After around 8 years, we finally get our hands on the 11th installment in the classic Mega Man franchise! Was it worth the wait? Is it all that it’s expected to be? That’s both a yes and a no.
Before we get into that, let’s get the story out of the way.
The game opens up with a short cutscene showing a young Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Both are trying to appeal to the committee about their plans to further improve the robots which are meant to harmonize with humankind. Dr. Light wishes to implement independent thought in the hopes of strengthening the bond between humans and robots, while Dr. Wily only aims to improve their fighting capabilities to unlock their true potential. Wily then proceeds to show them the prototype of the invention that will further his cause, the Double Gear System.
Although it does have its uses, the committee makes the decision to go with Light’s proposal. Angered by this, Wily throws his prototype in a fit of rage, vowing to take revenge on his rival.
We then cut to the current Wily where he reminisces about the past and remembers the possibilities of the Double Gear system. As he conjures up another dastardly scheme, we’re then shown Dr.Light in his lab as he’s doing his routine check-ups on his robot creations. Right on cue, the mad genius proceeds to barge in, capture all of the robots, brainwash them by implementing the double gear system into their bodies and orders them to cause havoc around different areas of the world.
Once the dust has settled, Light recalls the Double Gear system and remembers that he still has prototype he incidentally acquire years ago. He then proceeds to call out Mega Man and installs the system into his body. With that, our little Blue bomber has the very tool he needs to stop the evil that has been caused by the nefarious doctor!
The story is about as you’d expect—another case of you having to stop Dr.Wily to save the day. One would have thought that they would put more effort into it, seeing as to how it has been around 8 years since the last game. What’s sad is that nothing is fleshed out from here. Yes, it was nice to see how Dr.Light and Dr.Wily fell apart, but that’s the most you’ll get. We learn close to nothing about the new robots, and our main villain just feels like he’s there for the sake of having someone for Mega Man to go up against. I feel like the developers could have done so much more given the time they had.
Also, it’s just so convenient that 8 robots happen to be in one location, just for Wily to kidnap them and make them a part of his robotic slave army. Yep, totally at the right place at the right time.
Now, what about the gameplay? It’s actually pretty good.
Mega Man handles very smoothly and there isn’t a moment where you feel like you’re out of control. His jumps have the right amount of weight to them and shooting feels just as good as that of the previous titles in the franchise—perhaps even better. He also has the returning slide ability that lets him bypass certain parts of the level where he normally wouldn’t be able to.
Quick little nitpick, I don’t like how the game doesn’t tell you that you can cancel out your slides. I’m sure that there are times where players might accidentally use the ability to collide into an enemy/stage hazard, or even into a bottomless pit which causes instant death. If you press the direction opposite to that of where you’re sliding your body across, you can stop Mega Man in his tracks. It would have been really nice to learn about this right from the start, but oh well.
Now back on topic.
Since we’re talking about a new Mega Man title, the developers just had to come up with a new gimmick that players can mess around with. And it should be pretty obvious by now that it came in the form of the Double Gear system.
With it, you can use either the R1 button to slow everything down, or the L1 button to give Mega Man’s weapons a powerful boost. You can only activate one at a time as it’s clear that the developers didn’t want to make it too powerful. When activating either, a gauge shows up telling you how long you have to use the chosen ability. If you run it dry, then you simply need to wait a few seconds for the system to recharge. And in the event that you lose enough health to the point where you’re close to dying, you can then press both the R1 and L1 buttons to activate the Double Gear technique—a powerful combination of both abilities which lets you wreak havoc for a short period of time.
It’s great how these are implemented in the game as you can use them to make things much easier for you. Feel like there are too many enemies? You can choose to wipe them out with a supercharged weapon blast, or you can slow things down and pick them off methodically to conserve weapon ammo.
However, there’s a problem in a way where they’re used to traverse different levels. This is in the sense that majority of the time, it’s the slow-down ability that you’ll be using nearly throughout your entire run. I’ve never really felt the need to use the ability to give my weapons a bigger boost in power as I feel that Mega Man already has a good enough arsenal to take down foes. It makes me feel that the ability could have been replaced with something much better or that levels could have been built in a way to play around with it more. As it is now? I barely ever use it and my L1 button must feel pretty sad about that.
Speaking of levels, their designs can get very creative. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s nice that every one of them has their own unique gimmick which distinguishes them from the rest. For example, Bounce Man’s level forces you to jump and bump around bouncy balls or use this large, trampoline-like object to progress through sections of the stage. It’s great and it makes you think about what move you should do instead of blindly rushing in and hoping for the best.
What I don’t like about the stages are how they can feel inconsistent. There are checkpoints which have the right amount of distance from one another, with each of them having obstacles in between to give you the right amount of challenge. But then there are some stages where it feels like it can take forever to get from one checkpoint to the next, and the areas built between them having pretty unfair level design that will almost always lead to the player’s death. It can be rather frustrating, even with the slow-down ability, as enemies or stage hazards can feel as if they come out of nowhere.
Although I say this, they’re not exactly that much or a problem…unless you make them so.
Hear me out, Mega Man 11 could potentially be the easiest game in the franchise.
Now, why is that? That’s because it feels as if the game is actively trying to hand you anything it can to make things easier. Veterans of the classic Mega Man titles will be happy to know that Auto and Roll are back to provide you with the items you need, so long as you’re willing to pay them in screws of course. They’re pretty much the reason why this game can be relatively easy, assuming you know what you’re doing.
As you defeat enemies, there’s a chance where they can drop random items. It can either be health pickups, weapon ammo, extra lives, or those screws that you’ll want to purchase items. If you look hard enough, there are particular levels in this game that you can exploit over and over again to get as many screws as you need. Once you’re happy with the amount you’ve acquired, you simply need to exit the stage, head to the shop, and purchase whatever you want. And it’s because of that, you don’t have to worry so much about dying and failing any stages you go up against.
You can buy items that will allow you to fully recover your health, ammo, or one that can even grant you extra lives! What’s even more baffling is that there are items which could prevent you from dying should you fall into a bottomless pit, or when you touch those very lethal spikes. Both are staples in the franchise and they’re usually the biggest threats known to just about any Mega Man classic player. Now? They’re usually a minor inconvenience as there are items to make them feel like almost a non-issue.
Also, Mega Man can now equip parts which further enhances his capabilities! Although it’s understandable that there’s presumably a sense of satisfaction when acquiring them, some might not feel that way considering how easy it is to do so. And these equipment parts and upgrades just make any obstacle feel like a cake walk as they have so many amazing uses.
For instance? There’s an equipment part that reduces knockback when colliding with an enemy or a stage hazard! I get that knockback has always been horrible, but it’s because of them that players became more attentive of the dangers they could potentially face. With the new upgrade? You can just rush through certain enemies and use the invincibility frames that you get after taking damage to quickly traverse through certain parts of the level.
Perhaps the developers did all this because they wanted the game to cater to more on newer players instead of the veterans. But the problem with that is Mega Man 11 allows you to choose your difficulty before you play the game.
There are 4 difficulties: Newcomer, Casual, Normal, and Superhero.
Newcomer is for those who don’t’ want any challenge at all as the only way to die is to deplete your health to zero. Pits and spikes? They’re just there to look pretty as you’ll get hurt if you step on a spike, and falling down a pit doesn’t do anything as every time it happens you’re given the option to reposition yourself anywhere near it. Oh, and enemies do way less damage here so you’ll most likely never die. I feel like this difficulty shouldn’t be here as there’s nothing to give you that sense of danger.
The game was meant to be played through either Normal or Superhero difficulty as those are the two which pose some sort of challenge— with the latter not having any health pickups or weapon ammo drops in stages whatsoever. However, you have to remember that they won’t be too challenging as you can exploit the game very easily. If you want to play stages the way they were meant to be, then you have to resist taking advantage of the good things the game tries to offer you.
Now, how about those weapons? Well, only some of them are actually useful
There are a total of 8 stages and each of them has their own unique boss. Once you defeat them, you gain access to their special weapons that Mega Man can use at any given point in time, providing that he has the ammo for them. There were only around 2 or 3 that I continually used as a majority of them were rather pointless except for using them to figure out the weaknesses of certain enemy bosses. Although they can look cool, only a very small amount of them will most likely be used regularly, while the rest are just entirely situational.
Make no mistake, the weapons that you’ll regularly be using are undoubtedly very helpful. I won’t mention any of them as I want all of you to figure them out for yourselves, but you should be able to figure them out right away once you start playing.
As for enemies, they mostly feel like a love letter to classic Mega Man fans. While there are some new faces to go up against—and some are pretty fun to fight— the majority of them just feel like they were rehashed from previous games but now with a newer look. They do offer some form of challenge, especially in higher difficulties, but they’re more of a hindrance rather than being actually difficult. The same thing can be said about the bosses.
Now, where the game really shines is in its sound design and its graphical quality. The game is in glorious 2.5D, with the character models being in 3D while the stage backgrounds remain in 2D. Everything from the environments to the special effects looks absolutely stunning. There’s this right amount of color contrast to every area where they all perfectly match with the theme that it’s going for.
Another thing I like about this game is that you’ll see genuine emotion from the characters during 3D cutscenes. Where Mighty No.9 fails, Mega Man 11 succeeds as things don’t feel stitled during these sequences because there are actual facial animations that will tell you about a character’s current mood. What’s sad is that you won’t get to see much of this as there’s barely any cutscenes in the game. Still, it’s nice that there’s effort put into it.
It’s also pretty cool is that there is a lot of attention to detail, especially when going up against standard enemies or bosses. If you manage to score a good hit? They’ll let you know as they have animations and even sounds that will tell you that you got them where it hurts.
The voice acting in this game is pretty top-notch. None of the voice actors felt as if they tried too hard, with the exclusion of maybe 2 or 3 characters. Also, I just want to point out how the person who voiced Roll did a very commendable job. She’s a littler robot that’s meant to be cute and by God, her voice is the perfect fit for that adjective.
The soundtrack isn’t all that great…unless you go to the options menu and switch everything to the instrumental version. From there? Nearly everything sounds absolutely sublime. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of music pieces from the original soundtrack that sounds good—although, there were only about 2 or 3 of those. The instrumental version of every stage music gives off a much less energetic vibe, but they sound so much better in comparison. I suggest switching to that if you don’t like what you hear from the original stage themes.
All in all, Mega Man 11 is a pretty good game, despite the number of glaring flaws. I urge all of you to try it out for yourselves and grab a copy if you wish to see what the Blue Bomber has new in store.
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Capcom. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.