Thursday, February 15, 2018

Was Mighty No. 9 Really That Bad Or Was The Hype Too Strong?

Keiji Inafune left Capcom in late 2010. For a few years Comcept, Inafune's new company, drifted aimlessly about the industry. The developer had one finished game under their belt, but it was the tragically mediocre Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. That game was panned by many as the weakest game in Tecmo's venerable Ninja Gaiden series, and quickly hit bargain bins (I bought a new copy for $8 less than a year after it's release). This didn't stop gamers from revving up the hype machine when Inafune launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a spiritual successor to the legendary Mega Man series. What began as an indie title that paid homage to one of the greatest action game franchises in gaming history devolved into something far different. It was much uglier than the launch trailers demonstrated, and was often delayed. The final product, Mighty No. 9, was railed by critics and gamers en masse, and much like Yaiba, quickly fell into bargain bins (again, I got a new copy for under $10).

 Who was to blame for the disappointment that we as a gaming public felt when Mighty No. 9 shipped? Was it Inafune, who promised the moon and handed us a Styrofoam ball? Was it possibly the fault of gamers who essentially set themselves up for a monumental disappointment? My theory is that the game was mediocre to the point of it being painful to some. You want proof of that, just go here. It was almost like a cute blond pop star that was marketed to the moon and back,  then the world heard them perform live and realized they couldn't sing.

When Inafune announced the Mighty No 9 Kickstarter campaign, we were all overcome with excitement. Even a hardcore cynic like myself was looking forward to getting my hands on what some were touting as "Mega Man's weird artsy little brother" and honestly, who could blame them? The first trailer was full of vibrant characters that had all the attitude and energy of Inafune's previous work with Capcom. We even got an amazing bit of footage featuring early gameplay. Then we found out that Inti Creates was involved in the project in a big way. This didn't scare me much since they had worked on Mega Man games in the past. Then something changed. That something was the involvement of a major publisher, Deep Silver.

Much in the same way Comcept has had a spotty history as a developer, so has Deep Silver's existence been as a publisher. It may seem unfair to blame a publisher for the sins of a developer, but when it comes to the production of video games, they tend to feel married to each other. Much in the same way that Acclaim garnered a reputation for releasing absolutely abysmal games though they didn't develop those games themselves, Deep Silver has become known for being incredibly hit or miss when it comes to their releases.

Without the stigma attached to it, Mighty No 9 is a serviceable video game. I find myself enjoying my time with it in a way that I probably wouldn't have if my love for Mega Man completely clouded my judgment. To be fair, it may have at one point, as my time with the demo released for the Xbox 360 left me wanting something more. The finished PS4 port that I bought was solid. It was far from prefect, but most of the gripes from reviewers were about cosmetic issues and they thankfully don't break things as far as gameplay.

Inafune promised so much in terms of this game and everything came up short. It's really disappointing too, because there was so much potential for an amazing piece of gaming to happen with Mighty No 9. Instead, we ended up the most pedestrian of Mega Man knockoffs and a man who's reputation, which was a tad bit over hyped to begin with, suffering more damage. It is a shame too, because now we'll probably never know how truly good Mighty No 9 could have been beyond the okay, but not breathtaking game that we got.

Here's to hoping the next actual Mega Man game will be good.