Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How to Make a Sequel to Mighty No. 9

It can be said outright: the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter was a disaster.

As of writing, some backers still haven’t received their physical rewards, and some, allegedly, haven’t even received download codes. The production promised too much and stretched itself too thin. As a result, Mighty No. 9 ended up being a mediocre product. When I wrote for The Game Fanatics, I gave the game a 6 out of 10. I wrote, “At best, it’s a mid tier Mega Man game. At worst, it’s a pale imitation, and the game constantly sine waves between both.”

Despite this statement, I genuinely like the game and felt that beneath the unpolished surface lay immense potential. I don’t think Keiji Inafune is a con man, nor did he create the Kickstarter campaign with malicious intent. However, he does have a lot to answer for, and I hope he does try do right by all of those who initially supported Mighty No. 9.

In order to truly bring out the game’s potential, I think a proper sequel needs to be made. I realize the upcoming Mighty Gunvolt Burst is trying to serve as a pseudo-sequel, but I think a stand alone Mighty No. 9 will serve much better. However, there are a couple of things that Inafune needs to do differently, and other things he needs to polish.

Inafune will have to fund the production of the sequel himself. Unfortunately, he’s broken the trust of the Kickstarter community. It may be hard to find investors to contribute to the project, but a lot of unique and groundbreaking games are created under monetary and time constraints. The team behind the original Mega Man consisted of only six people. “When I first developed Mega Man, the team was only 6 people. The project was short-handed in one way, but that also helped each of us get involved in every detail,” Inafune recalled in a 2008 interview with Gamesradar. It may help to tap into that previous mindset in order to move the series forward.

Additionally, development should be kept to three consoles at the most. Personally, I would suggest making the game a console exclusive. A small team with a modest budget would have more success making a single version of a game. Pending the reception of the game, it can probably be ported to other systems. Inafune seems to already know this however. During a live stream he mentioned that making ten versions of a game was too much work.

The game presents a couple of interesting ideas that should be emphasized and polished in the sequel. The mechanic of weakening an enemy and then dashing through them to deliver the killing blow is interesting. It’s further enhanced by rewarding you when you defeat the enemy faster. This created a cool rhythm that carried Beck through the stages. The rhythm was sometimes broken by sloppy level design, but the overall premise was pretty cool. If the levels were more tightly designed, this mechanic would work a whole lot better.

Once Beck defeated a robot, they would come back to their senses and join him. In later levels, defeated robot bosses would appear and help Beck out. They only help out in minor ways, like clearing away an area of enemies. However, I think the idea itself holds great potential. When I played Mighty No. 9, I felt like the developers had bigger plans for this concept, but there wasn’t enough time. In the sequel, this idea needs to be fully fleshed out. For example, in the first Mega Man X game, defeating Chill Penguin before Flame Mammoth, will cause the latter boss’s stage to be covered in snow. In the vein of this idea, the game could create several variations on how defeated bosses could affect other stages.  

Furthermore, Beck wanting to save the robots instead of destroy them adds another layer to the story. It creates a more sympathetic hero, and a more important message to the player: Technology is not inherently evil, rather sometimes it's controlled by someone with bad intentions. The Mega Man series conveys this message as well, but I think it’s more effectively punctuated when you give the bosses some humanity, and choices.

When you divorce Mighty No. 9 from the politics of its creation, it’s a competently made game with some obvious flaws and a lot of potential. Creating a proper sequel will help remedy the series's reputation, while giving Inafune a chance to make things right with a legion of disappointed fans.

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