One of Kickstarter’s gaming darlings, Mighty No. 9, came out the other week and it’s not very good.
As of writing, Metacritic ratings place the Mega Man successor at a decidedly average 54%, which isn’t ‘bad’ per se, but certainly isn’t what head creator Keji Inafune promised. I’m not a much of a Mega Man fan myself, but even I can recognise the importance and love surrounding the classic franchise, and Mighty No. 9 doesn’t seem like it does the beloved series much credit.
It’s a sad business, being disappointed. I loved the original Inheritance series of books back when I was a kid (you know, the one with the dragons and corny American fantasy dialogue), but when the film adaption came out the misery was real (oh why Jeremy Irons?). When you’re so hyped for something, and it turns out to not be what you hoped for, it sucks. I suppose it sucks even more when you’ve been waiting since 2010 for a new game in a series that seems to have been abandoned by its publisher, and you’ve actually put your hard-earned cash towards it as well. That probably describes what many Mega Man fans are experiencing right now in the wake of Mighty No. 9’s release.
When the Kickstarter was initially announced, its goal of $900,000 seemed fairly reasonable for a game with such an ambitious scale. But of course, this fairly reasonable goal was completely blown out of the water by its many hungry backers, and eventually collected nearly $4 million. That’s a nice bit of money for an indie title and should have helped create something Mega Man fans had wanted for so long. After all, the concept art was so pretty; with its bright colours and detailed designs, and the game had a stellar team of ‘veterans’ behind it.
However, the story of Mighty No. 9 turned out to be something rather more unpredictable, and eventually, more disappointing than backers had hoped for.
Alarm bells began ringing when it was delayed from its initial release date of April 2015 to September 2015. These delays then became an annual thing; with the game being delayed a total of four times, to finally being released over a year after its expected arrival. The reasons behind the delays appeared to have been a mixture of problems, but many were related to the various different stretch goals, such as the game’s online co-operative modes. These stretch goals eventually became the game’s biggest burden; what were initially meant as nice little extras ended up delaying development, and potentially forcing the creators to seek out more funding.
This apparent need for funding may have led the developers to strike up a deal with publishers Deep Silver, meaning that the project was no longer entirely publicly funded. However, perhaps the icing on this messy cake was the news that Inafune and the rest of his team had launched an entirely new Kickstarter: Red Ash, whilst still desperately trying to finish Mighty No. 9. Why they ever thought this was a good idea is anyone’s guess, but it unsurprisingly failed to reach its target goal (we’re getting the anime though! Maybe).
The reception to Mighty No.9 has ranged from mediocre to pretty poor, with most reviews citing its uninspired and sometimes frustrating gameplay, its decidedly dull graphics (in comparison to its concept art), empty levels, terrible voice acting and awful storyline. It looks like its marketing certainly hasn’t helped matters, with possibly one of the most embarrassing trailers ever conceived (anime fan on prom night…Jesus) and a frankly abysmal live stream featuring Inafune himself. Mighty No. 9 backers have a right to be upset. Having waited for so long and been left in the dark quite a bit, they’ve been given a product missing the creative flair and high-quality gameplay they were promised.
However, through all this doom and gloom, there is something positive to take away from this; Mighty No. 9 is one Kickstarter tragedy among many Kickstarter success stories. The lesson learned here is that over-ambition and focusing on unnecessary parts of a project will most likely lead to a messy development and eventual disappointment. Take into account, that ambition, money and experience means diddly squat if the developers can’t manage goals and stay focused. Let’s hope that the latest massive retro-inspired Kickstarted games; Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained: Symphony of the Night, continue to look as promising as they do and deliver the goods.
But there are many Kickstarter projects that have delivered on promises and continue to be popular long after their realisation. Undertale, Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity are just a few amazing games birthed by backers. Hell, there already is a successfully Kickstarted and developed spiritual sequel to Mega Man; it’s called Shovel Knight, go play it!