Picture the scene…. It is the early 1990’s and a kid is sitting in his bedroom glued to a TV screen where he is playing Mega Man on a Nintendo Entertainment System. Tongue sticking out and eyes wide he tries to jump and enemy and misses…the yells of frustration are momentary because he knows that he gets to play the level again and he will eventually beat it. That kid was me playing one of my favourite games and which also turned out to be one of my favourite game franchises too.
You can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Keiji Inafune (one of the creators behind Mega Man) was working on a game that was going to be a spiritual successor to the Mega Man game I loved so much. I immediately wanted to know all about it and followed the progress of the Kickstarter campaign with a keen eye. Not surprisingly there was a huge success with just over 67,000 backers pledging 3.8 million dollars. This allowed them to change their stretch goals and they decided to release on every current platform available. However, this is where I feel they were a victim of their own success. By trying to design for so many platforms they seem to have made too many concessions to accommodate the different platform limitations.
I desperately wanted to regain that wonder of playing the original game but I tried to maintain a level head and took off my rose-tinted Mega Man glasses to give Mighty No.9 the chance to shine in its own right.
The game mechanics are pretty much the same concept as the Mega Man games in that you are driven towards defeating bosses to absorb their power to help you in the further stages. Sadly, this was where the similarities with the original game ended for me. The control system felt clunky with the movement animations just as sluggish too. If you managed to acquire any of the boss powers they felt underpowered to be of much use outside of a few limited battles. The game also had an annoying habit of killing you in completely unexpected and random ways (crumbling tower landing on your head sound familiar to anyone?) which meant you were sent back to a checkpoint that was a fair ways back through the level you had just worked your way through. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of returning to old school games where checkpoints didn’t exist or if they did were few and far between, but in this case it was a frustration as the completely random nature in which you were dying meant you were repeating the same levels over and over again. What added even more to this frustration was the fact that the cut scenes had some pretty poor voice acting and left me feeling nothing for any of the characters throughout the game, a stark contrast to the Mega Man games where each of the characters including the bosses had their own quirky nature that made people love them.
It was also frustrating that the only way to get a good score and rack up combos was to ‘dash’ through enemies to absorb their Xel energy. This same mechanic would also be used to navigate obstacles at times but without any kind of prompt or significant marker to tell you that was what was expected. The end result was a fall off the screen to yet another annoying death, this felt like a punishment for not being able to read the minds of the game developers. Combine that with the questionable hitbox detection on some of the enemies and you have a recipe that left a bitter taste in your mouth as you experienced multiple deaths that felt unfair and unjustified. Frustrating to say the least!
The colours in the game seemed like a cheap 80’s kids cartoon, lacking in detail and they failed to provide the fans of the original game with something that could have been cherished and loved. One underwater level even managed to fade out most of the graphics and made the controls even more sluggish – as if to put the boot in one more time. Sadly this is a game that promised so much, delivered so little and broke the hearts of many Mega Man fans. Maybe Capcom will step in and try to show us that it still is possible to make a Mega Man game we could all love once more but sadly I think it is highly unlikely.
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