Mighty Number 9 first surfaced as a kickstarter project from the original developer of Megaman, and the promised spiritual successor to the popular retro classic gained a large fan base, but with poor communication between the developer, publisher and the fans, rolled together with numerous delays, is Mighty Number 9 worth the trouble..
You start off playing as Beck, an android who is party of the Mighty Number’s, a virus has infested the robot filled world and as the only unaffected number t’s up to Beck (Mighty Number 9) to locate and save his siblings to work out the source of the problems threatening the country.
Strangely the Japanese government refuse to get involved with their own countries impending demise until a source is found, so it’s up to Beck to save the day,
After the initial intro mission, you get to select which of the 8 Mighty Numbers you wish to save first, and while more missions open up after, this is a novel way of allowing you access to a broad range of challenges with the added option of moving away from one if you get a bit stuck so you can try a few others before returning.
Each mission is filled with a variety of platforming challenges, and finished off with a boss battle (against your Mighty Number sibling) the level design is generally of a high standard however you can occasionally miss entire sections by spamming the jump/glide technique, however there’s also plenty of scenario’s where you’re forced to take your time and juggle avoiding obstacles and projectiles while dispatching enemy robots.
This is where the glide feature comes into play, because each robot contains Xel, upon firing a few shots at them, they’ll glow a set colour depending on their power, and this is when you can glide into them, to collect their Xel.
Shooting too much will reduce the amount of Xel you gai (judged on a percentage) so you’ll need to take them out sooner rather than later, the other benefit of this is when you’ve absorbed there Xel you gain a power-up, sadly whether it’s from an enemy or the robot dude that drops off a few power-up’s when you’ve died a few times, only the colour informs you of the power’s buff and it’s often difficult to see if there’s any effect to you, or when it’s ran out,
Progressing through the levels is usually a fairly easy task compared to some of the end bosses, navigating through platform sections is usually a case of trial and error and there’s nothing new here, thanks to some generous (yet unacknowledged) checkpoints, you generally find yourself progressing through each area after a few tries.
Onto the bosses, and each follow a typical power route, Fire, Ice, Lightning,… the first (Mighty Number 1) is called Pyro and unsurprisingly excels in firing flames in your direction, like most he has 3 main attacks, and will move side-to-side on a restricted screen, where you have to avoid him.
There’s a small ‘tell’ before he charges at you to let you know, then you’ll have to either jump away, jump over or dash underneath him, once again the dash/glide ability is absolutely imperative here because you’ll soon see your health ar dwindle away if you’re caught in his blasts a little too often.
When you die (and you will, a lot) You’re often greeted with a plain loading screen which soon outstays it’s welcome, I was a little surprised that it took so long to reload a section, when the checkpoints show how regularly a level is broken up, and how little games handling considerably more data and graphics manage to load instantly if not completely behind the scenes.
Sometimes though, this serves as a pleasant breather, but usually I was finding myself frustrated and tempted to turn off rather than jump straight back into the fight, thankfully when you do you’ll sometimes find an area you’ve part-passed clear of enemies, or one of those hidden checkpoints puts you back far further than you expected.
It all combines to make the levels exactly as you expect, fun, frustrating but passable.
Progressing through the missions you’re rewarded with a score dependent on the amount of Xel you collected combined wth your damage, kills and combo’s, COmbo’s can be increased by collecting the Xel of various enemies together, or quickly linking between kills and collection, It add’s a little extra challenge, and the unlocked leaderboards and challenges after completing a mission do give you the inspiration to head back into the fray.
You’re regularly greeted with cut-scenes using the game graphics and 3D characters, this would usually be perfectly fine if graphically the game was on par with the best, but as you’ll read later, it’s unfortunately not, of the various characters you meet, many seem flat, lacking personality and the poor audio means conversations flow like a cold knife through frozen butter.
This all detracts from the overall impact of the story, and I was left only caring about my own selfish progression, some of the Mighty Numbers felt worth saving, but even Beck and his friend Call seemed a little less likeable than MegaMan ever was.
Graphically Mighty Number 9 has always had people a little worried, sticking to the less popular idea of slapping 3D characters into a 2D world, trying to make it all look like it’s got depth and then telling people they can only move on the 2D plane has always felt a little odd, some titles carried it off, right back to Donkey Kong Country starting the trend, but others it just feels out of place and sadly Mighty Number 9 feels more out of place than on track.
textures aren’t of the highest quality, nor the sharpest and while the graphical fidelity has been a subject of interest since day one, even multiple delays don’t seem to have helped things here.
the saving grace is that it all runs smoothly, and there’s even the option in the menu’s to turn off vertical synch and bloom effects, but you really wouldn’t expect major problems from this level of design. Thankfully with an impressive variation in your surroundings across the span of missions, it remains easy to spot obstacles, ledges and enemies which means your usually only dying through fault of your own and not because of a hidden danger.
Moving on to sound, and again there’s good and bad. The options menu again hides away the choice of selecting retro music which is a neat addition and gives an added level of nostalgia, much of the time making the game feel much more like it’s design rather than attempting to be a true modern re-imagination of a retro classic.
In gamepay, background music (modern or retro) feel well placed and stop things ever feeling too isolated, and with explosions, pings, bops and dings all over the place you’re ears usually have something to concentrate on.
Then a little face pops up and starts speaking, and while all characters seem to have a level of voice-acting, that level is unfortunately below average, conversations seem static and scripted and I can’t remember a single occasion where a conversation flowed smoothly. It drags the sound back into the 90’s which would be great if the game wasn’t trying to hard to also feel modern.
I can;t help but look at the fantastic Unravel, and notice how well good old fashioned platforming can be pulled into modern day gaming leaving a smooth, seamless and pleasant experience with more than enough nostalgia to games gone by.
The platforming genre as a whole feels old-fashioned due to the amount of extra bit’s and bob’s we’re introduced to, but when Mighty Number 9 comes along, it all feels like an old fashioned game that’s been updated 20 years later, and not a new modern game that replicates the nostalgia of the 90’s.