My name is Adam, and I’m a Mighty No. 9 backer.
I, like many fans of the core Mega Man franchise, tuned in to the panel at PAX where Keiji Infaune was speaking following his exit from Capcom. We weren’t sure what to expect, but an announcement had been teased. Had he somehow convinced Capcom to part with the nigh-dormant Mega Man franchise? Maybe he was working with EA, or Nintendo? Our questions were answered when the panel rolled a trailer. No, Inafune hadn’t managed to take The Blue Bomber with him, but it was nearly as good.
The video started with a tune that immediately brought to mind the classic Mega Man games. Wearing a blue polo, Inafune told those of us watching that he would be working with the talented crew at Inti Creates. Responsible for programming the Mega Man Zero series of games, as well as Mega Man 9 and 10, they were more than up to the task. They would be working independently, with no chance of having the project cancelled. He would need our help — via Kickstarter.
As soon as the project went live, we were ready. I was among some of the first, debit card in hand, ready to pitch. Vibrating with excitement, I pledged the very most I could. I would be involved in decision making, have access to a backers only forum. I’d get Beta access via Steam! Details would come, I wanted to secure my spot! The fever spread like wildfire as more and more people threw their pledges at the project. Keiji Inafune was creating the spiritual successor to Mega Man, and this time there was no Capcom to interfere!
Inafune wasn’t alone. He would bring with him talented people: Naoya Tomita, a level designer for the original Mega Man and Mega Man 2. Kimo Kimo, character designer for Street Fighter Alpha 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. Shinsuke Komaki, mecha and character designer for the Mega Man Legend games. And to top it off, Manami Matsumae – composer for the original Mega Man, and creator of the iconic and memorable sound effects for the same.
Best of all the concept art looked gorgeous! High quality 2D character assets – exactly what I wanted from a Mega Man game. Early test footage suggested the stages might be in 3D with a 2D playing field. Wayforward’s Ducktales Remastered had done something similar, and with the right shaders I was confident MN9 would look even better. The project couldn’t have been presented better. My money was theirs, and they met their initial goal in short order. What could go wrong?
Almost immediately the first cracks started to show. Mighty No. 9 was initially planned for Windows PC only. Immediately backers, myself included, started asking for a console stretch goal. I fell in love with Mega Man on my NES – Could I get MN9 on Wii U? The team was fast to respond: if we could reach a certain funding goal, yes, we’d get our console port. But first, wouldn’t we like to make sure PC gamers got it on Mac and Linux? What about a New Game Plus mode? How about a documentary from 2 Player Productions?
A documentary? Well, okay, but I’m more interested in a console port. “Keep backing! You’ll get there!”, we were told. We ponied up the cash and they responded, “Here’s Boss Rush Mode!” Finally, we’d reached the PS3 / X360 / Wii U stretch goal. Perfect, exactly what I’d wanted from the get-go — but wait, PS3 and 360 were on the way out. PS4 and Xbox One were the new consoles. Why did they lead with last-gen? The money kept pouring in… and the feature creep started. Challenge Mode! Extra End Stage! Online Co-Op! Intro Stage!
By the time the campaign was over, funding surpassed $4,000,000. It was a resounding success.
More cracks showed. The team hadn’t prepared an engine to program on before starting, and when the dust settled they decided on Unreal Engine. For a 2.5D platformer? …with a planned 3DS port? It seemed like overkill, and possibly one of the more expensive options. Didn’t Inti Creates have their own in-house engine? Admittedly the Unreal Engine test the team uploaded looked nice, but where was were the 2D character assets? How would this port down to handhelds?
All of this was early on – and largely during the initial campaign. Excitement was high and tell-tale signs that things weren’t quite right would continue to be ignored. Half a year later a new campaign was started, asking for more funding. (Shades of Double Fine right there.) We were assured the money wasn’t needed to finish the game — oh no! It was to give us nebulous bonus content to enhance what was already being worked on. While campaigning for more funds, a teaser for a Mighty No. 9 animated series was shown off. MN9 was getting an animated series? — wait, it would have a voice cast right? Surely the studio could donate some time or help pay for voice work? There was a bit of an outcry – no one had mentioned a series. Shouldn’t the game be released first?
Nearly a year passed, and Inti Creates was showing off their very first independent game. Initially exclusive to 3DS, Azure Striker Gunvolt might seem familiar. 2D action platformer starring someone dressed in blue. Fight through robotic grunts on your path to a boss fight in an enclosed space. After shooting robots several times he can dash through them, both finishing them off and chaining kills for bonus points. It was even overseen by Keiji Inafune, and a bonus for early adopters included a demake, Mighty Gunvolt, that both looked and played like a classic Mega Man on NES. Oh, and it released in Japan and North America in August, 2014.
Meanwhile, work continued on Mighty No. 9. We got our Beta build in November, 2014 and as someone who paid for Beta access I was… underwhelmed. I knew the game wouldn’t be in a state to be polished yet, but I remember starting up the game and immediately thinking, “They needed Unreal Engine? FOR THIS?” Perhaps most striking was the lack of 2D character art. Honestly it felt… average. Gunvolt looked and sounded better. And I don’t know why this bothers me, but to this day – Beck’s lemon shots will sometimes continue off screen to the right, and sometimes end short without colliding with anything. I still haven’t figured out why.
Incidentally, Gunvolt would later be released on Steam. If you have a 3DS or PC, give it a try.
The promised April, 2015 release window would be missed, punctuated with the announcement that no longer was Mighty No. 9 a fully independent digital game, but now would now get physical release and be published by Deep Silver (by way of SquareEnix). As a “bonus” for backers who now had to contend with a later release, we’d get the ability to play as “Ray”, Mighty No. 5 in an bit of incorporated DLC. — Wait, DLC? DLC was being planned? But the game wasn’t done!
Soon would come June, and July – when Inafune and Comcept debuted another project. RED ASH – The Indelible Legend would target the audience of the abandoned Mega Man Legends franchise, and this time Comcept would attempt to fund both a game and the first episode of a planned anime. The first episode would be shopped around for further funding. Community outcry was swift and loud. MN9 wasn’t out yet! Shouldn’t Inafune be overseeing that game? Should he really be trying to launch another project?
The Kickstarter for RED ASH (the game) was a resounding flop with minimal support, missing its initial target. Unexpectedly, the campaign for RED ASH (the anime) succeeded – though just barely surpassing its initial goal. Work continues, and I wish the animation team the best.
In August, backers received notification that the game would be delayed again. We were informed there were issues with the online portions of the game – portions that, frankly, few asked for or wanted. But this time there would be no firm release date, just a “Q1 2016”. Perhaps to manage the flames, it was quickly followed with another announcement: that ALL backers would receive access to an updated “Trial Version” via Steam. In my mind this was only more disappointing, as during the campaign I’d PAID for access to the Beta and now everyone would receive it. …Except that would take a bit longer, as the -free Trial- had to be delayed for reasons.
Most damning of all though – when I updated the Beta to the Trial Version and gave it a go, the game still felt… and looked… unpolished. Unfinished. In fact it didn’t look or play any different from the Beta I’d tried in November the year before! I considered trying to get my money back. I even e-mailed Comcept and a few places to ask about the possibility – but any replies I got told me to talk to Comcept directly, and Comcept never replied. I was filled with regret. The game I’d played wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. And the $135 my wife and I had put toward the Kickstarter felt wasted.
Shortly after releasing the trial, backers were told the game finally had a new release date: February, 2016. This was followed by a period of silence, presumably as the team set out to meet that February release. But just after Christmas 2015, backers received even more bad news. Mighty No. 9 was delayed again, and the network features were once again blamed. We were given another Spring 2016 estimate though, so maybe it wasn’t so far away?
And at the beginning of May we’ve been told MN9 has finally “gone gold”. It’s been approved for PS4, Xbox One, Wii U and Steam – with Vita and 3DS ports promised to come later. Of course, a 3DS port needs to be written from the ground up in an entirely new engine, since Unreal Engine doesn’t support the handheld, so who knows if Comcept, Inti Creates, Deep Silver and Inafune can deliver. My hopes aren’t high.
Release is now set for late June, 2016. Is DLC still planned? What does this mean for the rest of my selected rewards? Who do I check in with since it wasn’t done through BackerKit?
Mighty No. 9 may be a decent little game, and I’m going to play it when I finally get a download code for Wii U. But there’s no way it could possibly live up to the hype of the initial Kickstarter, or make up for the following disappointment and anger. Maybe it’ll do well enough to be approved for a traditionally funded sequel. But I know one thing: the next time Keiji Inafune asks me for my money I’ll respond, “No.”