I had a great time with Comcept’s Mega Man soul-successor, Mighty No. 9, last year at PAX Prime, but I still felt that the game hadn’t quite veered far enough away from its source material to feel like a truly new experience. After playing a near-full version of the game with Deep Silver at E3 this year, though, I’m not worried at all. In fact, I could barely tear myself away from it.
The demo had ten stages to choose from: Highway, Oil Platform, Water Works Bureau, Power Plant, Mine, Military Base, Radio Tower, Highway, Capitol, and Prison. These stages make up the bulk of the main story in the game, with Highway as the introductory stage and Capitol representing the start of the final stretch. I also had access to all eight of Beck’s transformations, but before I jump into some of those, I want to talk about the controls that make the game special.
Inti Creates is known for its fast-paced action games, exemplified by their recent 3DS title, Azure Striker Gunvolt. One of their key traits is fast, fluid movement—and in Mighty No. 9, this takes the form of Beck’s Dash, which can be executed consecutively without limit. Add in the Xel absorption mechanic—where Beck can dash through damaged enemies and absorb their life force for combat augmentations—and the game’s pace quickly breaks into a sprint.
What’s more, Beck will fire as fast as you can press the button, and augmentations gained by absorbing enemies will cause his shots to pass through enemies and deal more damage. The platforming aspects of the game will tastefully break the pace for the casual player, but for more familiar players, these mechanics can be manipulated for speed runs or score attacks. In that sense, you’re getting both an NES Mega Man game and a Mega Man Zero game in one package; it’s found a perfect and irresistible harmony between action and platforming that makes it hard to put down.
For players focusing on the action aspect of the game, two commands demand mastery: a backwards jump followed up by three diagonal shots, and a forward jump that grants Beck a few frames of invulnerability. Beck’s Dash has a wide range of affect as well, so even if you perform a backwards jump, if you follow up with a dash while the enemy is weakened, he’ll more likely than not absorb it. It’s also important to master the Beck’s eight transformations.
Switching between these transformations was seamless. On the Xbox One controller, the left shoulder and bumper buttons were used to move up or down on a vertical selection window. Pressing the Y Button allowed me to toggle between a selected transformation and my standard form. This system seems to have replaced L and R Button scrolling typical of Mighty No. 9’s source material. All eight of the transformations come from the other Mighty No. characters Beck must save (not destroy!) to progress through the game’s surprisingly deep story.
Some of Beck’s transformations aren’t purely offensive. Mighty No. 6’s grants him the ability to use a propeller which, when held while jumping, allows Beck float across large spaces. When released, it flies upward and returns to Beck like a boomerang. Similarly, Mighty No. 7’s transformation gives Beck the ability to swirl upward with a sword slash, but also perform normal forward attacks while on the ground.
All these elements combined make the game feel like more than just another Mega Man. Although the comparison is inevitable and perhaps even unavoidable, especially since the game has an option to switch the soundtrack to a “retro” setting comprised to 8-bit versions of the game’s main songs recreated by Inti Creates composer Ippo Yamada, the game has a unique style of play that I believe sets it apart from other titles of the same genre. Next time, I’ll talk more about the stages, extra modes, and more importantly, Call—the game’s second character.