It’s been a good long while since the Mega Man series has had any new games, so it was quite exciting last year to finally get a new game announced in the classic series, in the form of Mega Man 11. Despite some qualms about the artstyle and whether gameplay would at least match the greatness of the previous entries, I can now safely say that this game delivers on the difficult but rewarding gameplay that defines the series, with an extra coat of modern polish on top.
While Mega Man 11 is still all about the series’ jump-and-shoot playstyle, Mega Man himself has been powered up with two new abilities – the Speed Gear and the Power Gear. The Double Gear system is a little bit jarring to get used to at first, but soon it became second nature for me, considering how good the gameplay benefits are.
The Speed Gear was definitely my more used one, easily accessed with R1, and slowing down everything on screen to a crawl. You can easily defeat enemies swarming around you, cross obstacles that would normally require tight timing, and more. The Power Gear is a bit harder to seamlessly fit into gameplay, but one thing I realized halfway through the game was that you don’t really use the Power Gear on its own for the Charge Shot, despite being the most publicized use of the Gear in promo material. Instead, it’s better to see it as an instantaneous version of the charged Special Weapons that appeared in the classic Mega Man series and X series games. Powered Special Weapons don’t change how they fundamentally work, but may have increased strength or slightly altered properties, which is very helpful in making Mega Man feel like a Swiss Army Knife-bot.
While the game is balanced so that the Double Gears are not required technically, it’s very helpful, especially when the Robot Masters in this game each carry one of the two Gears themselves as well.
Mega Man also has the Final Charge Shot in his arsenal this time around – a super-powerful gambit attack that has terrible consequences if used at the wrong timing. It can only be accessed at low health (around 4 HP or below) and pressing both Gear Buttons, then charging the Mega Buster to a second tier above the usual. After using it, Mega Man becomes unable to use the regular Charge Shot, and can only fire one measly pellet. But for those final moments against bosses where it’s down to the wire, the Final Charge Shot makes for a spectacular, cinematic finishing move.
Speaking of bosses – and their stages, there is quite a bit of variety to enjoy this time as well, although it’s still just the eight Robot Masters you need to take down before heading on the face Dr. Wily. For example, Block Man’s stage has you utilizing the Speed Gear to slip through various stone wall formations on a conveyor belt to a grinder. Blast Man is a favorite of mine, focusing on setting off bombs that you need to dodge or use to progress, via tripwires or other fire-based enemies. Torch Man’s stage is the Quick Man Stage of Mega Man 11, having you run from a wall of fiery doom with barely enough time to make it through.
The bosses are also very distinctive, and one of the aspects that the switch to 3D models has improved. Before, while the looks of the bosses were distinctive, they didn’t convey much personality. This time, I found there were a lot of small touches added to the Robot Masters’ animations, such as Tundra Man’s flamboyant postures before and after pirouetting around the arena, and how Torch Man practices different kung-fu techniques that he uses on you.
That said, it’s not fully sunshine and rainbows. The game is quite challenging, and while it is mostly fair, it can be also be quite infuriating sometimes. For example, in certain areas like Torch Man’s stage, you reach one-block wide areas that you absolutely need to nail, or get one-hit killed. If you’re even a little bit off, Mega Man’s hand will bump into the ceiling or block above, and knock you back down, spelling your doom. It felt like Capcom could have been a little bit more lenient there, considering Mega Man’s changed proportions.
Meanwhile, the story isn’t very ambitious either, despite the interesting premise. The Double Gear system is revealed during the opening cutscene to be the reason why Dr. Light and Dr. Wily split ways, and while the game does take a moment or two to reflect on this fact, it remains that the story is there to fit the gameplay, and not the other way around. Hopefully, a further sequel expands on these plot threads.
I also wish Capcom could have considered lowering the price of the game, and thus barrier of entry, to a more reasonable price point. While I was provided the review code, the amount of content found in a basic run of the game is the same as ever – eight regular stages, four Wily stages. There is no second castle or extra bosses to beat before Dr. Wily, and even with the Wily stages, there are only two actual levels, with the third being the boss rush usually found in the final level. However, for the amount of stages we got, each one of them are incredibly polished, and I expect I’ll love speedrunning through them later on.
Overall, I’m so glad to have played this game. It’s fun, it’s polished, and it’s like getting showered in extra lives, especially for a hardcore fan like me who has been waiting for anything to come from the series. Things are looking up for the Blue Bomber, and I hope Capcom can utilize this new, solid foundation to do even greater things with it in the future.
Food for Thought:
- Proto Man and Bass don’t appear at all in the main story. I get that Proto Man is usually off on his own, but it was weird to see Bass not appear in any capacity.
- A tip for the Power Gear, you can turn it on, use the Special Weapon, then turn it off immediately to preserve your gauge. It’s very handy for the later bosses. As for the Powered Charge Shot, don’t bother.
- Holy crap, I love the artstyle! I’ve always been a fan of Mega Man Battle Network’s art, and it’s just the right amount of modern and classic, with a rounded, cute aesthetic that doesn’t go full chibi like Mega Man: Powered Up.
Mega Man 11 releases tomorrow, October 2, 2018 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A demo is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.