Mega Man-ipulation: Mighty No. 9's $4 million budget went.. where?
After a handful of delays Keiji Inafune's Mega Man successor Mighty No. 9 has finally had its review embargo lifted and the game is only one day from release! Unfortunately the most of the reviews pouring onto Metacritic aren't exactly shining.
With Mighty No. 9 toted as the spiritual successor to Mega Man and the Kickstarter (plus PayPal donations) racking up $4 million, hopes and tensions have been high around the game's release. Repeated delays and the recently released, slightly patronizing trailer haven't helped either.
One can't help but wonder what has gone on with the development of this game when two other titles involving co-developer Inti Creates have also been successfully crowdfunded recently, and both look to be of higher quality titles especially with budget differences in mind.
Mighty No. 9's development has been handled by two studios: Inafune's own studio Comcept and the previously mentioned Inti Creates, the studio behind the Mega Man Zero titles on the Game Boy Advance as well as Mega Man 9 and 10.
In concept the collaboration between Comcept and Inti Creates should have made something really magical as both have veterans developers who have worked with the Mega Man series before. And with $4 million crowdfunded to go towards development.. a Mega Man fan theoretically could not ask for a better setup for a spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber.
But here we are.
With the reviews pouring in and full playthrough videos finding their way to YouTube, two things are fairly obvious: Mighty No. 9 may look like Mega Man but it certainly does not seem to have the spirit, nor does it look like $4 million went into the development.
For a game with such a budget, not only do the graphics look bland, but the environments are dull and immemorable. And the gameplay, well.. it's certainly got the "jumping and shooting" part of Mega Man down but not much else.
For a spiritual successor to a series built around tight platforming, great music, blood-pumping boss fights and valuable powerups, Mighty No. 9 seems to be missing the point. And that point cost over 67,000 backers $4 million combined.
Comparing between two other Inti Creates-related crowdfunded titles
With all this talk about Mighty No. 9 not living up to its promises, wouldn't it be nice to be able to compare between other Kickstarted platformers and see what they look like and how they play?
Well we're in luck since E3 just came around, during which we got looks at two other Kickstarted games Mighty No. 9's co-development studio Inti Creates also had their hands in: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. These games also happen to be 2.5D platformers.
According to the game's Kickstarter page Inti Creates worked on illustrations and character concepts for Shantae: Half Genie Hero, which was funded over $775,000 during its campaign and is being developed by WayForward, the studio behind the previous Shantae games.
Half Genie Hero may have gotten less than a fourth of the crowdfunding Mighty No. 9 did, but somehow its mix of 2D sprites and 3D environments not only looks comparable No. 9, but often looks more lively and colorful. Don't believe me? Check out these nine minutes of gameplay from E3.
Not only does it visually look better, the gameplay itself is even looks to be a marked improvement over previous entries to the Shantae series with fast transformations to keep the gameplay going. There are not a great deal of questions about where the funding went among the community.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a bit different in that its Kickstarter campaign actually raked in more money ($5.5 million) than Mighty No. 9 and its development is actually being led by Inti Creates, as opposed to their co-developer status on No. 9 and illustration work on Shantae. It's also being handled by the producer of several Castlevania titles, Koji Igarashi.
Oh, and it also looks like a much higher quality game than Mighty No. 9, staying true to the series (Castlevania) it's derivative of. Check out the gameplay video below, sans game audio.
Bloodstained looks like it will fit right in with the -vania subgenre, and its Kickstarter stretch goals (which were all met) are mostly gameplay-related. Only two were platform-related, which were the Wii U and Vita because they are not hugely popular platforms. None of Shantae's were platform-related and four of Mighty No. 9's were porting the game to all platforms, including PlayStation 4--which is not only affordable even to small indie devs but would have been suicide for the game if not done in the first place.
The question of where the money went
Now, these three games may be handled by different teams as a whole and they are not necessarily related to one another side from Inti Creates being involved in some way, but it's an eye-opener for Mega Man fans who were hoping Keiji Inafune would do the whole "spiritual successor" thing justice.
It's understandable to want to know where that $4 million in funding went, when there's also a Mighty No. 9 3D animated show and a potential sequel being talked about before the game has even come out, especially when the game's trailer and gameplay videos are so lackluster. Inafune seems confident that somehow the game will do well enough to warrant an animated TV show and a sequel, but it's hard to imagine that actually being the case.
All this time the Mighty No. 9 fanbase has been trying to raise its voice and ask what exactly is going on with development, and here we are a day from release with the results of Comcept and Inti's work knocking on the door and somehow it just does not look appealing. One has to wonder how this even happened with so many Mega Man veterans at the helm.
With the mention of a sequel and the animated series coming the only natural conclusion backers and spectators can come to based off the quality of the game is that the funding was not used as it was laid out on the Kickstarter.
There are so many questions regarding the game's funding, and there have been for some time. It simply does not seem like the money crowdfunded for the game actually went into it, and Inafune's teasing over the show and sequel does nothing but back up that assumption.
Whatever Comcept did with the $4 million in backer funds is a mystery to us as consumers. Whatever was done has solidified Mighty No. 9 as a game that will be forgotten in action but remembered as a big crowdfunded title that somehow missed the mark, no matter the path they take with additional media and sequels now.