Aside from a few recent game bundles, it’s been about eight years since Mega Man’s had to equip his mega buster and punch a few holes into Dr. Wily’s over-inflated ego. It’s been a while, but long-time fans should be able to hop into the Blue Bomber’s latest adventure without missing so much as a beat due it’s being almost exactly the same game they remember. Just like all previous games in the series, Mega Man must put an end to Dr. Wily’s latest schemes by defeating nine robot masters, take their powers as his own, and finally confront the crazed scientist in his not-at-all suspicious fortress. It’s the same structure that’s been employed by the series since its inception, but interesting special abilities, the new Double Gear system, and well crafted levels all come together to deliver an experience that successfully makes an old game feel new again.
Mega Man 11 begins with the moment Dr. Wily and Dr. Light had their falling out. Dr. Wily is seen arguing for the improvement of robots with his newly-designed “Double Gear” system, while Dr. Light stands vehemently opposed to him, stating that robots should be granted free will instead. One wonders why exactly these two developments have to be mutually exclusive, but they apparently are. Dr. Light’s research is approved, Wily’s is suspended. Dr. Wily then awakens from his dream, decides to show the world that he was right, and races-off to ruin Mega Man and Dr. Light’s day for the eleventh time.
From here forward, it seems like Capcom is attempting to humanize Dr. Wily a bit and give him some real motivation beyond just being a jerk. His behavior doesn’t do him any favors, but his anger is at least understandable this time. His Double-Gear system is an incredibly effective invention, greatly aiding Mega Man this time around. Dr. Wily was right for once in his life, and Dr. Light was wrong. A bit more development on Wily’s part and he could have gotten the recognition he so desperately craves. Alas, he decided to focus his energy on invasions instead.
In terms of presentation, Mega Man 11 is one of the best in the series. Every stage is bright and colorful, but not so much as to overshadow Mega Man and his enemies. Mega Man himself is easy to follow on screen, always has plenty of space in front him and still somehow feels like a natural part of the location he’s fighting through. Enemy design is also spot on, with every enemy type looking like they’re right at home in their setting and all carrying that distinctive Mega Man aesthetic. Stages with common themes share some enemies, and series classics like Met are seen throughout the game, but otherwise there’s a decent amount of variety here. Musically, the game gets the job done, but these aren’t the sort of tunes one will want to listen to outside of the game.
The stages themselves range from highly engaging to general tedium. As is tradition with Mega Man games, each stage reflects its robot master in some way. Impact Man’s stage a construction site filled with drills, conveyors, and other heavy equipment. Bounce Man’s stage is covered in springy surfaces, and Block Mans stage has…falling blocks. Block, Blast and Fuse Man’s stages aside, Mega Man 11 has some great playgrounds for platforming enthusiasts to enjoy. Torch Man’s stage in particular stands out as one of the best thanks to some tense chase sequences requiring liberal use of the Double Gear system, solid weapon selection and one’s own platforming skills. It even integrates enemies into the design by dousing the stage into complete darkness should Mega Man destroy wrong kind of enemy. Progress can still be made, but it must be done via the light of the Mega Buster. These are stages that fans both old and new will be able to appreciate, provided that they can actually make it through them.
That’s right; worry not Mega Man fans, Mega Man 11 is just as difficult as its predecessors. On normal difficulty and higher, players are in for a tough time. Enemies aren’t particularly difficult to destroy, but their placement is always just inconvenient enough to punish any momentary lapse on the part of the player. The game’s robot master are the exception of course; without the weapon they’re weakest against, Mega Man is always going to be in for a tough fight. Players will likely have a few close shaves even if they do have the right tool for the job. Each master has their own set attack and invulnerability phases that must be memorized if victory is to be achieved. Simple brute force is not quite good enough this time around.
Once he has finally defeated a robot master though, Mega Man will gain access to the game’s special weapons. A couple are useful in most situations, but most are either too cumbersome, finicky, or energy intensive to use outside of specific circumstances. Chain Blast is particularly problematic; its slow-moving projectiles can’t be used on anything but large enemies, and manually detonating them can be a hassle even when one isn’t under attack. Every one of these weapons can be augmented through the use of the Double Gear system, a brand new mechanic that enables Mega Man to either power up his weapon or slow the flow of time at will.
As it’s the signature feature of Mega Man 11, players will be making liberal use of the Double Gear System over the course of the game. Enemy placement makes both abilities extremely necessary and some stage hazards are nearly impossible to clear without it. It’s not an unlimited ability though. Due to the strain it puts on Mega Man’s systems, it can only be used for short bursts at a time. Spend too much time in either mode and the device will force Mega Man into a cool-down stage that limits his Mega Buster until the Dual Gear is ready for use again. If all this sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry; Mega Man 11 makes plenty of provisions for those who are new to the game or less highly skilled.
In addition to Normal and Superhero mode, players can also choose from either Casual or Newcomer mode. Casual mode reduces the amount of damage enemies dish out, makes special ammo and health pickups more plentiful, and reduces the penalty for falling on spikes. Newcomer mode on the other hand is perfect for those who either need to learn the ropes or would just like to enjoy running through the stages. Enemies are weaker, spikes do less damage, Mega Man is always saved from falls and live are unlimited. For those who’d like a slightly easier time on a higher difficulty, it’s just a matter of going to Dr. Light’s lab and purchasing some power-ups. As Mega Man progresses through each stage, he’ll pick up bolts and gears. These are then used to buy both temporary and permanent upgrades between stages. Buy some E Tanks for that tough boss encounter, or splurge and get the Mega Buster Auto Charger. Permanent upgrades can be switched on and off at will, so it’s not like one can get stuck with something they don’t like. The tweaks these items make range from subtle to dramatic, but they all contribute toward a more personalized experience many fans are likely to enjoy.
Outside of the main stages, Mega Man 11 also offers a few special challenges for those who want to put their skills to the test and see how they stack up against all the other Blue Bomber enthusiasts out there. Most of these are some variation of Time or Score Attack. Players are tasked with running through a stage of their choosing and asked to do anything from collecting special medals as fast as possible to getting through using as few jumps as possible. A couple of challenges found under the “Playground” category task players with either juggling an enemy or pushing one as far as possible before time runs out. Otherwise the category is dedicated to time-attack boss fights. Every challenge has an online leaderboard attached to it, so skilled players should be able to find a challenge they’re able to compete in. What’s more, every run posted to said leader boards has a replay attached to it, so other fans can see exactly how you managed to get that insane score! As for those who aren’t all that skilled and have no interest in these sorts of activities, there’s really nothing here for you.
Mega Man 11 is still very much the same Mega Man experience fans of the series have come to expect; it’s just had a few upgrades installed. The game presents itself very well with an appealing art style, sensible camera, appealing enemy designs and lively music. Stage design is solid for the most part, but only a few really shine through as real gems. The classic Mega Man level of challenge is definitely here for those who want a pure experience, but there’s plenty of leeway built-in for fans who’d like to enjoy the game without suffering much frustration.
This iteration’s crop of special weapons all help liven up the experience, and some are even essential to success, but not all of them are overly effective or even fun to use. The Double Gear system on the other hand is very well implemented and feels like a natural extension of Mega Man’s abilitis; it’s something long-time fans will likely get used to very quickly. There’s not much here in the way of extras, but those who’d like the chance to showcase their skills to the world have more opportunity here than ever before.
Mega Man 11 is more or less exactly what any fan of the series could want in a sequel: the classic experience they know and love with a few modern upgrades thrown in to keep it from feeling stale.
- This article was updated on October 5th, 2018