Capcom's famous Blue Bomber has been on many adventures over the decades and he's finally back after an 8 year break. Mega Man 11 is definitely a reinvention of the franchise but does it live up to the timeless classics?
I've been playing Mega Man since I was a little kid in the early '90s starting with Mega Man 2. Since then, I've played and still own dozens of Mega Man games so you can imagine my excitement for this latest entry in the series.
For starters, the gameplay is super-tight and what you'd expect from a Mega Man game. Although the controls and basic actions remain faithfully reproduced, there is a new gear system which I'll get into more depth about a bit later. The weapons that you receive from defeating bosses are very cool and impressively powerful. In order to acquire those weapons, you'll have to traverse through 8 somewhat lengthy and often tricky stages and beat the Robot Master at the end of each. To give you a helping hand, you can purchase E tanks and lives as well as temporary and permanent upgrades from Dr. Light's lab with earned bolts between stage attempts. It all comes together to make a familiar experience which is just what Mega Man fans such as myself wanted.
One aspect that I love about Mega Man games is their diverse and intricately detailed stages. Ever since the NES era, Mega Man stages have always been full of memorable sights set in immersive environments. Unfortunately, the stages in Mega Man 11 mostly feel like lifeless test chambers as opposed to living, breathing worlds. The generic foregrounds and backgrounds are easily forgettable and the same thing could be said about the soundtrack which is another aspect of Mega Man that I usually love. The catchy and energetic music of past games is replaced with a much more generic soundscape this time around. On the plus side, the character, enemy, and boss models are absolutely fantastic and pop off the screen beautifully. This is especially cool because they're rendered in 3D while the gameplay remains 2D much like Mega Man Powered Up for PSP and GameCube's Mega Man Network Transmission.
As promised, let's discuss the gear system. Basically, you can shift between different states: the speed gear slows your surroundings down while the power gear enhances your attacks and special weapons. When your health is low, you can use both simultaneously to hopefully survive a dire situation. Although all of this sounds cool, you never really need to use the gear system at all. Sure, it helps ease the difficulty here and there and the power gear is very useful against bosses but it still feels like an afterthought. If there were sections that utilized the gear system in clever ways then I wouldn't complain but as it is, it's more of a gimmick than anything.
After completing the game (which should take about a couple of hours if you're a Mega Man fan), you can then try and master optional challenges. These consist of playing the stages again in Time Attack and Score Attack modes as well as Jump Saver and Buster Breakdown modes where you try and use as few jumps and attacks as possible, respectively. There are also Balloon Rush and Medal Collector modes for each stage which add fresh dynamics to the gameplay. The coolest challenges are the Playground ones which pose a few unique situations and test your effectiveness at each mid-boss and boss including Yellow Devil MK-III, Mawverne, and Wily Machine 11. Speaking of which, there's also a Boss Rush mode as well as an awesome gauntlet of mini-challenges in Dr. Light's Trial, leaderboards so you can see where you are in the online rankings, and a gallery of enemies and bosses.
Finally, Mega Man 11's stage designs are challenging and thoroughly test your platforming abilities. However, I found a lot of the challenge to be poorly implemented. For starters, the checkpoints are usually before tediously easy segments so having to work through these again and again just to retry a particularly tough section is incredibly monotonous. Next, the extra lives and E tank pick-ups never come back after you collect them, unlike in previous games. Last but not least, there are definitely super-tough parts in past games but they went overboard in a lot of places here. Having to string together perfectly timed jumps above bottomless pits, outrun walls of fire, and carefully jump through narrow passageways of spikes can be brutal, especially for series newcomers. For the record, I completed the game on Normal difficulty and as of writing this, only 2% of players have done so according to the Xbox One achievements.
As a long-time fan of Mega Man ever since the 8-bit days, I'm happy that Mega Man 11 retains a lot of what makes the series special. On the other hand, most of the classic magic is missing which is something that I hope Capcom brings back in Mega Man 12.
- + Tight classic Mega Man gameplay with cool weapons and a new gear system
- + Fantastic character and enemy models
- + Lots of challenges add replay value
- - Stages could use more charm and the soundtrack isn't very catchy
- - Often poorly implemented challenge
- - Gear system feels like an afterthought