Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mighty No. 9 Beta Impressions (PC Version)

It seems like only yesterday that Kickstarter exploded when news that Keiji Infafune would be returning to his roots with another game set in the classic Mega Man-style that we all know and love. Upon making so much money, that he literally now has an animated series in the works, gamers who pledged enough in the campaign are now eligible to download the beta of the game, as members of PAX 2014 were able to try out the game themselves. Since the hype around this upcoming game has been so ridiculous, it's hard to believe that it could even live up to it at this point. So just how well is the beta we've all been chomping at the bit to play? Depending on what you already knew about the title, you may be a bit surprised.

One could easily dismiss this as a Mega Man clone, due to its look, the style of the soundtrack, and the level structure. All of these elements do resemble previous entries in the Mega Man series, particularly X, being that Mighty No. 9 can shoot, run, and dash in a similar fashion, and the "boss fight at the end of the level" pattern remains intact. Most would say this isn't really a bad thing (as it's been a winning formula for countless decades now), but all is not exactly as it was either.

The beta only allowed us to play one level for now (though it was confirmed there will be more added in the future, before the full game release), but it was a great level to get us into the swing of things, regardless of whether it actually ends up making the full release or not. While Mighty No. 9 blasts in the same fashion as Mega Man, there is no charge shot mechanic (which classic Mega fans will recall from the earliest couple of NES/Famicom entries). To make up for this, there is a whole new trick to take out your enemies with, and it will take a little getting used to at first. When you shoot any enemy a certain number of times, they will begin to glow. As this happens, you need to dash into it in order to collect its energy (known in the game as a "Xel"). These forms of energy will grant No. 9 different enhancement types, such as increased blaster range and faster speed, if only for a short amount of time. Collecting enough Xels can also allow you to store up energy for healing later on (similar to the way energy tanks were used in the original Mega Man games).

The Xel mechanic adds a bit of depth to each stage, as you can also perform combo attacks, depending on how many enemies are in front of you and begin glowing after being fired at. This will make players want to reconsider how they go about blasting some enemies, if it will lead to more combo chains and points as the level goes on. It's also important to note that you will receive a grade at the end of the mission, and it's fairly obvious that this style of play makes for the bulk of it.

Changing things up even more was the appearance of Mighty No. 2, who appeared in the level as more of a support character. During one scene, multiple enemies were shooting at me in a far away spot that No. 9 could not reach. Before fumbling forward and losing health, Mighty No. 2 suddenly jumped next to these enemies and froze them all so I could continue. I'm very curious to see how else this and other Mighty No.'s will affect the gameplay in future stages.

Some other little nods to the Blue Bomber's past included a helper robot that would drop items for you to take, and the classic doors to the boss fight setup. Speaking of said boss...

Mighty No. 5 was an overall well-made fight. He begins by firing bullets and trying to jump over (and ON) you at every chance he gets. As the fight goes on, you will notice that even bosses can begin to glow and fall victim to the dash attack, sometimes for some major damage. The battle clearly picks up in intensity once No. 5's health hits the halfway mark. Most notable was his explosion attack, taking up more than half of the screen with each blast.

Anyone actually playing the level can tell you that it certainly looks like another Mega Man game, but that the feel is definitely something of its own. The dash and Xel mechanics changed the entire outlook of the stage, and will likely change the entire setup of the entire game if this level was any indication.

My reactions to this beta are definitely positive. I would have been happy even if the game was another Mega Man clone, but since it's not, I find that to be much better as a whole. I really believe this is going to be everything it's been hyped up to be and then some. My hat goes off to Inafune and the team, for coming together to start this new project with all of its fans in mind. Now when can we get those new levels!?