Mighty No. 9
At PAX we got the opportunity to check out the Mighty No. 9 beta level that backers are currently playing..
Immediately after jumping into the game, I got a sense I was playing a lost Mega Man game. It feels like the bridge between Mega Man, and Mega Man X. The X series has always been much faster paced with expanded options for navigation with the wall jumping ability. Mega Man is paced a little slower with a stronger reliance on accurate platforming. Protagonist Beck walks at a reasonable pace. He can’t jump on walls, but he can dash and he is able to grab the edges of and climb ledges. It creates the perfect middle ground between the two iconic franchises making it feel different than both of them, but familiar enough that I got comfortable very quickly.
Beck can only shoot horizontally in front of him, much like Mega Man and X, but the way he takes out enemies is much different and changes the general play style dramatically. Beck has the ability to keep firing away at an enemy until they blow up, but the fastest way to dispatch them is to shoot them until they glow a certain color, and then dash through them.
If enemies glow blue, you can dash through them to collect some health. You must dash through 10 blue enemies to get a health boost. Red glowing enemies will give you a temporary weapon boost letting you shoot through enemies damaging the ones behind them. A green glowing enemy temporarily boosts your walking speed. For the latter two power ups, a shrinking appropriately colored circle will appear above your head letting you know how much time you’ve got before you run out.
The dash mechanic is completely unlimited even when dashing through the air, and is crucial for both defeating enemies and navigating. My Mega Man X muscle memory kicked in very quickly and I found myself dashing constantly just because I am generally an impatient player. It wasn’t all a speed run, though. There were a few sections with boxes moving along conveyor belts that required some careful platforming. One section I died on a few times involved jumping from a moving box at the right moment to blow up a red barrel resting on top of a ladder. I had to blow up the barrel in order to climb up the ladder and continue forward.
Alternatively, leading up to the final boss, there were mines that would shoot out fire if I lingered on them. For these sections I dashed full speed across them making sure I wasn’t around when they exploded.
I also ran into an area where enemies were shooting at me from the background. As I waited for a window to move through the bullets, I saw previously revealed boss character Mighty No. 2 appear in the background and freeze the enemies so they couldn’t shoot and I could move forward. Apparently, after defeating bosses, they will appear in other levels to help you progress. It reminded me of the original Mega Man X where defeating certain bosses would make navigation in other levels easier. Like how defeating Chill Penguin will freeze all the lava in Flame Mammoth’s stage, for example.
After a number of tries (I had to completely restart the level three times after using up all of my lives) I finally made my way to the boss, Battalion, which is apparently a temporary name. I was doing well using the Mega Man X skills I had earned during my childhood (and last month when I replayed Mega Man X2 randomly) to dodge Battalion’s attacks, but when he jumped to the corner and started charging up, I wasn’t sure what to do. He fired off a weapon I did not dodge and it killed me instantly, despite having a large amount of health. Not all the bosses will have instant kills like this, but this one did.
My second attempt at the boss was much more successful. To damage Battalion, I had to fire away at him until he started glowing, and then dash through him similar to the way I had defeated the enemies leading up to him. If you don’t dash through the boss before they stop glowing, they will recover the health you took away from them. I eventually whittled him down, and dodged his instant kill attack by dashing back and forth in the air a few times. The final dash through him was an empowering reward as it felt like I had tackled Battalion to defeat him, rather than simply shoot him.
I have been tentatively excited about Might No. 9 since its Kickstarter received funding. I love the Mega Man X series, but have less love for the original Mega Man series. I simply did not grow up with the latter. From a distance, Mighty No. 9 seemed to be mostly pulling inspiration from the original Mega Men. Actual hands-on with the game, however, shows it will strike a good balance between the two, all while easily standing on its own with its dash and defeat mechanic.