The Mighty No. 9 debacle

mighty no. 9

Since I’ve been writing a lot of posts about politics and ideology recently, I thought it was time to a take a well-deserved break and focus on popular culture instead. In that spirit, I’d like to talk about Mighty No. 9, and the debacle that was the game’s release. I’ve written before about how Mighty No. 9 was meant to the game that continued the legacy of the Mega Man franchise, and when it was announced it certainly looked like it was going to be that way, but the game didn’t even come out until over a week ago, and when it did, it was a monumental disappointment, and it was generally greeted with mixed to negative reception. There’s a general consensus that the game failed to live up to its expectations, and even the game’s creator Keiji Inafune seems to be bitter about the game.

If you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t exactly know what’s been going on, allow me to fill you in on what exactly has been happening with Mighty No. 9, and how it came to be such a disaster. At the Penny Arcade Expo in 2013, Keiji Inafune and his team at Comcept announced Mighty No. 9, and launched the project on Kickstarter on August 31st 2013. They were aiming to raise a minimum of $900,000, but they raised it within just two days, and by the time the pledging campaign ended on October 1st, Comcept raised a total of $3,845,170 from pledges, with an additional $201,409 made via PayPal. It was a major success story, and it was praised for attempting to revive the classic Mega Man-style games amidst the neglect towards then Mega Man franchise demonstrated by Capcom, the once mighty gaming giant that in recent years has gained notoriety for its poor treatment of its fans.

The game itself was originally set to be released in April 2015, but in July 2014, there was yet another Kickstarter campaign, this time aiming to raise $200,000 for full English voice acting. Three months later, Comcept launched another campaign asking for more money, this time they wanted $198,000 for a DLC stage introducing a rival character named Ray. Shouldn’t all of that have been covered via the stretch goals in the original campaign? If that wasn’t enough, Keiji Inafune himself had expressed an interest in expanding Mighty No. 9 into a fully fledged franchise, complete with a comic book, anime, movie, and several other elements yet to be discussed.

In the month the game was supposed to be released, the game was delayed by five months, with a tentative release date of September 18th (or September 15th in America) that was supposed to allow for more time to polish the game. Of course, something obviously went wrong because in August the game was delayed yet again to an unspecified date in the first quarter of 2016, but this wasn’t the only sign of something going wrong. Only July 4th last year, Comcept launched another Kickstarter project called Red Ash: The Indelible Legend, with a minimum goal of $800,000. It was basically designed to give some extra work to the staff at Comcept who were jobless while Mighty No. 9 was being finished, but unlike Mighty No. 9, Red Ash failed to raise the money it was aiming for. In fact, it managed to draw the ire of its supporters after Comcept announced that the game would be funded by a Chinese game company called Fuze, which completely missed the point of crowdfunding.

Red Ash: The Indelible Legend will in fact be released next year, but the whole debacle was a sign of Comcept’s bad management, and it damaged the company’s reputation and that of Mighty No. 9. Indeed, Red Ash was condemned by both fans and game journalists, who described it as a rushed and poorly planned project, which it was. If you ask me, they should waited until Mighty No. 9 was finished before making another project. In fact, they should have finished Mighty No. 9 by the date they said they would initially. I don’t know what had happened behind the scenes, but there wasn’t a great deal of transparency when Red Ash was being developed, and I’m highly certain that Red Ash will be a terrible game.

Anyway, back to Mighty No. 9.  In early 2016, Mighty No. 9 was delayed again due to unforeseen bugs, and was eventually released on June 24th (or June 21st for America). At this point, I was pretty damn sure this whole debacle was coming to an end, and that I could soon enjoy the game. However, the game’s publisher, Deep Silver, decided to drop the ball, and release the much-maligned “Masterclass” trailer, which sported terrible graphics (worse than those of the actual game) and bad narration. Pretty much everyone agreed that it gave a very bad impression of the project, and in my opinion that was basically the last sign that something went disastrously wrong with the project.

My suspicions were vindicated when the game finally came out, and it got trashed in the reviews. Nearly every game reviewer give the game middling scores. There were a few reviews that were more positive, and some that hammered the game with a low score. The Xbox One version seemed to do better in the reviews, while the Wii U version fared the worst, due to a number of different technical issues that I’m sadly not aware of. Many Kickstarter backers also reported broken codes and receiving rewards other than what they paid for, though that was quickly resolved. Due to all the problems associated with the game’s development, the general lack of communication and transparency, poor management on Comcept’s part, and how generally mediocre the game turned out to be, the game was almost universally declared as one of the biggest disappointments in gaming, left to twist in the wind by an understandably betrayed gaming press. If that

After playing it, I found myself similarly disappointed, but mainly frustrated with how much of a regressive approach the game took in terms of gameplay, and how that added up to an unnecessarily frustrating game (this isn’t a game review per se, my game review will be published on Stefan Grasso’s Game Reviews in three weeks time). For me, the game should have been a classic, or at least a very good game considering what Comcept promised, but instead we get a mediocre Mega Man clone with barely anything new brought to the table. Suffice it to say, Mighty No. 9 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the biggest disappointments in gaming, and I think the whole debacle could have been prevented if Comcept gave themselves less work to do, because clearly they couldn’t handle all of the stretch goals and still meet the initial release deadline. If anything, the Mighty No. 9 debacle offers one crucial lesson for aspiring game developers and writers – don’t bite off more than you can chew.

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