Mega Man, first released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, is one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. The little azure robot has appeared in dozens of games since, including several spinoffs that were popular in their own right. Capcom, who owns the IP, hasn’t made a new Mega Man game in years and hardcore fans have been feening for more. That’s when Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune, stepped in to ask the world via Kickstarter in 2013 to help fund his new game project Mighty No. 9.
The Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No. 9 raised an incredible $4 million by promising a game experience similar to the original Mega Man games people remembered so fondly with some modern mechanics and graphics. Inafune couldn’t legally create a new Mega Man game, but Beck, the protagonist of Mighty No. 9, and the gameplay itself were designed to resemble the classic Mega Man games as closely as possible without infringing on copyright. What could go wrong?
After generating more money and more hype than Inafune’s new company Comcept knew what to do with, Mighty No. 9 was fraught with delays and unmet promises. It seemed like a lost cause when the first major launch trailer dropped featuring a condescending narrator lazily sputtering questionable lines like “Do you like awesome things that are awesome?” and “Make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night.” Seriously, who wrote this stuff and also thought it would be the best way to market a video game?
When it finally launched, it was widely regarded as a disappointment and failure among both game critics and fans. The graphics and art direction looked rudimentary and the gameplay itself was considered by most to be uninspired. Certainly, not a good showing of the $4 million raised on Kickstarter. The lackluster game begged the question: what happened with all of that money and how could a legendary game designer allow this monstrosity to happen?
More surprising was the developers’ general attitude toward the game. Inafune said in an interview, “And at the end of the day, even if it’s not perfect, it’s better than nothing.” The translator may not have quoted Inafune fairly. The original transcripts reveal an Inafune owning up to the disappointing quality of the game and taking full responsibility for its shortcomings. Nonetheless, the damage had already been done.
Gamers have grown accustomed to backing well-established game developers on crowdfunding platforms. They’re typically more risk averse than supporting an unknown independent developer. However, Mighty No. 9 proved that a big budget and a big figurehead taking the helm does not always result in a masterclass of gaming goodness. Mighty No. 9 will be remembered as a failure and will make gamers more cautious the next time a big wig game dev asks for some of their cold hard cash to fund a nostalgia-fueled passion project. For pretty much every reason except for the game actually being good, Mighty No. 9 is our Game of the Month for June.
Congrats on the launch, @MightyNo9!
It's better than nothing. pic.twitter.com/WsXHWtAlaX
— Sonic the Hedgehog (@sonic_hedgehog) June 21, 2016