Even if you haven’t had the chance to sit down and play it yet, I’m sure that you’ve heard the news of Mighty No. 9 not being the old-school, Mega Man-inspired, side-scrolling, platforming experience that we were all hoping for. Despite what the vast majority may think, I don’t think that Mighty No. 9 is an explicitly bad video game but I do think that the final product just ended being a colossal mass of wasted potential. The amount of wasted potential, and just how close Mighty No. 9 was to being a good game, got me wondering about what went wrong when it came down to the development process of what could’ve been a fantastic throwback title.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Mighty No. 9 was launched as a Kickstarter project back in August of 2013, with a target goal of $900,000. Mighty No. 9 didn’t get funded the asking amount of $900,000. Instead the campaign only managed to collect a little over $4,000,000. What was that? That’s nearly four and a half times the asking number of monetary value they needed. Damn.
One of the biggest questions that comes up when discussing the development of Mighty No. 9 is the one asking where all of the money that backers put into the project went. $4,000,000 is a lot of money to invest into anything, especially an independently developed video game, and upon seeing the final version of the game, a lot of fans—myself included—questioned just where all of that money was used, and was it all used to develop the game?
Mighty No. 9 doesn’t in any way, shape, or form look or play like something that had $4,000,000 pumped into it, or something that took nearly 3 years to produce. I know the game was being developed by an independent studio, but that just isn’t any excuse. Just take a look at Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight — a game that shares a striking resemblance to the original Mega Man titles and, if you ask me, is a game more worthy of being crowned as a spiritual successor to that franchise than Mighty No. 9 will ever be. Shovel Knight and Mighty No. 9 are extremely similar in terms of what kind of games they are, how they were funded, and what inspirations motivated the production of the games. Shovel Knight was the first game to ever be produced by Yacht Club Games and was completed in a little over a year after it was first announced via a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2013. The minimum funding requirement for Shovel Knight to be developed was just $75,000 — around 12% of what Mighty No. 9’s asking amount was — and received a total of around $300,000 by the end of it’s funding period, which is about 10% of what Mighty No. 9 received.
I know money isn’t the defining factor when it comes down to developing and producing a video game, but when looking at the difference in the monetary value invested into both of those games, and then comparing the final product, confusion does start to appear. If Yacht Club Games, a first time developer, could make a game of such high quality with a budget of just $300,000, then why couldn’t a team of ex-Mega Man developers do the same thing, but on a much larger scale, and with a budget of nearly 10 times the amount that Shovel Knight had? Not only did Yacht Club provide a fantastic final product, they’re still dishing out a load of new content for the game 2 years after its launch. By reinvesting their profits back into their game, Yacht Club continue to show their passion for their project.
If money was taken out of the equation, where else could developers have gone wrong when developing Mighty No. 9? Well, after such a long period of time working on the game, the team may have lost their spark of passion that drove the project in the first place, or maybe somewhere down the line, the team realized that they just weren’t able to build the game to the standard that was expected of them, leading them to lose faith in the project. Man, even a member of the development team was quoted saying that the game was “better than nothing” when reacting to the first wave of reviews the game received by critics. Keiji Inafune said “we’ll do it even if it doesn’t sell” when asked about the possibilities of a potential sequel to Mighty No. 9, showing his doubts in the game’s success.
During the 3-year-long development period that Keiji Inafune and his team spent working on Mighty No. 9, the crew was simultaneously planning and working on a variety of other games, which could have been a defining factor for the downfall of the project. I honestly think that by doing this the team was spreading themselves too thin, especially as one of the games, ReCore, is a game on a much larger scale than any of the other games the team was working on at the time. As well as working on a multitude of different games at the same time, Comcept were also working alongside a number of other studios, co-developing each game with each respective company. Working with such a wide range of studios and working on so many different games at the same time may have lead the team to getting flustered with their workflow, frequenting having to change what game they were working on and alongside what team.
With all that speculation, until a statement is released, nobody truly knows what went on during the development of Mighty No. 9 apart from the people that worked on it. For all we know, it could’ve just been a really stressful time for the team because they couldn’t get the results they wanted, which led to the creation of a game that was overall a less-than-average experience. It’s a shame because Mighty No. 9 had so much potential to bring the Mega Man style of platformers back to the modern market. Seriously, it’s so close to being a great game, but it just falls short at almost every single idea it had. It just tries to do so many different things to differentiate itself from the Mega Man series while trying to retain everything that made Mega Man, well, Mega Man.
It’s a true shame that Mighty No. 9 turned out the way it did. Not only did it disappoint a large number of fans anticipating the release of the game, it changed the way that a lot of people look at crowdfunding when it comes to video games. Investing money into something that doesn’t yet exist was always going to be a risky move, but when promising statements are made, it gives the investor some sense of security as to where their money is going, and what final product they’re going to receive at the end of the project. I’ll have to admit that I’ve always been a slight bit wary when it comes to crowdfunding video games, and games like Mighty No. 9 are almost proof that my cautiousness is valid. Crowdfunding isn’t always bad, though. In fact, in a lot of circumstances, crowdfunding is a fantastic way to allow smaller development teams to bring some absolutely phenomenal ideas to life. Games like A Hat in Time, Yooka-Laylee, The Banner Saga, and Shovel Knight are all games that have had a light shone upon them in the form of Kickstarter campaigns. They are all proof that, sometimes, even though it could be a huge risk, investing your money to bring an idea to life isn’t always such a bad idea.
If you’re still in need of shooting some lemons, you could always pick up the Mega Man Legacy Collection. Yeah, you should go and do that instead of buying Mighty No. 9. Mighty No. 9 had some really ugly lemons anyway. Ugly lemons.