A comparison of the merits between Mighty No. 9 and Mega Man 11. Spoiler alert- Mega Man 11 wins.
Throughout all of pop culture history there have been rivalries, works with similar premises and similar forms of media-- will there ever be a definitive answer to settle the Antz or A Bug's Life debate? (Spoiler alert: the winner is A Bug's Life, if only for the "outtakes" during the end credits).
But in the gaming world, perhaps no rivalry has been as lopsided or has had such a strange, plot-twisty history like that of Mighty No. 9 and Mega Man 11.
A couple of years ago it seemed the Mega Man franchise was put in the ground for good by Capcom, as following the release of Mega Man 10 in 2010 and the departure of longtime creator Keiji Inafune, several new games in the franchise were cancelled including Mega Man Universe, Mega Man Online, and fan-favorite Mega Man Legends 3.
Inafune proceeded to create a wholly new game company, Comcept, and launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new game to be developed by him and his team, of course what we now know is Mighty No. 9, said to be inspired by the iconic action-platforming gameplay of the original Mega Man games. The project utterly destroyed its' original funding goals and raised nearly four million dollars.
After more than a year delaying its original release date Mighty No. 9 launched on almost every platform known to man in June 2016 to mostly middling reviews. Then in 2018, Capcom, who had been antagonized as holding the Mega Man franchise hostage for years, launched Mega Man 11-- the next entry in the classic series fans had been clamoring for since eight years prior, and 11 has mostly gotten high marks across the board on nearly every review.
What gives? Is this complete reversal of fortune- demonization of Capcom and hailing of Inafune to continue the franchise, then vice-versa- really justified?
I say a direct comparison of the games side by side is called for. based on a number of factors-- perhaps the broken down basic components of every modern video game: the presentation, the story, and (most fundamentally) the quality of the gameplay.
Presentation in a game can mean a wide variety of factors, but let's cut it to just two for simplicity's sake: the graphics and the audio.
Both of these games display cartoony, anime-esque art styles less difficult to emulate and requiring less work than, say, Uncharted 4. Being fairly simple action-platformer games set in a bright and colorful robotic world the realism of the graphics has no importance, only how appealing they are to watch in action. Mighty No. 9 was developed from the get-go to be use modern 3D graphics while Mega Man 11 is the first in the series to do so, as the first several games were developed for consoles like the NES and later games deliberately invoked the same retro aesthetic. It could be argued 11 actually went with the decision to use a modern style as a reaction to the release of Mighty.
That being taken into consideration, here is a screenshot of Mighty No. 9 on top of Mega Man 11 and I'd like you to take a moment to consider which one you think is more pleasant-looking:
Many fans have complained that Mighty No. 9's art style failed to be up to snuff, belonging more on a PSP or PS2 than any modern console (perhaps in part because the last 3D Mega Man game Inafune worked on before this was on the PSP). In my eyes Mega Man 11 shows both more creative detail and is better at hiding its' polygons as cartoon characters than Mighty No. 9. Even in a still image the particle effects from Mega Man's buster pops out much more than the fire or electric effects seen in Mighty-- it's little wonder than how the explosions in that game got memetically likened to crappy microwave pizza.
I personally feel the sound effects in 11 also carry a bit more punch, but even I admit that's pretty subjective. Both soundtracks I also feel are a little disappointing for a Mega Man or Mega Man successor game; I'm a diehard fan who could probably hum out most of the main stage themes in the first 10 games on a whim, but I cannot recall the melody of any of the stages in either game; they could be replaced with stock dubstep/trap music pulled from a royalty-free library and I couldn't tell the difference. I personally found the voice acting to be more tolerable in 11 than Mighty, though that may be because Mighty has more of it to show of and characters will with annoying regularance buzz in to speak during stages.
For mostly graphical quality, I'm gonna have to to side with Mega Man 11 here.
Mega 1 - Mighty 0
This one's going to be pretty short, because honestly the story lines have never been the chief focus of these games. Both of the stories are presented in these games in a fairly straightforward manner: an intro cutscene for context, an occasional cutscene after a few stages, another after having defeated the main bosses setting up the last few levels and the ending. Hell, in both games most of the scenes take place in one lab room.
Mega Man 11's story is essentially as barebones as a Mega Man game can get, while Mighty No. 9 slightly spices up the story by having the main antagonist and their motivations slowly revealed across the game- but on the other hand, 11's cutscenes are better in cinematic quality (character's voices are probably the best of any game in 11 and in Mighty the mouths of the actor's don't even move while speaking).
Let's throw a dog a bone and just about call these categories even, then.
Mega 2 - Mighty 1
In my mind, the experience of gameplay is where these two games couldn't be more different-- in terms of quality, that is.
Both of these games attempt to introduce a new gameplay mechanic to spice things up after 10 entries- Mighty's dash move and 11's new Double Gear system, which allows the player to temporarily boost the power of their attacks and slow down time.
The key difference in my opinion is that 11 does a much better job of incorporating these new mechanics into the established Mega Man formula. There are many more fast-moving obstacles and enemy shots on the screen at once, encouraging use (but not necessitating use) of your new powers. Theoretically the game could still be played like a normal entry in the series without use of either gear.
Meanwhile, the dash move in Mighty No. 9 is heavily enforced on the player- enemies take nearly twice the amount of damage to go down without dashing into them. This would be fine except I found that enemies were still placed in tight clusters and difficult-to-reach areas that would be acceptable in a normal Mega Man game but are not really compatible with the dash move.
Mega Man 11 takes the time to allow the player to experiment with each new weapon they acquire outside of a stage and realize their proper functions. Mighty No. 9 does no such thing, instead leaving a massive list of tips and moves in the menu it expects the player to read in their spare time. Did you know there's actually a button in this game that lets you jump backwards and shoot down diagonally? I sure as hell didn't.
Not only that, but all of the boss weapons in 11 I found exponentially more useful than in Mighty, which I also saw to be antiquated and not suited to the mechanics of the game. For example, both games feature a ground-and-drill based boss who gives you the ability to damage enemies in a dash forward. In Mega Man 11, this move can also be used as a midair dash to site-step some tough platforming sections. The boss that this weapon is most effective against, Bounce Man, will split into slowly moving pieces around the room that are easy to hit using this move. In Mighty No. 9, the move is slower than a normal dash and you are forced to stay on the ground when using this power, reducing its' potential usage (it is in fact more efficient to simply shoot enemies quickly and dash into them normally than use this power). The boss who is weak to power carries a sword and is very likely to jump out of the way or slice at you as you slowly attempt to trumble towards him, and your normal buster weapon is again more effective because you can hit him from far away using it and have less chance of taking damage.
Despite having some talented members who designed the original Mega Man games, Mighty No. 9's gameplay doesn't seem fully fleshed out and is rather amateurish, which is how the score ultimate becomes:
Mega 3 - Mighty 1
That's not even digging into the many external problems with Mighty No. 9, from numerous delays, broken Kickstarter promises and tone-deaf marketing tactics.
Inafune's translator accidentally made a rather jarring and now infamous statement during a livestream promoting the game that proclaimed the game was "better than nothing" regarding the game's quality. Now with the release of Mega Man 11, we actually have something, leaving ultimately little reason to continue to care about Mighty No. 9 since the actual next installment of the Mega Man series is out and is better in almost every way.
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