Regarded as the spiritual-successor to the Mega Man series, lead producer Keiji Inafune has had a hand in both projects. Originally announced back in 2013, Mighty No.9 reached its Kickstarter target in just 48 hours and sparked widespread excitement for a new Mega Man-inspired title, but a disastrous series of setbacks worked to badly damage the project's reputation and left many fans worried about how it would turn out.
Struck by a mysterious virus, the world is cast into a state of emergency, as its once friendly and dependable robots have gone rogue and have begun blazing a trail of destruction. Amidst the chaos, a heroic and curiously unharmed android, Beck, rises to stop those responsible, whilst also working to restore the consciousness of his fellow combat robots, the mighty nos. The narrative plays out like a Saturday morning TV show with its gleeful tone backed by plenty of childish humour.
As you may have expected, Mighty No.9's gameplay closely resembles classic Mega Man titles, as you'll run, jump and dash through vibrant 2D environments and spew projectiles at those who threaten your progress. Dashing through weakened glowing enemies allows you to absorb their XEL, granting you with temporary increases in stats and additional points. Once your life bar has been completely whittled away Beck will explode into a cluster of pixels. If you lose all of your lives, you'll be forced to either retire or to restart from the very beginning. At the end of a stage your performance will be graded alphabetically and you'll be awarded a total score, which you use to compete against other players via the online leaderboards.
After fighting your way through the city in a short prologue and teaming up with a team of scientists, you'll be given the choice of which mighty no. you'd like to take on first. Each of these bosses has a level inspired by their special ability, which also contains its own individual batch of infected robots and environmental obstacles for you to conquer. Among our favourites is the capitol building where you must scurry across the tops of chandeliers to escape the attack of sniper fire, and the mine, where tunneling drills coated in plasma stay on your tail and threaten to tear you apart.
Boss battles, for the most part, encapsulate the unforgiving and frustrating difficulty of early genre classics, requiring you to have quick reflexes and a thorough understanding of their attack patterns. After you emerge victorious you'll harness their unique attack, which adds variation to combat and can allow you to access previously unreachable areas. However, once you've figured out which special attack has the most impact on a particular boss, the difficulty is largely compromised and you'll find it a breeze to take them down. Also, if you appear to be struggling, you'll be handed additional lives at checkpoints, increasing your chances of success on a re-try. If you find that these aspects dampen the difficulty a little too much there is fortunately three additional difficulties that you can later unlock (hard, hyper, and manic).
Unlike many classic platforming mascots, Beck never felt to us like a loveable character we wanted to root for, and he just felt like a less charming clone of Mega Man. His supporting cast of characters also struggles to pump excitement into its paper-thin plot, as they feel awfully clichéd and lack any real personality. When inevitably repeating levels you are given no choice but to listen to the same back and forth ramblings between these characters which can feel awfully tedious, especially as most parts weren't particularly entertaining to listen to the first time. It would have improved the experience dramatically if the same care and attention given to the gameplay was also paid to its plot and characters.
A fun distraction from the main story is EX Mode, which is comprised of a range of VR simulated cooperative and single player challenge modes. Here you'll fight against the clock to traverse deadly assault courses and exterminate numerous droves of infected robots. Each challenge has its own specific rules to shake things up restricting you from actions such as attacking and jumping. In co-op you can go head-to-head with your friends to try and gain the fastest time on a particular stage or take on all the game's bosses in quick succession in boss rush mode. Even if you have been able to beat the main story, there is plenty of content here to keep you occupied for an additional few hours.
While it may lack the charm and originality of the platformers of yesteryear, Beck's first full length adventure is still an enjoyable one. It's a title that's crammed with a number of memorable locations, power ups and boss battles, and it contains enough additional content to keep you occupied hours after its main story. With a sequel already rumoured to be in the works, lets hope Comcept can successfully build on the solid foundation laid out by this inital entry in the series.