E3 2015: Mighty No. 9 Feels Different But Timeless

To say developer Comcept’s Kickstarter action platformer game Mighty No. 9 is in many ways nearly identical to Mega Man is like saying Pepsi is like Coke. They look the same, seem to play the same, but are very different. The basic idea is the same: get through the level while shooting the things in your way, jumping over some gaps or elevated platforms along the way. However, Mighty No. 9‘s main character Beck can also assimilate weakened enemies into himself. In my hands-on time with the game at the E3, I found the assimilation ability to be paramount in making the game feel different from its spiritual predecessors while maintaining that addictive, easy to start and hard to master formula that made the Mega Man games so timeless.

 

There were 3 levels on offer for us to try, the level I chose, called “City”, looked to be the first level of the game. Opening with some light-hearted story, Mighty No. 9 puts you right into it. Beck can jump, grab on walls and ledges, shoot of course, and dash. Beck’s running speed may be a little slow for people who have not played the Mega Man games, I found it to be a little cumbersome at times myself. But in most situations, the speed is fine in regards to what situation you need to handle. You can only fire the direction you’re facing, and you cannot run backwards. Whereas I would have loved to run backwards while shooting, the game wants you to move forward, and giving in to that made me realize that there is a certain flow I was meant to enter. You see, shoot an enemy enough times, and they get into a digitized-looking condition, dashing into them at that point will assimilate the enemy into Beck. This is how you kill. A successful assimilation also adds to a combo counter which is measured in percentages, and drops if you get hit. Once you get enough assimilations without getting hit, you get up to 100% on the combo counter. At that point, I assumed Beck fully assimilated with the enemies he absorbed because he gained a power up.

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These power ups range in variety and seem to cap at three at once. I discovered two: one that made my shots do more damage, and another that allowed them to pass through enemies. There is a progression in power here, one that encourages you to battle as opposed to simply pressing forward. The more you kill and assimilate, the more unstoppable you are. These power ups have a time limit so it encourages you to keep assimilating once you have them. Once I got the power up that let me do more damage, I quickly killed enough to gain the power up which allowed me to shoot through enemies. Then I was taking out three enemies at once and dashing through them to assimilate them all simultaneously. What’s more is the level seemed laid out to encourage this exact scenario, meaning not only was the first level pushing me to become an exponentially more efficient killer, it was also teaching me how to do so.

At the end, there was a boss fight in its own room, as is tradition, separated by a door. This was important for me as it stopped the level, removed me from the flow of the level so I could focus on a different pattern. The main difference in the boss fight was knowing to dash to dodge things as well as hurting with it, changing things up from the momentous level before it. Now dashing is not new, plenty of Mega Man games have had it, but the benefits of weakening an enemy and dashing into them to finish them adds a specific rhythm and jolt of speed to Mighty No. 9. In a way, the entire level felt like a battle, and I could maintain a long combo through it, gaining more and more power as I went. I can see myself almost predicting when to dash into some enemies and assimilate just based on habit and instinct over time. Though Mighty No. 9 is certainly easier than Mega Man, it also has a more obvious indication of mastery. Players who sit down with Mighty No. 9 will quickly become faster, and more efficient, with a satisfying indication of this improvement in Beck’s enhanced repertoire of abilities. Perfection felt like a matter of speed and growth in my time with Mighty No. 9, and the satisfaction of it all matched perfectly with its length. At the very end, I was graded for my performance. I got a B, still plenty of room to improve but nice to see the game is ready to tell you that you have a ways to go and that it expects you to go the distance.

I look forward to spending more time with Mighty No. 9 upon its release sometimes next year.