Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Editorial: Mighty No.9

Edit 24 Jan 2018: This article reflects Mighty No. 9 as it was presented in its Kickstarter campaign, from 2013.  If you want my review of the game we actually got, three frickin' years later, you may read it here.  This was also written  way before Capcom announced Mega Man 11, to be released later in 2018, but that's another story.

Something wonderful happened over the Labor Day weekend. Oh, and I'm spelling it "Labor" instead of "Labour" since I'm referring to an American holiday. But since this news mostly involves Japan, it doesn't matter anyway. So anyway, a project recently launched on the site Kickstarter to fund an independent game for PCs entitled Mighty No.9. Amazingly, the project met its base goal of US$900,000 in just about 24 hours. But that's not the best part: the project is led by a mister Keiji Inafune. You know, the creator of Mega Man who had a falling-out with Capcom and quit only to found his own company, named Comcept. That's right: Mighty No.9 is nothing less than a trademark-safe spiritual successor to Mega Man. So it should be no surprise that I fully endorse this project.


OR DO I? Read on.

As described on its page and pledge video on Kickstarter, Mighty No.9 is a 2-dimensional, jump-and-shoot platformer game starring a robot boy named Beck. His (and the game's) title apparently refers to him being the 9th in a series of robots, and his eight predecessors should serve as the game's bosses, akin to the Robot Masters from the 2-D Mega Man series. As in Mega Man, Beck can earn special weapons by defeating bosses, but he can also transform his own body to overcome obstacles. For example, he might be able to grow tank treads in order to safely cross a pit of spikes. If you're already a fan of classic Mega Man, I'll bet that prospect alone has already got you foaming at the mouth. ^_^

But what about the rest of us? I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get a little tired of the traditional 2-D style of Mega Man. Over the past five years or so, among the few Mega Man games Capcom has put out themselves, as well as any notable fan-games (or both, in the case of Street Fighter X Mega Man), nearly all releases have followed this format. They have also emulated the 8-bit graphical style of the NES era (Mighty No.9 will not, by the way). When throwing this into the equation, bear in mind that back in the day (let's say, ah... Mega Man IV on wards), Mega Man was the butt of many jokes for the same reason: slavish adherance to a formula without much -- if anything -- in the way of new mechanics to spice things up.

And that's why the Mega Man Legends series has garnered such great respect as a cult classic: it carried over the most basic of concepts, but in all other ways was unique. Whilst the two PlayStation games were rough around the edges technically, this had more to do with hardware limitations than anything else. It was the designs of the worlds and the personalities of the characters that contributed the most to make the games memorable in the minds of many players. Present company excluded, frankly, but I had more fun playing these games than most of the other Mega Man entries. Don't believe me? I reviewed 'em both. And not to spoil anything, but the ending of the second game also left us with more questions than answers -- not to mention the worst cliff-hanger ending since The Italian Job. It's all these reasons combined that made Capcom's decision to cancel pre-production of Mega Man Legends 3 such an unforgivable act. Even to this very day, it feels like something's been missing from my life ever since -- and I wasn't even following the project until that fateful day.

So with that being my mindset, let me ask the question: Will supporting or buying Mighty No.9 bring back Legends 3, even in the long term? I mean, on the surface, this could be interpreted as supporting Inafune-sama and Comcept to make more 2-D games that are not at all like the Legends series (minus the licence). But that's looking at the issue purely from a marketing perspective, and ignoring the human element. In his pledge video, Inafune describes Mighty No.9 as the realisation of a lifelong dream. But didn't he already say that about Legends 3? Well, who knows. Maybe this and/or subsequent projects may give Comcept enough clout that Capcom will give them the rights to develop Legends 3.

...And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

Yeah, it's not that easy. Consider the fact that Inafune has in the past been a little... worrisome about the state of Japan's video game industry. In fact, some have speculated that such outbursts are the reason he quit Capcom and, subsequently, why his former bosses cancelled Legends 3 later on. For what it's worth, Capcom has denied this reason, but until they actually give us a reason themselves, I'm inclined to believe it. Assuming all this bad blood between the two parties is a real thing, I don't think Inafune has this kind of clout anymore, even as a third-party contractor. I'm not saying this idea is impossible, just improbable in the current climate.

With that said, it's up to us to politicise this development. Contribute to the game's Kickstarter fund. Remember that there an array of rewards available based on your pledge. (US$10,000 gives you, of all things, a dinner with Inafune-sama. I don't know why, but that concept just seems so amusing.) Then when it comes out for the general public, buy a copy (unless your pledge already guaranteed you one). And when you do, let Capcom know about it. They have Facebook pages, including a Japanese one. Make them understand that there is a place in the video game market for the simple charms of a robot boy, be him Mega or Mighty. And remember...

Legends Never Die.

This is IchigoRyu. You are the resistance.

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