By now, at least a few people have beaten Mega Man 11 and realized that the most contentious part of this latest game is probably the game length. The game feels perfect for the most part, in terms of balance, but it does seem to end earlier than it should, which isn’t helped by some of the later stages being on the shorter end. According to the development team, the challenges are meant to be the main method of increasing replayability and game length.
Spoiler warning: As the challenges are meant to be a post-game extra mode, I will be going a little bit into spoiler territory.
So how do they fare? As you may have judged from the title, they’re perfectly fine, but won’t take long to wear out the welcome – especially if you’re not the type to chase after high scores or the best time.
The first time I went full tryhard on a time trial, I got beaten within two days after the game’s official launch.
Basically, the challenges mostly come down to time trials in the various stages, but with different stipulations for each category. There’s the basic time trial, where the goal is to get to the end as fast as possible, but other categories add in options like Minimum Jumps or Minimum Attacks in an attempt to change up how you play through a stage.
Here’s the thing though – these stages don’t change in terms of layout or enemy placement. It doesn’t feel like a refreshing change, but rather is more of a side mission. Personally, I’d liken it to playing as DLC characters in games like Blaster Master Zero or Mighty Gunvolt Burst, in that it is superfluously different, but ultimately just another run through the game.
Perhaps this is why one of the main enjoyments of the Challenges comes from the new Balloon Attack mode, where every enemy is removed in favor of red and blue balloons. You are judged by your time in your trek through the stage, with red balloons adding 10 seconds to your timer, and missing any blue balloon on that screen will cost 30 seconds.
It forces you to access the options available without hitting red balloons or missing blue balloons, and use Rush and the special weapons at ideal times. The platforming is the main focus, and some of the later levels come out with devious ways to make you pop that extra red balloon. It’s fun, and changes up the way you progress in a much more natural way.
Another challenge I enjoyed, to some extent, were the Medal Collector missions, where you need to collect Plates with Mega Man and his family’s faces on them while completing a stage. While enemies are back, I had fun trying to reach these cutesy plates, with some that really require some strategic thinking.
It also harkens back to the older Mega Man games, where there would be collectibles such as BEAT or MEGAMAN 5 letters that could unlock new weapon abilities. The Mega Man X games had heart tanks, Mega Man Zero had Cyber Elves, and so on. Collectibles are missing in the main game of Mega Man 11, so it was nice to see them being represented in some form.
The Playground is full of challenge runs that aren’t ranked worldwide. There are awkward modes such as trying to bounce an enemy without touching the ground as many times as possible, or pushing back an enemy as far as you can within a time limit, but there are also some neat options, such as a mode where you need to defeat as many common enemies using their weakness as possible.
There are also separate challenges against mid-bosses and bosses, meaning you can practice your timing, especially if you’re going for the main time trials. If you’re going to practice the Wily Stage bosses, do it here. Oh, and the Boss Rush mode is basically what it says on the tin.
Finally, we have Dr. Light’s Trial, easily the best part of the Challenges, and one that I’ll admit that I haven’t beaten yet. It basically takes a page out of the recent Mario games, and acts as the final challenge of Mega Man 11. Mega Man is put through 30 different consecutive mini-levels one one health bar and full special weapon bars, and dying once means you start over from the beginning. It’s the very definition of tough love.
Dr. Light’s Trial tests every bit of mettle you have as a Mega Man player, and you’re pitted against enemy combinations not seen in the main game, tough bosses, and even the health and weapon energy refills are a scramble against time thanks to Evil Eddie. Also, Bounce Man’s stage balloons are the bane of my existence. If you complete this challenge, you’re definitely worthy of being called a master of Mega Man.
Overall, the challenges only really offer as much as what you value. If you don’t really like time trials, the Challenges aren’t really going to give you much in terms of unique content that feels worth your time. However, do try out Balloon Attack, and if you have the skill and guts, man, take on Dr. Light’s Trial for a final challenge.
Food for Thought:
1. Your right thumb is going to be sore from all the frantic special weapon switching you will be doing in the time trials. But that also really speaks to one of Mega Man 11’s greatest QOL improvements.
2. I haven’t found the right place to talk about it, but the music in Mega Man 11 ranges from okay to mindblowingly good, with Wily Stage’s theme being among the absolute highlights. While it seems people are iffy on the soundtrack, personally I believe it’s because of the soundfont and not the melodies themselves, which are quite amazing. Only time will tell, but I hope eventual arrangements and remixes will vindicate my opinion.
Mega Man 11 is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A demo is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.