Recent months and years have seen the Kickstarted Mega Man spiritual successor Mighty No. 9 go from the chosen one to one of the biggest disappointments in recent gaming memory. Delays, controversies and more delays have frustrated all but the game's most steadfast supporters, and now that the game has finally arrived, negative reviews aren't helping many keep faith.
However, there was a time during the game's wildly-successful Kickstarter and in the months that followed it, that Mighty No. 9 looked to be everything of which Mega Man fans had dreamed. It was during this time that early concept footage and concept art helped to sell the vision for what the game could be, and looking back on those creations now leads to only one question: what the heck happened?
That's what fans are trying to figure out. Of course, it's nothing new for a video game to change its look over development. Numerous games have endured graphical "downgrade" controversies in recent years, after the finished games look worse than initial reveal footage showed. Some games have their entire art styles redone midway through development, sometimes to a game's benefit and other times to its detriment.
The question, however, still remains. How did Mighty No. 9's visuals steer so far from what appeared to be the game's initial visual vision? For an example of what fans are talking about, take a look at early concept art for the game.
Now, compare it with a screen shot from the final product.
Sure, a game is never going to look like its concept art, that's a given. Yet, what's even more bizarre is how different and in many ways, inferior, the finished product looks when compared with early test footage the development team threw together in seven days.
Now, compare it with the finished game in motion.
The graphics, lighting and various effects actually appear worse in the finished game than in the early demo, a demo that Comcept was sure to point out featured all placeholder animations with no shaders, filters or keyart in place. It was just about as rough can be, yet somehow appears just as good and maybe even better than the finished game that took three years to create.
As for why this is remains unclear. It's possible the game's huge success on Kickstarter hurt more than helped, as the team continued to add new features and stretch goals to the product in exchange for more funding. For example, Mighty No. 9 released on nearly every platform imaginable. That's no small feat for even a large development team, but a smaller independent studio developing for many consoles at once was sure to be a major drain on resources. Perhaps, if the team had take the less is more approach, more time could have been spent on perfecting the game's visuals and gameplay rather than working to release the title on nearly every modern game console.
Maybe, one day, what exactly happened over the course of Mighty No. 9's development will be revealed. Until then, fans are simply left wondering what went wrong.