In the eight-year gap between Mega Man 10 and Mega Man 11, it’s fair to say that fans of the Blue Bomber were desperate for something to emulate a Mega Man experience. Titles such as Mighty Gunvolt Burst and 20XX managed to ease the pain of the lack of mainline Mega Man games, while the now infamous Mighty No. 9 made it more obvious than ever that Capcom needed to return to the series while the demand was still there. The resultant product is Mega Man 11, the latest title in the classic Mega Man series, that despite sporting a flashy new 2.5D art style, plays almost exactly like the previous games in the series, albeit with a few interesting changes. Mega Man 11 doesn’t quite reach the same highs as series favourites Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3, but it is still an undeniably solid action platformer that exhibits the charm, satisfying platforming, and unsympathetic difficulty that the franchise is renowned for.
The Blue Bomber is back!
The classic series of Mega Man games have never been known for providing much of a narrative, and while Mega Man 11 still offers up very little in terms of story, it is executed far better than any of the previous classic titles. Upon launching the game we are immediately introduced to the series villain Dr. Wily, as well as his arch nemesis Dr. Light, the creator of Mega Man. The two are much younger than we’ve ever seen them, both students desperate for their creations to be approved. Dr. Light’s project is approved at the expense of Dr. Wily’s, leading Wily to swear revenge and storm. Years pass and Wily awakes remembering the creation that had been snubbed, vowing to use it to take over the world and exact revenge on Dr. Light. Wily finds Light, explains how he has perfected his creation known as the double gear system, and captures eight robots that serve as the Robot Masters that must be defeated on the way to stopping him and his plan of world domination. Before Mega Man leaves in pursuit of Wily, Light realises that in order for Mega Man to be able to defeat him, that he must install the prototype double gear system to Mega Man.
Dr. Wily is scheming again…
The story is by no means alluring or deep, but it serves perfectly to give Mega Man another journey to go on, alongside a new power that makes for an interesting new gameplay mechanic. The cutscenes – despite being overly simplistic – are really enjoyable, and the voice acting of the characters is acceptable for once, a far cry from the horrid voices on display in prior Mega Man titles (I’m looking at you Mega Man 8).
I really enjoyed the opening cutscenes
If you have played a Mega Man game before, you know what to expect when it comes to gameplay, as not much has changed. You venture through each of the eight levels in any order you like, making your way through countless enemies and platforming challenges, before taking down the Robot Master, collecting their power, and progressing to the next level. Each level is built around the Robot Master, which leads to various different looking locales to explore. For example, Torch Man’s stage is a campsite, due to him being a robot designed to serve as a campfire instructor, while Impact Man’s purpose of working on constructions leads to Mega Man having to find and defeat him on a construction site. I found enjoyment in each of the eight levels, with the abilities I unlocked from the Robot Masters all being different and interesting to use. Block Man’s attack allows for blocks to be dropped on enemies, an ability I loved as it allowed me to maintain a safe distance from foes, while another favourite was Bounce Man’s ball attack, which allows Mega Man to send a trio of bouncy balls bouncing around the level.
Robot Master weapons don’t just change Mega Man’s colour, but his overall appearance too
The biggest change in gameplay in Mega Man 11 compared to previous titles comes in the form of the aforementioned Double Gear System, a device that serves as an entirely new gameplay mechanic. The Speed Gear slows down time, while the Power Gear allows for Mega Man to administer a far higher damage output for a small period of time. The Power Gear also offers up a more powerful version of the Robot Masters special weapons, with more projectiles or bigger attack ranges on offer if you utilise them together. Overuse of the Double Gear System leads to overheating, resulting in a cooldown period in which you can no longer utilise the benefits the item can provide.
Overall, I found myself not using the Double Gear System abilities very much at all. I’m not sure if it was because it felt like an additional feature that a Mega Man veteran didn’t need, or more the fact that most of the time the levels felt like it wasn’t really required. There are some occasions in which the Double Gear abilities are particularly useful, such as some of the frantic auto scrolling segments featured on some levels in which you need to kill enemies quickly, or when you want slow down time to better be able to digest a mini boss or robot masters attack pattern.
The Power Gear is handy for dealing out a tonne of damage
Mega Man 11 at its core, is a difficult game. There are nowhere near as many cheap death traps as there were in earlier titles, with each death feeling like you were the one at fault. The difficulty that the level design and the hard to understand attack patterns of boss battles provide can be alleviated through not just the Double Gear system, but the multitude of upgrades and consumable items you can purchase at Dr. Light’s Lab. Levels are littered with bolts, a currency that can be use at Dr. Light’s Lab in exchange for extra lives, energy tanks, or upgrades that provide buffs such as negating recoil or autocharging your Mega Buster. Purchases at the shop aren’t required to progress, but they can make your life a lot easy. The best thing about the upgrade parts is that they can be toggled on and off at your leisure, allowing you to mould the game’s difficulty to your liking. The option of slightly easing Mega Man’s unforgiving difficulty may not sit well with hardcore Mega Man fans, but Dr. Light’s Lab succeeds at making Mega Man far less daunting for newcomers. There are also four different difficulty modes, Newcomer, Casual, Normal, and Superhero. As a Mega Man fan, I still had a rough time with Normal, while Casual and Newcomer were a lot less stressful. Superhero mode provides a real challenge for those willing.
Dr. Light’s Lab is the place to spend your enviable collection of bolts
Despite having a pleasurable experience with Mega Man 11, I can’t help but notice a few negative aspects that hampered my enjoyment. Of course, as mentioned previously, I don’t feel like the Double Gear System was really integral to the gameplay, and it felt underutilised. I understand the desire for innovation, but I feel like it feel flat here. Some of the music throughout Mega Man 11 was okay, but none of it is as good as the majority of Mega Man soundtracks before it. The departure from chiptune is upsetting, leading to music that is overall rather mediocre.
The Double Gear System just didn’t feel quite necessary
The overwhelming feeling I can’t shake is how safe Mega Man 11 is in its design. Yes, it did try something new in the Double Gear System, but it wasn’t executed well enough to warrant much praise. A safe approach in a Mega Man game still leads to a good game, I just can’t help but wish Capcom were a little bit smarter with the implementation of the new mechanic, because the ability to slow down time and increase your damage output should only exist if levels are designed to complement it.
Mega Man 11 is the revisiting of a gameplay formula that has enamoured gamers for over 30 years. The levels are a blast to play through, the Robot Masters are all varied enough to provide different types of environments to explore and weapons to use, and the process of running and gunning through levels as the Blue Bomber is still as mouth-watering a proposition as it has always been. The game may feel all too familiar for fans of the series, but that isn’t particularly a bad thing. Capcom managed to make Mega Man 11 both extremely difficult, yet accessible for newcomers at the same time, and I think they should be applauded for that. There’s also a decent bevy of content, with the additional challenge modes and numerous difficulty options there to ensure that you’ll be getting far more than just a one and done playthrough. At the end of the day, Mega Man 11 is more Mega Man, and if you’re an established fan of the series or a fan of action platformers in general, you are sure to be satisfied with what Mega Man 11 has in store.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher