There might be a time and place in which Mighty Number 9 would have been considered a really solid game. Unfortunately for Beck and company that time has passed. In short, the mechanics of what made this type of action platformer good in the past is perhaps not quite enough to make it stand out anymore. The one thing that does stand out about Mighty Number 9 is just how aggressively mediocre it happens to be. It's definitely a letdown that a set of fundamentally sound mechanics in the latest from Keiji Inafune are squandered by either not being fleshed out enough or not being paced in a way to make them meaningful in the game.
Mighty Number 9 is a robot named Beck. As the latest robot created by Dr. White you're tasked with bringing in the other Mighty Number robots (8 in total) that have gone crazy after a viral attack that's corrupted all of the robots in America. Having been left safe from this hack, Beck is the best chance to stop them. You'll visit different locales that are mostly themed around each of the opposing Mighty Number's various powers. There's a fire level and an ice level etc. That visual theme however is the most distinct feature to separate one level from another. Many of the enemies are repeated throughout and I got the impression that some of the rooms could almost be a simple texture theme swap. I'm sure that's not actually the case but that impression reinforces how bored I got with the stages and how similar they all end up feeling.
I think my biggest problem with Mighty Number 9 is that so much of what is presented seems like a half step to where it should have been. At it's core you're going to jump, shoot and dash through 9 levels and fight a robot boss at the end. Defeat them and you'll gain their power to use in the other levels. Sound familiar? Where the structure of this progression breaks down however is that you can elect to attack the main missions after the prologue level in any order. This sounds great in theory but it also forces each stage to be conform to the lowest common denominator. The fact that each of the levels were designed to be playable regardless of having any of the alternate ability sets that you can attain means I never actually felt like I was encouraged to use the forms you pick up from defeating bosses. You can absorb any of the standard enemies as well and gain occasional boosts in your abilities. High level play consists of getting perfect absorption ratings on enemies in stackable combos. Many of these enemies will provide a damage, speed or armor buff when you absorb them. Doing so at speed will keep the cooldowns on these buffs going but going without them will not leave you at a serious deficit. I usually found blasting through each of the levels using the starting form was a totally acceptable if not the best way to tackle it. Different enemies are weak to certain attacks but they're also all easy enough for me to feel like it didn't matter.
The problem with Mighty Number 9 is at least not in the way it controls. I found the platforming to all be pretty responsive. The dash move can be used in conjunction with jumps to reach far off platforms. This becomes critical in the boss fights with the other Mighty Number robots. Avoiding some of their attacks will take almost pixel perfect jumps and dashes. It's a shame then that the same level of precision was often unnecessary when traversing the stages. I was able to run through each of the levels with little difficulty until reaching the boss at the end.
There's a heart to the game that certainly channels the old school vibe it's shooting for but it's mired in boring enemies and level design. The controls are simple but effective enough at doing what they're meant to. I wish however that it was taken a step farther. Adding directional dashes and adding the ability to fire more than just side to side could have gone a long way towards expanding the level design and making it a bit or interesting. In the end though Mighty Number 9 suffers from annoying voice acting, ugly graphics and stages that don't expect enough from the player to remain engaging.