The Reality of Mighty No. 9

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I really don’t get the hoopla surrounding Mighty No. 9. Sure, it was delayed a bunch of times (and even more times, apparently), and the game apparently didn’t meet some strangely high expectations, but what exactly was everyone expecting? The Second Coming of Christ? I mean, seriously, the amount of vitriol and bile registered against Comcept, and Keiji Inafune in particular, strikes me as a little bit baffling to say the least.

Here’s the thing: Keiji Inafune likes to make video games, but he’s also a businessman. He was the same way at Capcom, juggling multiple brands and projects at once as diverse as Onimusha to Dead Rising – I can’t say it worked out, exactly, but he became frustrated with management to the degree that he left the company. Capcom pretty much buried Mega Man as an act of petty revenge (or, as I think, the inability to actually make a Mega Man game without him at the helm in some fashion). So, Inafune’s now in charge of his own company. What would you do if you were in charge of Comcept.

Comcept needs to survive with additional work beyond “making a game that’s sorta like Mega Man, but not”, so we saw that the company branched out into multiple projects before Mighty No. 9 was even finished. That goes for the various Kickstarters (like that for Red Ash), AAA gaming projects (ReCore), and whatever projects co-developer Inti Creates has on its plate (Azure Striker Gunvolt, just for example). A company can’t rest all its hopes on the pseudo-revival of Mega Man, because lacking a diverse portfolio could spell trouble. Just assume Mighty No. 9 didn’t sell much at all beyond the initial Kickstarter copies – that would be an inefficient waste of time, to say the least!

I didn’t expect Mighty No. 9 to hit any of its deadlines – mostly because it’s really hard to enforce Kickstarter deadlines – so I waited until the game was released…today! Other people aren’t so lucky, unfortunately. Kickstarter exists not as a way to purchase game ideas that sound cool to you, but to invest into a project that you like. Sure, they wrap the Kickstarter around “community” and “rewards”, but functionally speaking Comcept is beholden to its investors…who, in this case, don’t exactly act like investor. They’ve personally invested into the project instead, which sounds fine in some sense but also leads to the constant lack of goodwill. Kickstarter backers placed demands on Inafune that he could never possibly fulfill. Course, he’s made some really bad decisions…or somebody did, especially about that trailer, but sometimes you do make those mistakes if you’re not perceptive of your audience due to a language barrier. This guy clearly isn’t paying attention to how angry people are, I can say that much.

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The long and the short of it is that we don’t really know what goes on with Comcept from day to day, but the company clearly juggled a lot of products at once. But, at a point, you do have to prioritize where to put the most effort, and (I’m assuming) Mighty No. 9’s development team was smaller than initially imagined. Comcept probably picked up a ton of side projects due to the visibility of the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter, which gave them more business opportunities that promised more immediate profits. That’s just the reality of the video game business, especially for a smaller developer in Japan.

But what about the game, you know, the actual game that’s supposed to come out today? Nobody seems to be talking about that, instead projecting their hatred or enormously high expectations on a game not fit to make either. Here’s my opinion on it, despite not having played the game at all but seeing a ton of game footage:

Mighty No. 9 is an action game from the 1980s/early 1990s that smashes elements of Mega Man and Mega Man X together – nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s the thing: how do you improve upon that formula? Capcom wisely chose to NOT MESS WITH IT, instead making iterative sequels, spinoff series (so that consumers obtain a brand association along with a brand new kind of game that doesn’t spoil the old ones), and cameos in various Capcom properties to leverage Mega Man’s appeal. What did you think Inafune was going to do in this situation other than making a Mega Man game in the exact same style? Inti Creates does the exact same thing, and nobody complained all that much about Azure Striker Gunvolt, did they?

Look, I get that the appeal of Mighty No. 9 partly is attributed to nostalgia, but letting your childhood notions of “great games” isn’t doing the new game any favors. A new generation might get to enjoy Mighty No. 9 in the same way you did Mega Man as a kid, but instead the Internet craps all over this game as if it suddenly ruined their memories. Leave those in the past, and let the new franchise be a new franchise! Good or bad, it’s being unfairly compared to a series with a three decade history, and it’s never going to look good in this light. Calling it “a Mega Man game in everything but name” doesn’t do the game any favors, nor does it aid our ability to take something as it is and simply enjoy it.

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It’s not a deep theological treatise – it’s a video game.

The complaints about the game really stem from a confusion of nostalgia and what Mighty No. 9 is; what looked like a great bit of marketing turned out to sully the game’s eventual release. And that’s a shame, because I think that sort of attitude will make it hard for people to enjoy it, whatever it happens to be. The things in the past were good, but sometimes you need to unshackle yourself from preconceived notions of what’s going to be a good outcome with Mighty No. 9; otherwise, you’re never going to enjoy it. Things on earth are never going to satisfy, no matter how much waiting we do or how much we think it will contribute to our lives.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.