above or below that line tricky.
A solution to that problem comes from earning different suit transformations from defeating the other Mighty robots. You pick up the ability to fire hugely damaging missiles, wield a samurai sword or helicopter blades, electrocute or freeze enemies, and even transform into a tank-like form. The trick is knowing which suit to use in which situation and quickly using the left shoulder button and trigger on the controller to switch on the fly, but you could potentially play through the levels in a particular order so as to earn a specific transformation that can quickly deal with Mighty No. 1, Pyrogen, and his flame attacks, or knock Cryosphere off the pillars of ice it can create.
Of course, some of this will be obvious to veterans of the Mega Man series – something which I am not – and they will be familiar with the kinds of challenge and the difficulty that this game presents, but to my untrained eye, Mighty No. 9 seems to strike a good balance between paying homage and aping that venerable series.