Keiji Inafune, who many regard to be the father of the Mega Man franchise, is designing a spiritual successor to the series he helped nurture back in the days of the NES and beyond. Titled Mighty No. 9, the Kickstarter-funded platformer aims to combine retro design sensibilities with newer ones, to create something that is clearly inspired by Mega Man, but at the same time, has an identity of its own.
“You can’t be too bound by the conventions of old games,” Inafune shares in a developer diary video for Mighty No. 9. “Games from 20 years ago have values which are 20 years old by now. There are a lot of good things about retro games, but if we’re too bound by them, I think we’re doomed to fail. Still, if we fail to understand what makes retro games good and make it into a purely modern-style game, that won’t be any fun either.”
“So I think the big challenge is how to mix the “old” and “new” fun and present that mix to the player as a new gameplay experience.”
The reason Inafune feels that this mix of design sensibilities is achievable for Mighty No. 9 is that the game’s development team includes a number of staff members that worked on the original Mega Man games at Capcom alongside him, but also includes younger staff that were the target audience for those games back in the day.
“It’s not just older guys,” Inafune says. “These are guys I worked with back in the day, and there are younger people who were our target audience once. So we all have similar memories, although from very different viewpoints. That kind of mix helps keep us old timers engaged, while we can teach the younger set what made past games so good, too.”
Mighty No. 9 assistant director Tobuto Dezaki adds, “Even if we say, ‘It’s not Mega Man,’ the game will still be compared to Mega Man. And yes, we do share some basic concepts—but in the end what we’re after here is not just to reboot or refine that same idea. We want to go beyond that concept to a side-scrolling action game that only Inafune—the Inafune of today—could think up.”
Prior to establishing his new studio, Comcept, which is working on the design for Mighty No. 9, Inafune worked at Capcom, where he helped spearhead a number of the company’s flagship titles, including later Mega Man efforts. When he parted ways with Capcom, Inafune claimed it was because he was never given the extent of creative freedom he would have liked to have, despite his contributions to the company.
“I’ve been involved with a large number of big-game series in the past but I don’t have any kind of rights to any of them,” Inafune says. “Even now, people say to me, ‘You should go back and work on those games!’ But I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have the rights.’”
However, Inafune adds, “It really bothers me that I can’t respond to fans’ expectations… But with my own IP, I’m free to answer that demand. If they said ‘We don’t want this,’ I don’t have to keep making it, and if they ask me for a sequel, I’m free to create it.’ I’m free to expand the series out like that.”