This is going to be a little different.
With the exception of one game (that was technically part of a compilation that I had already played), every single game covered during the FGC I have already played. Heck, including the Xenosaga LP and Kingdom Hearts coverage, literally every game mentioned on this site I have played before. Granted, some of these games I played for very limited time periods (I can think of at least one), but, by and large, for every single FGC article, I knew what I was getting into. While I’ve replayed every FGC game for at least a half hour (you try playing more of Hybrid Heaven when you know you’re not going to finish it… or, ya know, at all) for the site, many of these articles I already knew what I was going to write about well before I picked up the controller. On some occasions, I’ve been surprised by the replay, and went in a completely different direction from my initial inclination, but, generally, it’s not that hard to have something already in mind when writing about, say, Sonic the Hedgehog.
So, as a first for the FGC, I’m going to write part of this article before playing the featured game at all, and then the rest after actually playing the dang thing. We’ll see how that goes.
Today’s game is, incidentally, Mighty No. 9. This is a fine choice for a “blind play”, as, hey, I helped make this game. I’m in the credits!
Yes, I’m one of the people that threw some money at Keiji Inafune to see “the next Mega Man” get made. It’s been nearly three years since I blew over a hundred dollars (I literally cannot even remember what about the tier interested me… maybe an art book?) on a videogame that would eventually come to be a turgid example of the Kickstarter bubble bursting. Delays, mismanagement, delays, controversy, delays, anime, delays, and even lousy distribution at the finish line marred this project, seemingly right from the moment the Kickstarter closed. Demos were damned with faint praise, attempts to “franchise” Mighty No. 9 fell flat, and “the next Mega Man” started to look like the next Mega Man X7.
And you know what? I don’t regret spending a dime.
It is a weird problem with Kickstarter that no one seems to know what it “means”. I helped make the game! No you didn’t, you just provided some capital. I’m a game producer! No you’re not, you just bought a preorder way in advance. I’m responsible for the success of this game! Yeah, sure, you and thousands of other precious snowflakes. Personally, I’m not narcissistic enough to believe I had any real impact on Mighty No. 9. I contributed a paltry sum of money (compared to four million) late in a fundraising cycle, and I voted on a couple of random polls. That’s… about it. I don’t believe that I’m responsible for Mighty No. 9 anymore than I think reserving the latest Call of Duty at your local game store makes you an industry insider. I spent money on a videogame, I just spent more money than usual.
So, if I think like that, why did I bother? Simple: Keiji Inafune asked.
Look, I love Mega Man games. This is pretty obvious if you’ve bumped around this site at all. I can’t even really tell you exactly why I love Mega Man games, I simply do, and that’s good enough for me. However, with the exception of Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 6, I know that I did not buy a single Mega Man game in my pre-PSX collection new. By the time we saw Mega Man X5, I finally had a disposable income to blow on little blue robots, but prior to that, everything else was just rented over and over again. Mega Man 3, easily one of my favorite games of all time, I eventually wound up purchasing used as part of a lot with thirty other games. I probably, technically, paid about a dollar for it, and that was a dollar that everyone who made that masterpiece never saw. In a way, I tossed Inafuking some money almost entirely out of guilt.
But that’s not the whole reason. The other reason is that, honestly, I’m pretty delusional.
I have never met Keiji Inafune. I do not know anything about him beyond his videogame career, and, were I to see him on the street, I probably wouldn’t even know who I was looking at (assuming he wasn’t wearing a top hat with a strange pig creature poking out). But, that said, this man has been accountable, one way or another, for some of my absolute favorite videogames. It sounds ridiculous, but Keiji Inafune is responsible for more of my childhood than many of my childhood friends.
And, really, if a childhood friend asked me for a couple of bucks to get a new project off the ground, I’d probably say yes. I didn’t give Mighty No. 9 my life savings, I contributed what I could afford, which is basically the same sum I’d give a friend that’s down on his/her luck. Any time you give money to someone, you’re saying, “this is no longer mine, you do with it what you think is right.” Whether it’s a friend or a complete stranger, you’re not putting that money toward your own venture (“I’ll make my own videogame! With blackjack! And hookers!”), you are trusting the recipient to do what they will with your contribution, your input be damned.
So, yes, it may sound completely ridiculous, but I trust Keiji Inafune like an estranged friend. Dude was responsible for the best Mega Man games! He’s earned it!
Now let’s see how this game actually plays
Alright, yeah, that’s a game that was made by the man behind Mega Man 2.
And that might not be a compliment.
First thing’s first: I liked it. I’m a Mega Man fan, and I liked this very Mega Man-esque game. Probably the greatest compliment I can pay this game is that my thumb randomly gravitated toward the Circle/A button, the dash button for Mega Man X, but not the default dash button for Mighty No. 9. A game being confused for Mega Man X is like strangers asking me for my autograph, and then being disappointed when they find out I’m not Jon Hamm. It’s flattering.
But if I really want to compare this game to anything else in the Mega Man franchise, it’s the Mega Man Zero series. Specifically, Mega Man Zero 1, which would be the game that introduced me to the joys of “training” on save states. When the occasion rises, I can be a might… obstinate. So when a game that I know I should be able to defeat is released, I do everything in my power to conquer that challenge, even if, ya know, I’m not enjoying it. Over the years, I’ve tried to wean myself off this habit, but Mega Man Zero (1) was the first game that I distinctly recall Battletoading myself against. I will beat this game, even if it means playing the same stupid level over and over again.
And, yes, I certainly experienced that while playing Mighty No. 9. Countershade, Mighty No. 8, is responsible for a level that is practically a war crime. There are no checkpoints, the level loops (literally) endlessly, and there are instant death traps that sporadically pop up. To make matters worse, the same stupid canned dialogue plays every time you restart, and Countershade himself seems to offer no indication as to whether or not you’re making any progress at all. It’s the exact kind of level that, if you created the game, you’d see nothing wrong, but if you’re coming into it blind, is going to be a gigantic stick-to-the-eye pain in the brain. According to the end of level report for that stage, I spent a whole half hour playing that one stupid level.
I also (because I guess time isn’t a factor in that ranking) scored a solid A.
So, like Mega Man Zero, Mighty No. 9 shines when you know exactly what you’re doing. Thanks to 90% completing that same stupid stage over and over again, I practically had the thing memorized by the time I succeed. All enemy locations, all “safe zones”, all death traps: all committed to memory, and all bypassed with the grace of some kind of blue figure skating angel. It likely would have been a glorious sight to behold had I not been madder than I had ever been.
But, really, I think I would have the same reaction to a “blind” play of Mega Man 2 today.
The number one, easy complaint about Mighty No. 9 is that it is choked to the brim with (strangely purple) instant death traps. There is not a level without turbines, falling towers, “damaged” ceilings, or just plain spike pits. All of these hazards spell instant death, and, assuming it’s your last life (or that damn sniper stage), an invitation to traverse the entire stage all over again. This is terrible! We want classic Mega Man stages, like Bubble Man, Air Man, or Quick Man! Oh, no, wait, those stages feature, in order, persistent spiked ceilings with a jump that will ram Mega right into ‘em, pits for days with a host of enemies designed for knockback, and unrelenting “quick” lasers of doom.
Mega Men 2 is great, but we ignore its gigantic flaws because we’ve already reached the graceful stage of playing that game. Mighty No. 9 is brand new, and afforded no such luxury.
And, really, there’s a lot of Mega Man 2 in this game, even beyond the instant deaths… just not all the good parts of Mega Man 2. The Factory Stage requires utter mastery of Mighty’s various morphing skills… just like a certain BooBeam Trap that requires complete mastery of Crash Bombs. Waiting for a car that effectively works like a moving platform while fending off infinitely respawning air drones isn’t that far removed from waiting for a track platform at the bottom of Crash Man’s stage while Tellys attack. Disappearing and reappearing blocks over an instantly fatal lava flow? Huh, I think Mega Man 2 might be worse than Mighty No. 9 when it comes to death traps…
But, make no mistake, Mega Man 2 is the better game. Mighty No. 9 has its share of problems, and a few of them (like one late game room that makes it completely impossible to tell what’s going on) are clearly the result of a studio extending beyond its means (the previously mentioned “crowded room” was a neat idea for staging, but it’s obvious no one knew how to make it work… though it stayed in the final product anyway). Really, I can’t think of an Inafune “Mega Man” game in recent memory that wasn’t either retro (Mega Man 9) or on a portable (Mega Man ZX Advent), and, yes, the graphics for much of this game seem like they’d be a lot more at home on the 3DS than WiiU. There is nothing like Guts Tank in Mighty No. 9 that would make the player think, “Yes, this game knows how to push the hardware”. And, disappointingly for a game that was delayed so much, there is some glaringly palpable lack of polish, like at least one character that speaks in stage direction.
But, overall, this is a Mega Man game in another, necrotic skin. I maintain that Inafune only makes good sequels, and I feel like that’s the crux of the problem with this game: Inafune should have known better than to name this thing Mighty No. 9. What’s next? Mighty No. 9-2? Mighty No. X? No, that sounds stupid. But that’s indicative of what everyone expected: after Inafune spent nearly my entire lifetime making the same types of games, you’d expect absolute perfection out of the gate. This is just the same game he made 28 years ago, with a spattering of “modern” (fifteen years ago) improvements.
Inafune promised the next Mega Man, and here it is. It’s just… maybe there’s a reason that franchise stopped.
FGC #148 Mighty No. 9
- System: Every system. Thanks Beckers! For the purpose of my playthrough (and donor reward), I went with the PS4, mainly because it had the most hard drive space (and I think I get a free Vita version eventually?).
- Number of Players: I am told (via repeated emails) that the online two player modes were the reason the game was delayed. Having played completely through Mighty No. 9’s one player mode, I have absolutely no desire to put a friend through that gauntlet.
- Story Time: God help me, I actually like the characters and “banter” throughout the stages. No, I don’t like that it plays every damn time, but I do enjoy the general tone and players. Yes, the plot is basically the same as every Mega Man Battle Network game ever (give or take a magical meteor man) crossed with Mega Man X, but, hey, I’m a sucker for archetypes (“Professor Round Guy, what is… love?”).
- X marks the spot: After a Mighty Number is defeated, that boss may join you in another predetermined stage to assist in some way or another. I feel like this is a good compromise between Mega Man X’s “complete one stage and wildly alter another” system and stages not impacting each other at all. Also, it beats the damn pants off Mega Man X6.
- What’s in a name? The secret name of William White is… Billy Blackwell! … That is way too close to the name of a certain Xenogears character for my comfort.
- Favorite Mighty Number: Mighty No. 2, Cryosphere might have a few too many bottomless pits in her level, but she’s pretty fun to fight and she’s a queen of puns. Ice puns! As an avid fan of Batman and Robin, I approve.
- Did you know? Mighty No. 8, the most hated sniper, bears a striking resemblance to Jigen of Lupin III fame. The combination of good and evil in that reference is probably a metaphor for the game as a whole.
- Would I play again: I’m going to try for A ranks. I’m not saying I’m going to attain all A ranks, but I’m going to try. Like the Zero games (or Mega Man 2), this game seems to be built to “learn”, and I want to see how that works out. We’ll see…
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest for the Nintendo Wii. … What? Did they make an entire Heathcliff racing game just to satisfy that pun? Guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!