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Mighty No. 9

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: comcept
Release Date: June 21, 2016 (US), June 24, 2016 (EU)


WiiU/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Mighty No. 9'

by Thomas Wilde on June 17, 2015 @ 4:00 a.m. PDT

Mighty No. 9 is an all-new Japanese side-scrolling action game that takes the best aspects of the 8- and 16-bit era classics, and transforms them with modern tech, fresh mechanics, and fan input into something fresh and amazing!

The first thing you tend to hear, once the actual news starts coming out at E3, is who "won." It's often Nintendo, sometimes it's Sony, and once or twice, it's been Microsoft. Somebody usually walks away with an entirely imaginary brass ring.

This year, more than anyone else, it's been Kickstarter.

Crowd-funding has made it possible for developers to go after markets that would have seemed impossibly niche as recently as a year ago, and Mighty No. 9 is a good example. (Its companion at Deep Silver, Wasteland 2, is another good one, but that's a separate preview.)

Mighty No. 9 is available at Deep Silver's booth at E3 2015 in an almost fully playable state, with all levels unlocked and available. I'm not 100% on what the plot is — something about the previous Mighty robots all conveniently malfunctioning, and the ninth, who also goes by "Beck," being dispatched to stop them — but it doesn't really matter, because Mighty No. 9 is basically Mega Man.

It wears its influences on its sleeve, as it should, since it was created by Keiji Inafune, Mega Man's original creator. It mixes the straightforward action and style of play, along with the multiple collected weapons from the original NES games, and the plot delivery and characterization that was more common to the Mega Man X series. It's bright, colorful, cheerful, just challenging enough that it'll take some effort to beat, and for people like me who grew up with an NES controller in our hands, it's a near-instant nostalgia trip.

Beck is equipped with the ability to "assimilate" other robots once they've been weakened, which is the only way to destroy them for good. A few shots from his primary weapon take out their shields or stun them, and then you dash through them to take them out. Assimilating multiple robots at once, or several in rapid succession, gives you a score bonus, and your score returns to zero if you lose a life before the end of the level. This is the kind of game that speed-runners and record-setters dream about, with several hidden ways to get bonuses.

If you ever played any of the old Mega Man games, Mighty will feel familiar in seconds. It took me no time at all before I was rampaging across the first couple of levels, dodging spikes and destroying vaguely familiar robots, with gimmicks like ricocheting bullets or impenetrable shields.

The big moment-to-moment change is that Beck replaces Mega Man's slide from the later games with a forward dash, which was set to the right bumper on my controller. It's what's used for the finishing shot to assimilate enemy robots, but it can also carry him about a screen's length forward with the touch of a button. It lets you get over chasms that seem impassible at first glance, and it's only the second level before you're using it in very narrow quarters to get past an inconvenient passage full of death traps. (You know those vertical spike-lined passages from Mega Man 2 that required pinpoint hand-eye coordination to get through because you were basically in freefall? Those are back. Enjoy.)

I got the chance to play through a couple of levels of Mighty No. 9, and while I didn't experiment with the subweapons or any of the additional modes (including the ability to play as his female counterpart, the not-Roll to Beck's not-Mega Man), it was satisfying. The game just feels right in a way that hits me right in nostalgic parts of my brain that I typically try to ignore; playing it is an instant reversal to a very particular childhood state, to color-soaked worlds that were a genuine challenge to navigate.

The mistake of Mega Man 9, I think in retrospect, while it had most of the trappings intact, was in being so ridiculously difficult that it was almost a parody of itself. Few of the Mega Man games were ever that hard, so MM9 was more of a throwback to a particular point in time than to itself. Mighty No. 9 is a more faithful reproduction and an example of why those games became popular in the first place. It may seem simple if you grew up on 3-D platformers, but it'll surprise you.

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