Objective analysis of Mighty No.9 is impossible, so I'm under no pretense that I can offer it.
Even if the Kickstarter campaign didn't carry the absolute truckload of drama that it does now, the very premise was bound to cloud judgment. When you all but claim to make a spiritual successor to Mega Man after Capcom canned Legends 3, Mega Man Universe, and basically the entire franchise save a poorly received iOS game, you're naturally going to get fans riled up to put their money where their mouths are. It's obvious in retrospect that the game would have been better off releasing under budget than working up all the crowdfunding hype that it did, but what we have is what we get: a cautionary tale of how the world's most hyped game can become the laughingstock of the internet.
As for me, I don't know if anyone is as crushed by how Mighty No.9 turned out as I am. Not because I dislike the game, but because I'm enjoying the genesis of a promising series being held back from its full potential.
Let's get this out of the way: Mighty No.9's biggest problems stem from its assumption that you've already played the game.
Yes, I know that's not the source of all the game's problems, but you don't need me to talk graphics and voice acting when everyone already has. Fact of the matter is, Mighty No.9 is extremely unfriendly to new players, and that just isn't going to jive well with a game that operates under dynamics different from Mega Man.
I've seen a lot of people label Mighty No.9 as a score attack game, and while I don't think that's false, it's certainly a simplification. Mighty No.9 is an aggressive game, based around a dash mechanic that makes long-range play unreasonable in most cases. See, Mega Man is a series that could generally be played defensively, and keeping threats at a distance was a logical way to parse most levels on an initial run. By making that option impractical in most cases, Mighty No.9 puts players on the wrong foot right out the gate, and the abundance of COMBO and GOOD when absorbing enemies makes players feel like they shouldn't stop moving. It's in the game's best interest to ease players as gently as possible into this new style of gameplay, but against all common sense, it decides to do the opposite.
Mighty No.1's stage, the level new players will most likely choose first without any outside influence, perfectly encapsulates this issue. Players just getting used to the new mechanics will have to deal with objects in the background crashing into the foreground, causing instant death to anyone underneath at the wrong time. It's very jarring to the rapid flow of the stage to that point, and while it's not a hard obstacle by any means, it doesn't adequately teach players that taking things a little slower is okay. The fight against Mighty No.1 really ramps it up though, with his second phase being similar to his first, but with attacks now dealing instant death. Players who know the fight can shrug this off, but for players still struggling or learning the mechanics, it's basically kicking them when they're already on the ground. It's an absolute awful first impression, and it goes without saying that I was not amused through my first hour with the game.
This kind of design would be severely damaging to the game by itself, but on the heels of a Kickstarter campaign that squandered so much good will, it's basically a death blow to all but the most tolerant of players. Yet I figured I would at least see the game to the credits before making an opinion, and to say the least, I'm really glad I did.
Underneath the problems and rough edges lies the very reason I backed the game in the first place: the spirit of Mega Man.
Before I go any further, I just want to set the stage for my perspective here. Mega Man will always be a franchise I'm passionate about. I grew up playing Mega Man over any other series, and frankly, you'd see me talk about Mega Man in the same way I do Ys if I felt plenty of others weren't doing it already. I'm also the type of person who earned almost every achievement in Mega Man 9, stopping just short of Mr. Perfect because I couldn't quite crack Wily's castle without taking a hit. While I am able to recognize games like Mega Man X6 as trash, this is overall a series I enjoy to the point where I can have fun being a little masochistic with them.
Mighty No. 9 isn't Mega Man, no, but once its mechanics and design clicked with me, they really clicked. The pivotal moment for me was taking out Mighty No. 7 and acquiring his sword ability, functioning extremely effectively at close range without eating up energy cost. Having that as a standby while starting to experiment with other powers, I finally felt that Mega Man spark I was looking for. Figuring out how to approach a level's obstacles more efficiently has proven to be a lot of fun for me, and I can see why the score aspect of the game is so prominent now. Playing a level once in Mighty No. 9 can be hit or miss, but really digging deep into them and improving your performance is captivating. I doubt I'll hit S rank on every stage on every difficulty, but for the time being, I finally feel like I'm riding the game's stride.
Boss fights as Ray are certainly a little extreme in difficulty, but figuring out the right powers to use at the end was like solving a puzzle.
Beyond that, it's hard for me to say why Mighty No. 9 gives me the Mega Man vibes beyond the obvious details, but I can only say that there's a certain energy to the gameplay that runs uniquely in the Mega Man DNA. It's a combination of feeling in control, the satisfaction of the jumping and shooting, and the music that, while I wasn't initially a big fan, has definitely grown on me as I continue playing. I'd even go as far as to say the tone and style of the game scream it to me too, even if they're both quite flawed in their current state. Again, it's all really hard to describe, and since this all a personal "feeling" I have no idea if it resonates with others. All I know is that this has always been the most important part of the equation for me, and while the trailers for the game made me worried the soul wasn't quite there, I've been pleasantly surprised to see that it is.
It's common for naysayers of the game to recommend 20XX in place of Mighty No.9, and while 20XX is absolutely fantastic (seriously, pick it up if you haven't, it's loads of fun), it doesn't quite capture that essence of Mega Man the ways Mighty No. 9 does. Even as I say that, I know it's hard for me to take a stance that's so utterly subjective and try to argue that it makes Mighty No.9's rough edges worth it. At best, I can only suggest that for people who like to dig deep and dissect their Mega Man titles, there's some real depth to Mighty No.9. For others, it's a tougher sell, and this is the type of game I shouldn't have any reservations recommending.
There's enough substance for a sequel to save the Mighty No.9 IP, I just don't know if it'll happen.
Mighty No.9 is a game that is blatantly franchise crafting from start to end. While it's no secret that there have been big plans for Beck since the Kickstarter ended, I feel as if it has shot itself in the foot over it. If anything, it makes me wonder if the preplanning for a possible sequel was holding the team back, or if they felt they could throw in unpolished ideas for the sake of seeing what sticks for a second game.
Either way, with what I can only assume to be subpar management given the game's myriad issues, I don't have a ton of faith in a sequel. After all, no one's going to look at middling review scores across the board and think it's wise to invest in a new title, and doing another Kickstarter would be in utter poor taste. I know Inafune has mentioned he wants to do another one "even if it doesn't sell," but the lengths they'd have to go for a redemption at this point seem too great in the face of what we even now continue to witness. I want to have faith in the future of Mighty No.9, but as things stand, I'm more worried that they'll just drive the brand further into the ground instead of properly turning it around.
Yes, I'm okay with Mighty No.9. But the truth of the matter is, way too many people aren't okay with it. While I do think the hate for the game has been excessive if not inconsistent, Comcept ultimately brought it upon themselves. If Mighty No.9 just sucked in the end and I hated it, it'd be easy for me to just swallow my disappointment and move onto other games. But because there's something to be saved here, I don't want it to be crushed just because it's in the wrong hands.
Comcept, you're on the verge of bringing Mega Man back. Please, don't kill him off again.