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Mighty No. 9 Review: Icy Snow Way You Should Pass This Cool Game Up!

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I was asked to come out of reviewer retirement to cover a few recent releases as well as provide some updates to my “Games to Play With Your Kids and Keep Your Sanity” list. Updates on our in house projects, such as the visual novel Withering Whispers, momentum platformer Raruna and the Seekers and upcoming novel Pretty Little Whispers are to come.

In the meantime, there are two main things that you need to know about Mighty No. 9. The first, is that this is a game that many reviewers will tell you is bad solely because it is not Mega Man. The second, is that this is Cryo:

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“Pew pew pew, PEW PEW PEW!!!”

She and little sister Dyna are easily the two best things about this game.

Mighty No. 9 is the lovechild of Keiji Inafune, created to fill a void he felt was left behind in the absence of a new Mega Man title. Ya know, since Capcom keeps cancelling all of them. A moment of silence for Mega Man Legends 3 please.

Now then, Mighty No. 9 was a title with a lot of expectations to live up to. Beck is essentially the “little brother” to Mega Man, and quite a few gamers went into this title expecting him to, well, be a carbon copy of his predecessor. Keiji Inafune, in my opinion very wisely, created a game that had a similar feel, but set out to accomplish its own agenda as well. While there are quite a few critics that Beck isn’t charge blasting his way through his levels all the live long day, I personally think Mighty No. 9, with a few flaws, managed to serve a unique, original and quite enjoyable experience. Read on for more!

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“Nyah!”

A Mixed Bag: The Graphics Look Funky…

So as not to appear completely biased, I’ll open with a few things that I took umbrage with. While I applaud Inafune’s Comcept team for going with an original approach to the game’s art style, I must admit that Beck and quite a few other title protagonists look…off. It’s not so much the proportions, or for every character the costumes… Really, I only strongly noticed the wonky art style with regard to Beck and Doctor White.

What is far more glaring however, is the very muted color palette in most stages:

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While some stages, such as Pyro’s, do tend to pop, the majority are bland and unwelcoming in appearance. This is especially odd when paired with gorgeous shots like the below:

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However even here, you can feel the effect of a very muted saturation and very dull palette. Mighty No. 9 is a title that feels like it should be far more vibrant than it is, which unfortunately only serves to further exacerbate the feeling that something is off those times when the gameplay, voice acting and art take that trifecta hit in unison. Still, there are some pretty special effects sprinkled here and there.

 

A Mixed Bag: Hit or Miss Soundtrack and Voice Acting

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I hate to say it, but yes, the voice acting is in many places as bad as you’ve heard. Now, it’s nowhere near as awful as I’ve seen some folks claim, and I have played games with far worse voice acting before (Resident Evil 1 and House of the Dead anyone?). That said, there were quite a few times that I kinda wished everyone would just stop talking and let me shoot things.

While doctors White and Sanda as well as Ray could’ve benefited from a bit more time with a voice coach, many of the characters shine if you can let go of the need to be cynical about this title. Cryo in particular is beyond adorable, and I wouldn’t trade her voice acting for the world. Dyna is a lot of fun as well, and you can tell Avi’s voice actor really got into his part.

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I genuinely did not care how many times I lost the boss fight against Cryo as long as I got to hear her yell “PEW PEW PEW!” every time she kicked my teeth in.

Moving on to the soundtrack, it is again rather hit or miss. I can honestly say that once I finished the game, I didn’t have any of the songs stuck in my head thereafter. This is actually generally true of my experience with Mega Man games in general though. Each title usually has one theme that stays with me (Gemini Man, Zero vs Iris, Green Graduation), but for Mighty No. 9 while I did not outright dislike the OST, I also did not purchase it like I have with other game soundtracks (like Drakengard 3, Persona 4 Golden or Onimusha 3). That said, while I am convinced that Trinity’s Theme did not play when I did that boss fight, the song itself is amazing.

Conditionally Good: Amazing Controls/Gameplay (Depending on Platform of Choice)

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On the one hand, the precision gameplay in Mighty No. 9 is varied and solid. On the other, I found that I did not have very much fun when playing on my colleague’s Wii U copy, however I fell in love with the PS4 version. When playing on the Wii U, I found that the spongy D-pad and awkward button placement just didn’t cut it for how exact the game wanted me to be with Beck’s movements.

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If Mega Man was a game that could be broken down to the mechanics “Jump and Shoot (and sometimes slide)”, Mighty No. 9 could have been called “Shoot and Dash (and also sometimes slide).” The primary mechanic at work is a gameplay design that rewards high speed momentum based action. You’re reward for taking risks and being brave; as you shoot your enemies they eventually enter into a freeze state wherein you have so much time to finish them off with a powerful dash.

This dash will allow you to absorb their Xel, granting you various bonuses such as refilling your weapon meter, your health, gaining more powerful shots and more. You’ve got to time your jumps carefully, as Beck is a weighty little cuss; the idea that he is the youngest Mighty sibling and the least sure of himself comes across quite clear in his movements. Beck has an exaggerated, cartoonish gait and loses his balance very easily when falling from relatively high places. Still, careful use of a downward dash or a pinpoint landing (two skills the game didn’t tell me I had till I already learned them myself) will all but eliminate this risk.

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By defeating your siblings, Beck will game the power to transform his body, going a step further than Mega Man’s palette swaps. To be honest, I tried to clear the whole game without using my powers, so it wasn’t until the last level when they were required for puzzle solving that I realized just how cool a lot of them were. More than “this does lotsa damage to so and so”, Beck’s newfound abilities require careful thinking to apply them to each boss fight. They also serve to make traversal in many areas easier, if not more varied.

Overall, despite the complaints you see around the web I actually enjoyed the high speed momentum and precision based gameplay a great deal. It wasn’t Mega Man, no, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

The Good: Lovely Protagonists and a Surprisingly Deep Narrative

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I must say I was quite surprised at how deep the narrative was for Mighty No. 9. I mean, don’t go in expecting Pride and Prejudice, but even so. Mighty’s narrative goes beyond “There’s a robot virus go stop it.” I particularly enjoyed Counter Shade’s stage, wherein the expert sniper questions why he should continue to serve a race that simply uses his kind as tools for their own ends, going so far as to state he has no problem with ending human lives if it means the freedom of other androids. And yes, I do mean androids (play Ray’s story, it’s so worth it).

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Even when fighting against the effects of the virus, we see the true heart of each Mighty sibling. While some siblings, like Battalion are eager to fight, Brandish does everything in his power to keep his little brother away before losing control. I also enjoyed Call’s existential crisis where she questions why she has no problem harming and destroying if needs be while Beck avoids fights at all costs.

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While the careful attention to narrative and the surprise ending were both much appreciated, what I think I enjoyed even more was how every Mighty sibling truly felt like a unique individual. We got to see that Cryo (yes I mentioned her a lot, she’s my favorite, sue me!) is more than just a pun wielding prankster. She cares deeply for her siblings, and fights to protect them even if it means going somewhere inherently more dangerous for her than any of the others.

We got to see that on their own, Brandish and Counter Shade are dour and serious, but when paired up with their brothers and sisters they get teased relentlessly and know how to have a laugh. Even Dyna excitedly whips out a pun late game, and proudly proclaims that Cryo taught it to her with the wonderful sense of adoration and awe that all little sisters have at some point or other.

From start to finish, even if other areas of the game had their rocky moments, I felt the narrative was definitely one area that did not disappoint!

So, Buy, Rent or Skip?

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Buy, buy, a thousand times buy! Mighty No. 9 is one of the few games of 2016 I rushed out to purchase. Perhaps the best way I can pitch this game to you is that as time went on, I did not want to buy it, and I did not want to like it. I adore Inafune and his work, but I had a lot of reservations and just didn’t feel like this would be the game for me.

I was wrong. Gloriously, gloriously wrong. I will not tell you this is a perfect game. I will not tell you this is an S rank game. I will not lie to you and say it has no flaws. I will however tell you that it has some very inspired level design, some very tight gameplay, a whole lot of loveable characters and a surprisingly deep narrative. And yes, I have to say it, if you go into this game just wanting to be cynical and a grumpy old adult pants/nostalgia butt, then yes, you will hate everyone in the game and grouch that it isn’t Mega Man.

But, if you give Beck and his siblings a chance and enter knowing this was never meant to be Mega Man, rather a game in the same genre, then yes, Mighty No. 9 is just the game for you.

What I played:

All of Beck’s Story and all of Ray’s story until I S ranked nearly every level (except with Ray because it was extremely hard and made me cry).

Pros:

+ Adrenaline fueled high speed and precision gameplay
+ Lovely characters that truly feel like siblings
+ Surprisingly deep story
+ The DLC character actually has her own narrative and is very worth playing
+ Some very inspired level designs, Shade’s stage in particular
+ Varied design of Mighty Siblings
+ Fun weapons to unlock and play around with
+ Your siblings actually interrupt levels to help you out and provide some hilarious as well as intruiging insight into their personalities
+ Multi-racial family/protagonists (far more rare than it should be)
+ Cryo and Dyna

Cons:

– Game felt very hard to control on Wii U (I used the pro controller as well as the Game Pad)
– Voice acting is very hit or miss
– Forgettable soundtrack
– Beck is a clumsy little monkey
– While most deaths felt deserved, Dyna’s Stage has a section that feels just plain unfair, especially as Ray
– Level design nowhere near as bad as you’ve no doubt been led to believe, however stages like Shade’s show you fleeting insight into a far more interesting design mentality
– Online only multiplayer. I get why it would have been hard local, but still
– Call’s stage was brilliant to show her thoughts and concerns, but she was awful to play as
– Beck is neat and all, but can I play as the siblings in the sequel? Please?
– Needs more Cryo (Obviously I’m not really holding the game back for this, for those that don’t understand satire)

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Well, that does it for this review! I’ll be doing a few others soon, and will also be dropping updates for our in house projects as well. Our next two reviews will be covering the anime Gungrave because this is my website and I can review thirteen year old shows if I want to, Oreshika, Fury and a few others.

Also please look forward to new music from our Studio, as well as an upcoming giveaway. Xeawn, out!

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