To preface this review I’d like to say a few things. Mighty No.9 has had its fair share of incidents and controversy since it was first announced through Inafune himself a few years ago. I’d like to focus solely on the game for this review and try to review it for what it is, and not its sordid history up to this point. The version I played for this review was the PS4 version and at this point a few versions of the game have yet to release so milage may vary.
When playing an action platformer, the quality of level design; core mechanics/gameplay mechanics; and “game-feel” are usually the biggest aspects a player encounters, sometimes without even being aware of it. Mighty No. 9 attempts to emulate the style of retro platformer, Mega Man, but falls flat in most areas while actually surpassing it in others. Mighty No. 9’s quality of level design is often poor, with few exceptions at points possibly appearing after players give up on the title. Its, “game-feel” is odd, bouncing between a fast-paced action platformer experience, to a slow if not halted slog of fighting enemies. Lastly, its gameplay mechanics and combat mechanics are a bit harder to cover in such a blanket statement because their depth is debatable and your enjoyment will vary on a number of factors.
The gameplay mechanics in Mighty No.9 are simple at face value. Shoot enemies, dash into them to assimilate, and repeat. When viewing the gameplay from a different angle, you have a bunch of mini situations that require fast reflexes to continue chaining kills and progressing at breakneck speeds. The beauty in the gameplay design are the special weapons.
These special weapons allow you to completely change your style of gameplay and the way you tackle these clusters of enemies to continue progression at YOUR own pace. There’s a sword with a slashing attack that doesn’t drain weapon power, allowing the player to run face first into enemies and take a brute force approach with a bit more recklessness but a lot more power. There’s a cluster bomb that racks up multiple hits on enemies while having the option to detonate at will, allowing the player to rapid fire or choose when you want to deal damage. The special weapons breathe some life into a combat system that’s extremely simple at face value, however some weapons are clearly better than others. You’ll often find yourself sticking with three or four weapons that will almost always get the job done, as the other weapons will likely sit on the sidelines and only see action for weakness related instances.
In the case of Mighty No.9’s level design, it’s pretty straightforward and literally straight forward. A vast majority of the level design is uninspired corridors with some type of platforming element and clusters of enemies thrown together to dash through. This often speeds up the level, hiding the linearity and bland sections the game is riddled with. There are moments with vertical platforming and unique design elements incorporating special weapons or gimmicks, but they’re few and far between.
Most levels are riddled with instant kill spikes, floors, walls and more to add to the difficulty of the game, but more often than not they slow down its pace and leave the player frustrated. Depending on the order you play the levels, you may meet a “Mighty No.” you saved and they’ll help you in the level by removing obstacles and hindrances you may have had the displeasure to deal with without them. This aspect of the level design gives you a feeling of satisfaction for completing boss fights that goes past earning a special weapon.
Mighty No.9’s “game-feel” is a bit tricky to describe. Dashing and assimilating can often be a coin-toss, with an almost arbitrary amount of time passing before the enemy becomes solid(?) again. Players will often forget the lack of ANY immunity while dashing without assimilating, causing damage in situations that felt safe. Dashing through some bosses will even result in damage upon assimilation, making the game feel frustrating at points where focus should be placed more on the fight, and not minute details such as this.
Frame rate is also an issue at points, causing the game to stop if multiple things are interacted with, such as reappearing attackable blocks later in the game. When frame rate dips, control mid dash can easily be lost, more often than not resulting in loss of progress if not an instant death. The music and sound design can also remove you from any immersion the game may have, with Beck screaming with almost every action and music that can sometimes completely juxtapose the current situation.
While Mighty No.9 has redeeming qualities in its gameplay and in some ways its level design, it’s absolutely not for everyone. The overall quality at face value is rushed, with terrible enemy placement and pacing, graphics that are way past their time, and a story that’s honestly not even worth mentioning. Although if you’re someone who can look past that, and play the game for what it is and not what it could have or should have been, than you may be content with what it has to offer. The game’s most redeeming quality is its gameplay although even then some will disagree.
– Special weapons are fast, fun, and spice up the gameplay.
– Level design can be interesting when gimmicks are involved.
– Clunky “game-feel”
– Poor graphics and frame rate issues aplenty.
– Annoying sound clips and level themes.
Step back from the controversy of this game and try it at a point when you can get it for cheap, you may be surprised with what it has to offer.