The worst part of gaming is having all the hope and excitement you have for a video game you have been following for months before its release, simply fail to live up to your expectations and hopes. The absolute worst is when that game not only lets you down but then becomes the personification of every thing you dislike in games. Sadly this has happened to me a few times in 2016, but the worst culprit of this is Mighty No 9.
Mighty No 9 has had a very troubled road to release. It has suffered three delays to its release, the above trailer did the very opposite of what it was supposed to do by insulting the anime community with a throwaway line that actually angered its fan base instead of building any excitement for the game. My own hopes for this were for it to be a modern Megaman with some old school gameplay but with a modern fresh twist and presentation. What I did not expect was to find it to be a terrible execution of a classic game genre and an experience that actually had me counting to ten on numerous occasions to prevent me hitting that “delete” option on my PS4.
Mighty Number 9 is set in a world where robots are used for just about everything in modern day life. An incident causes a virus like reaction in all robotic life turning them against humans and in particular, the hero team of the ‘Mighty Numbers’, a group of enhanced combat robots. The players take on the role of Beck, Number 9 in the group who must fight his way through eight main stages in order to both stop and rescue his fellow Mighty teammates and learn what caused the virus and save the world.
The opening stage serves as a nice introduction to the gameplay and world of Might Number 9. Beck has the ability to shoot enemies, jump and climb platforms to navigate stages. Beck also has a dash move that can be used to help jump greater distances and avoid enemy attacks. Beck’s party piece is the ability to absorb the energy and power of enemies after enough damage has been dealt to them. Beck can earn boosted firepower, shield and movement speed and all three will help the player progress through the stage before reaching the main goal of each stage, the boss fight where Beck must fight and defeat each of the other Mighty Numbers Team.
That is where Mighty Number 9 truly began to let me down, the end stage boss fight. Now I was expecting the traditional Megaman style gameplay, mostly due to the fact that Keiji Inafune was producing the game, and the stages themselves delivered on that. As a side scrolling shooter platforming game, Mighty No 9 delivers solid and challenging levels to experience but what just killed my enjoyment all came down to the boss fights. Each Mighty Number robot has powers based on a theme so Mighty No 1 is Pyro and powers are all fire based, Might No 2 is Cryo and has Ice abilities. The main aim is for Beck to defeat and free each one from the virus that has twisted them to turn bad and absorb their powers so that Beck can switch between them to help defeat the other Mighty Numbers.
But for some reason the developers decided to add a Dark Souls style cheapness to the fights and even on Normal difficulty, the boss stages are the most frustrating fights I have ever encountered in gaming. Trying to learn their attack patterns requires the same level of trial and error that the stages utilize but it is a frustration that simply drained all the fun this game should be about right out of the experience. There is no learning curve to the different boss fights, they are simply tough and cheap. Take Pyro for example, the logical choice after completing the opening stage is to go for the first Mighty robot on the list. The game starts you with just two lives although more can be earned through the level, and if you die you will have to replay that section all over again and if you use up all your lives you will have to restart the entire stage no matter how far into the level you were. So when you encounter a boss fight where the boss can instantly kill you with a single move, those lives can vanish very quickly. Luckily in the game options you can increase the amount of lives you have to the maximum of nine but even that amount is not enough for some of the battles.
The game does allow you to tackle the stages in any order you like, so if you find one too difficult you can try another but the game is just so harsh and unforgiving with the boss fights that the chore and grind of constantly trying out different stages really starts to build the throwing the controller rage. The first boss I defeated was Cyro after trying and failing for a full hour to defeat Pyro, in the hope that obtaining her Ice powers would give me the edge against him but sadly, it did not make any difference at all. That level of cheapness is bewildering to me, especially playing on what should be normal difficulty. Making a game challenging is a good thing, but when you put so many gameplay walls up to stop progression without even offering a glimmer of allowing the player a chance to win and feel as though they are succeeding, its all a waste.
As well as the main story campaign you have the Ex Modes, a set of challenges that unlock as you progress in the game and can range from simply getting to the end of a level in the fastest time but without the ability to shoot or dash to defeating all enemies in the fastest time. Your results are then uploaded to an online leader board where you can compete with the community or friends. I found these to be fun to play and give something else other than the main campaign to focus on if you have a competitive side to you.
The three delays in the release of Mighty No 9 were put down to many things, and the last delay was explained as being the result of needing to clear more bugs from the final version. So when I started to experience game freezes and crashes my eyes just rolled back into my head. The game would often freeze whenever Beck would explode as a result of a hazard. Now no game is free of such issues and sometimes it can be the fault of the console and not the game itself but it happened so often in my playthrough that it had to be the game itself. The worse crime however was during two different total game crashes, upon starting the game again I was presented with a screen that no gamer wants to see, the ‘Save file is corrupted and must be deleted resulting in losing your progress’ screen. The first time this happened I was only close an hour into the game and so restarting was not a real issue but it was the second time it happened, wiping out three hours and four rescued Mighty Numbers that made me stop and take a pause. Day One updates can often help clear such issues and I am very much hoping this is the case with Mighty No 9 because for me right now, the game is close to unplayable. From the game crashes and losing saved data to the insanely difficult boss battles, this game has been a huge disappointment for me after following it since it was launched as a kick-starter project in 2013. The length of time that this has been in development and the number of release delays has set off alarm bells for many fans and sadly my experience has not been a good one with it.
I really wanted to like Mighty No 9, current gaming is crying out for a game just like it but with the issues I feel the gameplay has being compounded with the loss of save games and crashing issues, I will need to see if the first update for the game makes it stable enough to pick up and try again. I have no problem with challenging games as long as they also use a balanced fairness to the gameplay, but when you are just being cheap in order to create that challenge, you lose me in that frustration. Gaming is supposed to be fun, and sadly Mighty No 9 is anything but which is a true shame for something that had so much potential.
But for me, Mighty No 9 is portrayed as a fun accessible game but the reality is something far less about being fun and all about failing on its delivery.