Heavily inspired by the old Megaman games, and injected with roguelike elements, this brutal platformer will keep you coming back for more.
Genre: Action, Platformer, Roguelike
Developer: Batterystaple Games,
Fire Hose Games
Publisher: Batterystaple Games
Release date: 16 Aug, 2017
By now, may have heard of the debacle that is Mighty No. 9. The game that was supposed to be the spiritual successor to the old Megaman games. It raised a ton of money, had a long development period, and everyone seemed so certain of its success. But it came out, and pretty much everyone was disappointed. Disappointed and very angry. Well, except me, that is. I didn’t need it, you see. I had already been playing 20XX (which was in the last phases of early access at the time). As far as I’m concerned, this game is what Mighty No. 9 should have been. It lives up to everything that the old Megaman games were (both the original and the X series), while also creating tons of replay value by adding in many elements from the roguelike genre. Even after well over 100 hours, I just don’t tire of it, and there is always more excitement and challenge to be had.
You probably know the basics here… but just in case you’ve not played any of the Megaman games before, I’ll explain a bit anyway. You start off by choosing one of two characters. Nina, who uses a ranged attack, and Ace, who uses a sword for close-range clobbering. Your goal is to defeat all eight of the bosses and then move on to the final area. As in the old games, when you defeat a boss, it’s power is yours to take, and each boss is weak against a specific power gotten from a different boss. In addition to shooting, chopping, jumping, and throwing crazy powers around, you also have the ability to use a charged attack, and you can wall-jump as well, and sort of cling onto them a bit and attack from there even. Nothing super complicated here. The controls are pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned. Your character’s movements flow nicely, and maneuvering yourself around accurately is easy to do. You will never get killed by the fault of the controls alone. No, it’s your own lack of skill against the challenges you face that’ll cause that to happen. And one way or another, it’s bound to happen, probably sooner rather than later. This is a difficult game, filled with an ever-increasing number of threats, from robotic enemies to stage hazards to lava, or all sorts of other things. Even the old vanishing platforms that everyone loved so much from the old games are here among all sorts of other things. There is no shortage of challenges to be had.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a game of brutal difficulty. And there are no extra lives or continues to be found here. Once you die, that’s it, the run is over. In addition, this contains many elements from the roguelike genre, and you know what that means: procedurally generated levels. This means that you won’t be able to get through by simply memorizing every bit of the game. One way or another, you’ll have to adapt to everything the game throws at you. Fortunately, the various horrors that will be launched at you are well-designed, fair, and interesting. There are no cheap hits here. Enemies are well-balanced and fit properly into the areas they are placed in. Each level contains its own unique selection of foes, as well as its own unique style of design. The sky temple, for instance, is an aerial wonderland of moving platforms and laser walls, whereas the fire zone is a cramped labyrinth filled with claustrophobic, robot-filled sections and about a billion fireball launchers. Levels aren’t purely procedural though. Instead, they are built out of hand-made “chunks”, so they don’t have the randomized “gibberish” feel that purely procedural games often have. This also means that each section is tweaked to guarantee that it is always fair and beatable, regardless of which character you’ve chosen or what powers and items you might have.
Those powers and items will determine your build and potentially change the way you approach different sections of the game. Boss powers are the one thing you can expect to find on every run… this isn’t one of those games with 50 different bosses that may or may not appear. There are always the same eight (though their difficulty increases when fought later in a run) and each boss will always offer you the same power when defeated. You don’t have to take a boss power if you don’t want to. You’re offered either some free nuts (used to buy items or activate vending machines) or a basic item that you could take instead. However, I’ve found that all eight powers are constantly useful. Well, for me anyway. The game supports a very wide range of play styles. Some players might be the sort to take no powers at all, relying on only their basic weapons to do the job. I, on the other hand, favor a very power-heavy play style. I’ll use all 8 of them pretty much constantly, both in combat and for their other uses. Each power is versatile and comes with an additional side function that isn’t directly related to clobbering foes. My favorite of these is Shadespur, a huge purple energy blast that goes through walls, can be fired in any direction, and can hit at extreme ranges, even off-screen, dealing decent damage and piercing enemies. But it also has another function: If you strike one of the blue vanishing/reappearing platforms with it, the platform will solidify and permanently lock into place, no longer vanishing. Every one of the eight powers has a function that you can use to help in other ways. They are well-balanced, too. Shadespur there sure sounds overpowered as heck on paper, but it is balanced out due to being by far the most difficult of the eight powers to use, as it’s direction and speed are based on your exact momentum at the moment of firing whereas other powers are more straightforward, such as Vera, which is essentially a machine-gun that can be fired in any of the cardinal directions.
Now as for items, there are tons of these. Like boss powers, they are very well balanced. You’re not going to find much in the way of super-OP things like you might in a game like Binding of Isaac. But you will find plenty of things that are satisfying and useful, some with very creative effects. You’re guaranteed to get an item after defeating each boss (in addition to the room that contains the boss power). Other items are either found in chests located throughout the different levels, or in shops. Both chests and shops require a bit of effort to reach, as they are typically found in out of the way areas, optional sections that branch away from the normal linear path of each stage, though shops can sometimes also be found in the corridor right before the boss room. In addition, there are special areas known as Glory Zones. In these, you undergo some sort of grueling challenge, which could be anything. Perhaps it’ll be a room full of monsters where you’re expected to defeat them without taking damage, or perhaps it’ll be a mini-level stuffed with traps and hazards and a giant cloud of bats constantly chasing you… get caught and you’re booted out. If you successfully complete a Glory Zone challenge, a special chest appears that contains a Core item. Core items come from one of four possible sets, and are very similar to the special armor upgrades that you could find in the X games. These items have much stronger and more important effects than normal items, and if you have all four items from a single set, you’ll gain some sort of unique and very strong passive effect. There are all sorts of items and such in the game, and your overall build will vary wildly from one run to the next. Much of the time you don’t have a lot of actual choice in what to go with, but the shops are what make up for this, giving you a chance to direct your build in a direction that suits you.
As is common with this type of game though, the vast majority of these items are locked when you first start the game, with the exception of boss powers and Core sets. As you go through each run, you will occasionally encounter special glowing versions of any given enemy type. These guys have enhanced attacks and huge amounts of HP so can take quite a beating, but if you defeat them, you’ll get some Soul Chips. Once you either die or otherwise complete a run, you’ll be sent back to the main hub, where you’ll have the option to spend Soul Chips on new items to unlock. There is also a shop in the main hub, with randomly chosen items that you can spend chips on to give you a few items to start your run with. Lastly, there are permanent upgrades that you can buy, increasing stats or doing other things to help you get stronger over time. However, these do not work in Defiant mode, the game’s “hard” mode. You also have the option of turning them off if you’d like, which can be good for practicing on the normal difficulty before diving into Defiant. Soul Chips do not persist though… once you’ve started a run, all the chips you had will vanish, so be sure to spend them on items/upgrades before you begin. There are some other things you can do in the hub as well. You can switch characters here, as well as take part in a variety of special modes, which of course includes daily runs. There is actually quite a number of modes in the game, offering you many different things to do. Of particular note though is that Defiant mode I mentioned. It’s not just a harder difficulty. It is also a mode that you can customize, choosing a variety of “skulls” which are modifiers that increase the difficulty in a variety of ways. Some skulls aren’t that tough, whereas others are just plain cruel. Naturally, the more you choose, the harder it will be. No matter how good you are, this mode means that you can find a way for the game to still give you a challenge, which helps a ton with the replay value. However, I do wish that there was a larger selection of skulls available. But still, it’s a fun mode, and the ability to customize the challenge to such a degree is almost unheard of in games with roguelike elements. Overall, this is a game that offers you a huge amount of options… just so many different things to do and possibilities overall. There is a ton of content in this game, all of it very well-designed and enjoyable if a bit murderous.
No review is complete without going into the negatives though, so lets get that bit over with. For starters, the game’s sheer difficulty might be a problem for some players. Even on the lowest difficulty mode, the game is still very difficult and unforgiving. The challenge ramps up drastically as each run continues. Levels will have more enemies, more traps and hazards, more of everything, pushing your skills to the limit. What’s more, there are so many times when the game almost feels like a bullet-hell game rather than a mere platformer. It tends to fire a really extreme number of projectiles in all directions. This could happen both in the levels themselves, or in the boss fights. The Twin Astrals in particular are notorious for absolutely drowning you in a million fireballs when fought late in a run. And the game’s 9th level has become a major point of contention within the community, with many players feeling that it is far too difficult. However, opinions on that one differ greatly… I personally have no problems with that stage. I think it’s very well done. But it’s absolutely worth mentioning. Also, there’s the game’s achievements. Those that like to go for 100% of achievements in games will find it to be extremely difficult here, as some of them are so utterly ridiculous in terms of how hard they are to get as to be almost entirely unreasonable, creating extreme frustration even when your skill level is incredibly high. The game’s music is also sometimes said to be a low point, as much of it just isn’t very memorable, though I do really like the themes for level nine, as well as that of the final boss. And lastly is something related to the levels themselves: There are only four, not eight, main levels in which you will go after the main bosses of the game. This means that each level is shared between two bosses. For instance, if you choose to go fight Kur, you’ll go to the Sky Temple. But when you later go after Eternal Star, well, he resides there too, so back to that stage you’ll go. It’ll be arranged completely differently, and the difficulty will be quite a bit higher with more enemies and hazards, but it’s still the Sky Temple. There is also the final section of the game as well, which is totally separate and unique, but still, this odd lack of level variety might be a turn-off to some. It is not unexpected though, considering the small development team, and the budget that they had to work with.
Honestly, though, I have a lot of trouble coming up with a list of negatives like that. This is a very refined game with a ton of content, all of it very well balanced and all of it tons of fun. Plenty of depth and challenge awaits you here, and you’re able to approach the game in any way you like. This game was a long time in the making, but it has proven to be very worth it in the end. I think it absolutely lives up to the legacy of the games that inspired it while adding even more to the formula in a way that doesn’t detract from it, but instead just makes it that much better. As much of a fan as I am of the old games, I’d honestly have to say that I prefer this over even those. In my view, it’s just that darned good. Don’t miss out on this one.