Mega Man is one of the most popular franchises in gaming history and has one of the most devoted fan bases. Whether it’s X, Mega Man Volnutt, Zero, Lan Hikari, Geo Stellar, or the classic blue bomber himself, there are still plenty of fans of the series. However, from 1998 until 2008 there weren't any new entries in the classic series outside of some remakes. 2008 and 2010 saw the releases of Mega Man 9 and 10 respectively, but another lull took place until just recently, again not counting remakes and compilations. Now Mega Man has returned with the first new entry in the classic series in about eight years, so let’s dive into Mega Man 11 to see if it’s as fun as the rest of the series. As a forewarning, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers outside of small things such as the robot master names and their special weapons that you get from them.
Mega Man 11 begins with Dr. Wily having a dream about his days at the Robotics Institute when he worked with Dr. Light. The institute committee shoots down Wily’s proposed Double Gear technology in favor of Dr. Light’s research on robots with independent thought. After waking up from his dream he decides to go back to that research and fully develop the Double Gear System. He then uses the system’s Speed Gear to help him take control of eight robot masters, implementing each of them with the system, and turn them loose on the world. Dr. Light then takes a prototype of Wily’s research and installs it into Mega Man to give him a chance against Wily’s new technology.
If you’ve played previous games in the series, Mega Man 11 mostly plays no different. After choosing one of four difficulty levels you go straight to the stage select screen with the eight new robot masters. Each stage is your typical Mega Man fare with platforming and enemies aplenty with a mid-boss part way through. When you reach the robot master’s room and defeat him you’ll gain his weapon for yourself. One thing I like here though is that instead of having to wait until you start the next stage to check out the weapon for yourself, you can play around with the new weapons at any time while not in a stage, including just after obtaining it. This is definitely useful for getting a feel for how certain weapons work instead of wasting your special weapon energy figuring that out. In addition, you’ll start out with the Rush Coil and gain the Rush Jet after a few stages, but instead of having to swap to them, they’ll always be on hand and have their own separate energy meter (shared by both the Coil and the Jet), with each Rush mode being assigned to a separate controller button.
As noted in a lot of the promos for the game, the big new addition this time around is the Double Gear System. This is activated by hitting either L1 for the Power Gear or R1 for the Speed Gear. The Power Gear increases the power of your attacks, let’s you fire off two Mega Buster shots when fully charged, and your special weapon attacks become more powerful as well and some even give an increased range. The Speed Gear doesn’t really speed you up, but rather slow down everything else. This does include you, but you still move a bit faster than everything else on the screen. When either gear is active, a gauge begins draining. You can shut off the gears by hitting the button corresponding to the gear you’re using (the other button instantly switches to that gear) and the gauge will slowly refill. If the gauge empties completely, it’ll still refill but now you can’t use it at all until it’s entirely refilled.
Enemies will now drop a new power-up that looks like a gear with a pink center. This will refill the Double Gear gauge a bit. This is useful when using the Double Gear System a lot, but here’s the thing; at no point in the entire game are you required to use it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing around with it, but I’m not going to lie; I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to playing Mega Man games. I like to see how far I can get using just the Mega Buster and only using the special weapons when needed, or to complete the game for a review. With that in mind, I never came across a point in which I absolutely had to use the Double Gear System to progress, not even in Wily’s Fortress. This made the Double Gear System feel more like an additional tool to help newer players. That’s not a knock on the System at all; it is fun to play around with and it does make some more difficult areas of the game easier, but I would have loved to see at least a couple of puzzles require the speed gear to get through, such as disappearing blocks that appear and disappear way to fast normally and you have to slow them down to get through, or enemies that are impervious to everything except using a weapon with the Power Gear enabled.
Beyond the normal game there challenges you can go through. While there are some challenges that you’d expect such as a boss rush or tackling the various mid-bosses as quickly as possible, I was sort of expecting some of the challenges to be similar to Mega Man Legacy Collection where you went through multiple segments in each level one after the other. While a few of the challenge types are pretty cool, several of them are basically just going through the stage with a different goal in mind, such as collecting eight medals or popping only blue balloons while avoiding the red ones. A couple of the challenges are things that used to be achievements in Mega Man 9 and 10 such as reaching a boss while jumping as little as possible or trying not to destroy too many enemies. Of the challenges, the ones I really enjoy are the Playground which are more like the challenges from Mega Man 10 (though for some reason your times here can’t be uploaded to the leaderboards), and Dr. Light’s Trial which is comprised of thirty somewhat difficult rooms to complete. The Gallery isn’t too bad as you can check out the different enemies and bosses in the game, but I’m kind of surprised there isn’t even an option to listen to the game’s soundtrack.
I didn’t have too many issues with Mega Man 11 outside of your standard Mega Man-esque frustrations, though a couple of things did bother me. For one, maybe it’s just me but several stages just felt like they were too long. Now I was playing on Normal difficulty which only has a couple of checkpoints in each stage, but even then there were times where I felt like I had gone through a lot of the stage only to die and respawn back at the start. The hit detection, while pretty good, did have a few times where I felt like it was off. This was mainly apparent in a few places in Bounce Man and Torch Man’s stages where some tight maneuvering was required in a few areas, but again not too bad overall. The music was good, but not quite as memorable as previous games. The graphics and animation are pretty good. Capcom did a pretty good job at making a 2D Mega Man game using 2.5D graphics, if that makes any sense.
Overall, Mega Man 11 is a solid game. With four levels of difficulty ranging from Newcomer where it’s almost impossible to die, to Super Hero where only expert Mega Man players can hope to survive unscathed, just about anyone will be able to enjoy it. My only genuine stage frustrations didn’t really come until Dr. Wily’s Fortress with one spot in particular giving me problems beyond belief. I did have another minor nitpick about Wily’s Fortress, but I really don’t want to dive into spoilers here. For anyone wondering, there is no mention of Bass or even Proto Man in the game, but maybe we’ll get some DLC down the road that involves them. Finally, while I liked the Double Gear System, I really wished there were at least a few moments in which it was required to use instead of just making the game a bit easier. In the end, Mega Man 11 is a pretty good game for newcomers and veterans alike and I’d say it’s worth the pickup.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.