Capcom's iconic hero, Mega Man, needs no real introduction. His games have overjoyed hardcore action and platforming fans for three decades since the Original Mega Man was released on the NES in 1987. Mega Man 11 is a 30th-anniversary treat that continues the legacy of the original series as well as being the first new entry in nearly a decade. It's also meant to be a more modern take on Mega Man whereas Mega Man 9 and 10 took Mega Man back to his 8-bit origins (and really cranked up the difficulty).
Mega Man 11 still has the same classic play style and layout (eight bosses and stages to choose from) as the old games, but there are some unique implements that set this game apart from its predecessors. The intriguing "Double Gear System" is the most radical departure--allowing you to power up shots and slow down time--, but on top of that, there are difficulty options for all players, bonus challenges, and a plethora of items and upgrades you can buy to make the arduous battle a little easier.
This entry was made to please both the hardcore followers of The Blue Bomber as well as ease a new generation of players into one of the most infamously difficult franchises of all time.
Mega Man 11 can currently be purchased on Steam, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. I opted to buy the Nintendo Switch version, so here is a link to the purchase page on the Nintendo eShop.
The plot in the original Mega Man series has always been cardboard thin. The "X" series has always been more centered around the plot, and Mega Man 11 keeps to tradition with a very simple story. Players get some backstory on Dr. Light and Dr. Wily's days together in university. Wily made something called the Double Gear System, an installable device that would put robots into an overdrive mode of sorts to boost productivity. Dr. Light was more aligned on the idea of humans and robots cooperating, and it drove them apart.
There is a nice intro scene where Wily converts some fresh robot friends into killing machines, and a few shorter scenes are distributed between some of the levels, but don't expect any real plot twists or character development. I like my Mega Man with as little plot diversion as possible, so having a very shallow plot didn't impact my opinion of the game at all.
It's worth noting that every character is voiced over. They can be cheesy, but if you treat them like a 90s cartoon or simple entertainment, it all fits in quite nicely. Mega Man's voice is never all that distracting, and I rather liked hearing Wily get a voice over. It was a nice touch that was definitely befitting of the series and atmosphere.
The gameplay is where Mega Man games truly shine, and Mega Man 11 definitely delivers one heck of a Mega Buster shot. The first thing I noticed was that Mega Man controls like a dream. His jumps are precise, and the menus aren't too clunky to get around. I liked that I was able to use Rush--his pet dog who allows you to jump and eventually fly--by default button mapping that didn't require an extra screen. One tap of the button and Rush is ready to help.
Those who are veterans of the series will definitely feel right at home; you begin with eight levels to choose from, and aside from the shop, everything else looks about the same as any of the older Mega Man games.
Double Gear System
It's impossible to talk about Mega Man 11 without talking about the innovative Double Gear System. At its core, it allows Mega Man to have a more powerful attack with the Power Gear (comes in more handy with the boss power-ups) and the Speed Gear, which slows down the enemies and contraptions around you.
I loved the Speed Gear, and you better get used to using it, because there are a lot of obstacles that are almost impossible to overcome without slowing down time. It also helps against shielded enemies who you can only be hit as they fire.
The Power Gear is definitely less impressive, but most of the boss upgrades get a powerful new attack while using the Power Gear. This is especially useful for beating some of the bosses later in the game, and it's a lot of fun to play around with.
The Double Gear system can only be used for a short amount of time. It has a meter that charges and depletes. By running it too far and too long, you initiate a cool down period where you cannot use it at all. I really enjoyed this because the Double Gear System is very powerful in the right situation, but the player must always be aware of how long they have been using it. There are some bosses where letting it overheat can really put you between a robot and a hard place.
Overall I loved the Double Gear System, and I am really happy to see the most radical change to the gameplay be a positive aspect of the game rather than a negative one.
The levels in Mega Man 11 are gigantic. You can expect to spend about seven to ten minutes in a level, and that is assuming you don't die a bunch of times and that you know the level fairly well. I definitely felt like the levels were longer than most of the older games. Every stage had a special mini-boss, and each stage had revolving obstacles that constantly tested your platforming skills and ability to use your upgrades.
I enjoyed most of the levels, and the level design is top notch, but the levels definitely felt slightly longer than they needed to at times. I enjoyed that the older games had easy and hard levels. In this game, it's nearly impossible to beat any level on your first attempt, and they generally take quite a bit of practice and some memorization to complete. This isn't necessarily bad though. No obstacle or area felt cheap; unlike Mega Man 9, I owned all my deaths and mess ups. You are constantly learning and getting better, and every new attempt feels like a fresh shot to beat the stage.
The one horrible, unforgivable, ugsome, pain in the neck level that I can't believe made the cut was Bounce Man's stage. His stage is based around balloons you jump around with a bunch of carnival-esqe obstacles and enemies, and the gameplay is centered around physics that, initially, feel completely broken. I hate this stage more than any Mega Man stage I can remember off the top of my head, and getting around the level takes an obnoxious amount of time spent endlessly bouncing around balloons and trying to understand the physics.
I am happy to report that all seven of the other stages are great and really throw a lot of new enemies and platforming elements at you. There are a few returning classics such as the disappearing blocks and helmeted foes who hit you as you get close to them. The stages are the true heart of Mega Man 11 and remain both more memorable and formidable than any of the bosses.
The bosses in Mega Man 11 are a mixed bag. They seem inspired and come with some very unique move sets, but I have to admit, I survived mostly on energy tanks that I purchased in the shop. The bosses remain the same as the old games where each has a weakness to one of the other boss's power-ups, but the standard Mega Blaster shot works pretty well against most of them too. If you want to cheese most of the bosses, just pick up some energy tanks and get ready to use the Double Gear System.
Mega Man 11 isn't the first game in the series to have purchasable upgrades, but the array of upgrades in this game is truly breathtaking and a bit intimidating when you first check out the shop.
You get currency by picking up gears and screws in the stages. These can be traded in for items and parts. The items are pretty typical of a Mega Man game. You can get 1ups, energy tanks, weapon refill tanks, eddy (he gives you a random item), and an awesome power-up that halves your damage for one life or level among a few others.
This may seem a bit cheap, but considering how hard this game is (at least on normal) I found it just evened the odds a bit. I always made sure to have a half damage item and plenty of energy tanks for the bosses.
More interestingly, you can also buy upgradable parts. These upgrades stick with you forever (some are manual and some are automatic). I won't go through all of them, but a couple examples are the charged blaster which always keeps Mega Man's blaster charging without having to hold down the button. Another interesting upgrade allows you to walk on ice without slipping (hmm I wonder what level that would be useful for).
I was initially skeptical of the items/upgrades, but I grew to love them, and they definitely made the experience a little easier (also on the fingers) and gave the game a more modern touch.
Mega Man 11 is still a Mega Man game. It's hard…like really hard. You will definitely die a lot in Mega Man 11, and the stages have some very unforgiving moments. Even old vets will have a hard time with most of the stages, but thankfully, Capcom has added some difficulty options to match the experience to your preferences.
I played on normal difficulty since I have beaten most of the other games in the series, but I still got my butt kicked in every stage. It's challenging, and by general platformer standards, normal mode may as well be hard. If you are somehow god-tier then you're in luck, because a Superhero difficulty--I don't even want to imagine it--exists for the true masochists out there.
There is also a casual mode for people who want a softer experience. The enemies deal less damage and take less damage to kill, and health seemed to drop more often. Even below that is the newcomer difficulty. From what I understand, you can one-shot kill most enemies, and the combat element of the game is stupidly easy.
As I said, I beat the game on Normal; when I return I may try casual mode just to have a more relaxed playthrough.
I heard a lot of people clamor about wanting this game on Switch. I assume they want it for the portability aspect. I certainly love that myself, but this game is VERY demanding of your controller and requires precise movement and actions. I cannot play any Mega Man game with an analog stick, and the d-pad on the joycon isn't very accommodating. I tried this mode briefly, and the performance and display were fine, but without a proper d-pad, the portability advantage of the Switch is nullified. I played this game docked with my pro controller, and that felt much better.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
As much as I love the 8-bit era and the classic Mega Man games, I was really happy to see Capcom give Mega Man 11 a modern makeover. The colors are vibrant, and the 2D graphics and animations really pop out of the screen. Capcom has always had a knack for making beautiful 2D games, and Mega Man 11 is up there with their best graphical achievements.
I loved the sprites, especially Mega Man himself, and the levels were loaded with simplistic details that hit me with nostalgia as well as showing off just how amazing new 2D games can look. Each stage, whether it was Block Man's pyramids or Blast Man's self-indulgent advertisements, completely absorbed me in the environments. Mega Man 11 is truly an incredible 2D feast for the eyes.
The soundtrack is also good, but I regret to say that none of the tunes really stuck in my head. I lived for classic Mega Man soundtracks as a kid, but after the first playthrough, the music feels a lot less poignant than many of the earlier entries in the series. That isn't to say it's bad, but the music doesn't stand out as much as I wish it did.
Mega Man 11 does most things right. The Double Gear System adds some interesting layers to a tried and tested formula and ultimately makes for a more enjoyable experience. The levels are well designed, and the upgrades buffer the difficulty and add modern conveniences.
Mega Man 11 succeeded in walking a very challenging tightrope: hardcore fans will find another great round of robots to fight against while newcomers have the best opportunity since the original titles to enter the Mega Man universe. Mega Man 11 is tough as nails, but the difficulty options should help newer players, and the tight controls and awesome graphics make for one heck of a 2D experience.
I really took issue with Bounce Man's stage. The use of annoyingly fickle physics really irked me, and I never want to play that stage again. Fortunately all the other stages rock, and they're all well crafted and unique.
I did find the purchasable items made the boss fights feel more watered down, though the levels are so hard that I was okay with this. I do wish the soundtrack stood out a bit more too, but overall Mega Man 11 was exactly what I wanted. This is a brilliant new Mega Man game that shows us that the series still has a future. The Double Gear System was a great idea, and slowing down time and enhancing my attacks was the most fun I have had with a Mega Man game in a long time. I may still prefer games like Mega Man 2 or X4, but this is up there with the better Mega Man entries. If you're an old fan or want to see what the hype is about, you cannot go wrong with Mega Man 11, especially with a price tag that is half of what most new games go for.
|+ Great Stage Design||-- Bounce Man's stage|
|+ Double Gear System works well||-- Difficulty will turn off some players|
|+ Classic Mega Man feel||-- Items can kill boss strategy|
|+ Difficulty options exist|