Mighty No. 9 was nothing short of a miracle when it was announced back in August, 2013, nearly three years ago. Capcom was slowly canceling every Mega Man game in development.
The Mega Man level creator, Mega Man Universe, was unceremoniously scrapped after months of hype. Mega Man Online, a series wide themed MMO was struck down before anything substantial could even come out of it. And Mega Man Legends 3, the highly anticipated finale to the Mega Man Legends Trilogy was killed immediately following longtime series developer, Keiji Inafune’s, departure from Capcom.
2010 marked a dark time for Mega Man, one that would last for three years until Inafune’s Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9 started making the rounds.
The project promised to be a return to form, the spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber’s classic career. The concept art showed off a luscious 2D style that captured what Mega Man would look like in the current gen. The names attached to the project had experience in the industry and a clear love for the franchise. Inafune, the father of Mega Man himself, was leading the endeavor. Everything was perfect on paper.
And then the first gameplay footage came out.
Months of hype was suddenly silenced by a grotesque, muddy off-brand Mega Man who had suddenly usurped the title of protagonist over the stylish, crisp Beck. The 3D art style managed to capture not only a lack of polish, but also a rarely achieved lack of understanding as to what a consumer wants, because if fans respond well to a highly stylized 2D art style, it obviously means they’d prefer clunky, soulless, and by-the-books 3D graphics in their call back to 80s platformers.
However bad the abrupt change from 2D to 3D was, a change in art style isn’t particularly uncommon when developing a game. Mighty No. 9 could still recover from this blunder, but it became apparent fast that Inafune and his team weren’t exactly cut out for reviving Mega Man in any capacity.
Originally, Beck would have had the ability to copy enemies and boss’ bodies, granting the player access to abilities that would fundamentally change how each level played. If you’re making a platformer in the 8th Generation, it’s pretty damn important you distinguish it from other games and make it unique, and these “Mighty Skills” were definitely unique. The feature added a layer of replay value that’s unfortunately uncommon in the genre.
But then they axed it.
Blaming “budget issues,” the $4,046,579 project was “forced” to scrap the game defining mechanic whereas the the $300,000~ Shovel Knight was able to pack their game with hours of content and unique gameplay mechanics, while also having resources leftover for three full DLC expansions, free of charge.
The problem here isn’t budget, it’s Infaune.
In 2010, when Inafune quit Capcom, he made made a big deal about how Capcom was run, how it was a creativity drain that didn’t allow for fresh, original ideas. His comments on the industry were taken to heart by many fans, so when he decided to try his hand at the indie scene, it seemed like a victory.
Here was a big name developer abandoning his company to go rogue and make the games he wanted to make with no restrictions.
And then he said he would work with Capcom again to publish Mighty No. 9 even if it had to be reskinned as a Mega Man game.
Changing the art style for Mighty No. 9 showed a lack of understanding, but that didn’t mean the game would be bad. Cutting content when the budget was over $4,000,000 and citing budget issues implied greed, but maybe it could still be salvaged. Actively fighting against a big name company and then trying to sell yourself out only to be denied by them is not only embarrassing, it proves you were never in this to make a game, you were in this for a quick buck. Mighty No. 9 was never meant to be a labor of love homage, it was emotional manipulation for the sake of extortion.
Bogged down by THREE different delays, Mighty No. 9’’s release date was looking iffy, so Inafune did the reasonable thing and made a Kickstarter for a new project before Mighty No. 9 was finished.
In the same way that Mighty No. 9 was meant to be a succesor to the classsic Mega Man series, Red Ash was going to be a successor to Mega Man Legends. The Red Ash demo even featured an homage to (read: shamelessly stole from) Mega Man Legends’ hub world.
If Inafune’s Kickstarter didn’t already feel like money laundering enough, Chinese publisher, Fuze, stepped in last minute to fund the project after it was severely underfunded on its last day. Wasn’t the point of turning to Kickstarter to fund your projects to get away from big publishers, Inafune?
Kickstarter is a great thing, it makes way for great ideas and projects that wouldn’t normally get funded, but it’s also incredibly explotable as Inafune has proven. Mighty No. 9 was supposed to be out last year at the latest, but now it’s looking at a June 21st release after months of last minute delays, and, somewhere out there, Inafune’s counting his money and laughing.