Monday, July 11, 2016

Mighty No. 9 Review: Discount Mega Man X9?

Mighty No. 9 is drawing in controversy and hatred along with a heaping helping of disappointment. This game has managed to get people to now be extremely cautious when it comes to Kickstarter and it's backers are understandably upset about how they were sold French Cuisine and got got a Mc Donalds value meal instead. Now I'm a casual Mega Man player and I didn't back this game on Kickstarter, so how do I as a non bias player feel about this game?

Well the story isn't ground breaking that's for sure. Like the game it's desperately trying to ape, the story is simple and takes a back seat for the action. The story is pretty much a rehash of previous Mega Man games cobbled together and run through mad libs. The only time the story gets interesting is in the DLC, but that's for another paragraph of the review. The story is just a window dressing and kinda gets in the way.

Gameplay is why we wanted Mighty No. 9 in the first place anyway right? The game plays like Mega Man X with a few things stripped back. No upgrades, no charge shot, no wall jumping and no killing enemies... at least not in the traditional sense. The game focuses on absorbing weakened enemies and chaining that into combos. Absorbing enemies do give you power ups to temporarily increase speed, power, defense and fill up a healing item... that disappears if you die. This system does encourage fast progression, but at times feels intrusive if you are more methodical like myself.

The structure of the game is your classic Mega Man affair. 8 robots have stages themed around their powers, filled with platform challenges and insta-death traps a plenty, defeat the robot, rinse and repeat until all are beat and then beat some more stages until the final boss fight. There's a catch though... There is a stage for the support character Call that feels like it was a last minute addition that breaks the flow.

So let's talk about the powers Beck has and gets from the other Mighty numbers. While Beck is mostly just a dumpy looking Mega Man with X's dash, he has 2 unique things he can do. Beck can grab ledges and shoot diagonally with a backwards jump! Yeah... these don't sound impressive, but they do come in handy at times... well the ledge grabbing does. As for the Mighty Number's powers... they aren't very useful outside of the boss fights. I mostly used Brandish's sword for it's speedy attacks(my kingdom for a turbo button!), Aviator's propeller for high jumps and slow decent, everything else was used in the stages that needed them to progress...which wasn't very often. If you do play it, you'll find powers that suit your play style.

So the game does have it's negatives... some might say a lot of them. I don't think I have as many as others, but lets go over them shall we? Level design at times... is bad... like did they get a person off the streets to play it or a pro gamer? The levels sometimes needs the precision of a speed runner program. The game has way too many instant death traps strewn across them to the point that makes me wonder why they even bothered to have bottomless pits. Lives also don't carry over from stage to stage and don't go higher than 9! Also did I mention that the healing items disappear when you die?

Then there's the bosses. They seem to range from cake walk to impossible without the corresponding weakness. Boss patterns are badly telegraphed and they change mid fight to make matters worse. The ideas used in the fights do show some creativity, but kinda feel like they used them all at once as if they knew they weren't going to make a franchise out of the IP... foresight? Sometimes the levels can chew up your live leading up to the bosses and if the boss is hard too... it's a perfect storm of frustration and rage!

Then... there's the final boss fight... oh God is it hard! The boss has 2 forms, no heath restored between fights and feels like they were obligated to have a Yellow Devil style fight first to make the even harder final form damn near impossible... and if you die, you have to start against from the first form again! The final boss takes everything bad about the previous boss fights, ramps it to 11 and even the final stage is guilty of bad level design!

Let's address the graphics, voices and music. The graphics are not very good for the platforms it's on. I mean they'll be great for the 3DS version when it comes out, but on everything else... it looks like a lazy HD remastering of a PS2 game, like this was the hypothetical PS2 Mega Man X9 and it was remastered for PS3 and then ported to PS4. The lack of mouth movements during speech is passable on a 3DS and PS2, but it looks like a budget cutting measure on everything else. The voice acting is atrocious in English and to make matters worse, it's an inaccurate translation of the Japanese script. I don't know Japanese too well, but even I could tell the Japanese story is very different. The English voice acting is early video game voice acting bad! It's got some seriously terrible over acting and is just annoying. As for the music... it's ok. It's mostly not very memorable and even the 8-bit versions don't have much punch to them.

There's also a DLC pack for a character called Ray(short for Raychel. I love her design!). It adds a stage for Beck to fight her, but the point of it is a wall to get in the way of actually playing as her. Once unlocked, Ray's campaign is the highest... and lowest point of the game at the same time. Ray's story is actually interesting since she's seeking answers for her existence and she's dying. Ray is basically a robot vampire speed run mode of the game. Her health is constantly depleting like she's bleeding out and you have to absorb enemies to restore it, but if you get hit... the health you could restore is lost and you take further damage on top of it. This mode is awesome in theory... but the bad level design rears it's ugly head much worse here since the stages were designed for Beck, not Ray. Boss fights for Ray are much more difficult too and you really need to pick an easy one to beat to survive the rest(I recommend MN8). The final boss fight is much more difficult too... like impossible on Normal difficulty! Never have I raged as bad as I have on the final boss fight in this game. It's all because Ray is a glass cannon normally and in the final boss fight, she's becomes a rice paper origami kitten!

This game is really hard... on Normal mode! I get it's going for old school difficulty, but it's not newcomer friendly at all! Top it off with all the harder difficulties being unlocked after you beat the game, it makes me wonder why they even exist! Each difficulty just makes all the negatives much worse and the Maniac difficulty is a one hit death impossible mode! I honestly think the game needs an easy difficulty mode to make it fairer for normal people and to get rid of some of those insta-death traps!

The game is inflated with challenge modes too. If you are into challenges, there's solo challenges that can test your skills under various restrictions and online challenges to chase ranks on the Leaderboard. Online Co Op is also here... but the lag is a huge problem from what I've researched(I currently don't have PS+) and it seems like it's just a pointless add on. There is a good old boss rush mode for people to use as either a practice tool for harder difficulty playthroughs... or a massochism tool. Overall, these modes seem like pointless additions for the sake of artificially stretching the shelf life of the game.

Thing is... there is some fun to have in the game inbetween the frustation. When level design isn't at the bad parts, it can be fun to speed through and Ray's mode really captures it well. The boss fights really do invoke the Mega Man charm and are satisfying to beat, so the frustration can lead to joy... except against the final boss, nothing can salvage that! The boss weapons may not have much use outside of the boss fights, but they do make replaying previous levels worth while. The Ray mode is mostly fun and overall better than the main campaign... except the final boss fight!

Look, the game isn't bad... but it isn't great either. I also can't say it's good either because it's average, maybe a little above average. It's just disappointing and that can sometimes be worse. I honestly think if it was cheaper it's worth buying(like $10 digitally and $20 on disc) but you'd need to switch the voices to Japanese and up the lives counter to 6 or 9 to have a chance of beating the game without hitting the continue button... in Normal mode! I'm warning you, this game is super hard on the default difficulty. If you weren't raised on golden age games, you'll probably want to keep away from this game. This game is a Mega Man clone for the hardest of hardcore Mega Man fans and no one else need apply. I can't really recommend it to the average video game player at all. This is as niche as niche gets and will probably get a small cult following, but it's still not what Inafune promised.

Score 6/10

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