Though the challenge I faced at the beginning was harsh and at times unforgiving, Mega Man 11 had me realize the importance of never giving up when faced with any obstacle. The newest entry in the classic series from Capcom takes the blue bomber into the 2.5D visual realm while maintaining and building upon the iconic gameplay formula that has been around for more around 30 years. It’s a fun blending of the old school approach to gameplay, with a new school aesthetic that will appeal to newcomers to the series and long-time fans alike. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, provided you’re able to endure some challenging platforming, as well as some trial and error.
The story of Mega Man 11 picks up some time after Mega Man 9 and 10, with Dr. Wily remembering an old invention from his younger years. Both he and Dr. Light had a very bad falling out after the robotic community denied to develop the Double Gear System, an upgrade that powers up the strength and speed of robots, in favor of Dr. Light’s research instead. Years later Dr. Wily finishes his prototype of the Double Gear and begins using it to once again take revenge on his old colleague and his nemesis Mega Man, stealing eight new robot masters and reprograming them once again to cause havoc.
As straightforward and silly as this might sound, the plot will be very familiar territory for anyone who has played any of the previous Mega Man games. It’s the same arc we’ve seen over ten times before, but it still has a slight charm that works enough to be tangential to the gameplay. There are cutscenes that give the story a decent presentation, even though the animation for everyone can look stiff most of the time. Unfortunately, some characters like Protoman, Bass, and a few others are completely absent, which is a shame since it would’ve been nice to see them make some sort of appearance in the story.
Gameplay is the heart of any Mega Man game, with jumping and shooting making up the core of what we’ve loved since 1987. There are eight stages you can play in any order, with a boss fight at the end of each and a new weapon to be gained from defeating them. Mega Man 11, however, mixes up things up with the addition of the Gear System, which gives Mega Man two new abilities that add to the weapons and upgrades he gains as you progress. The Speed Gear slows down time and allows you to get around obstacles fast, while the Power Gear boosts up the strength of the Mega Buster and other weapons.
You can use either at any point for a limited time, with it overheating if you get too greedy. The problem, however, is how there are more applications for the Speed Gear than there are for Power Gear. Most hazards require you to activate Speed Gear to pass through, otherwise, you risk getting hit or losing a life instantly. The Power Gear gives a big boost to the boss weapons you gain, such as increasing the bullet spread or size on screen, but it doesn’t affect more than that. The damage output for the standard Mega Buster or the extra weapons alone are effective enough to focus on using Speed Gear instead, allowing you more chances to deal damage and avoid enemy fire.
The level design of each stage harkens back to many of the NES classics, but with a lot of emphasis on using the Gear System being used frequently. Enemies are placed in spots that can damage you while at normal speed and sometimes knock you into a pit if you aren’t using Speed Gear to avoid them. This might get a little annoying for some, but if you’re constantly shifting the Speed Gear on and off, then these hazards become obsolete.
However, losing a life frequently may have you replay long sections over and over again due to the scarcity of checkpoints at higher difficulties. Any difficulty setting below Normal will have plenty of checkpoints to trigger if you lose a life, but the opposite is true for Normal setting or higher. This makes some spots in a few stages real frustrating when you lose a life accidentally and have to replay a number of screens over and over again. For speed runners and those already familiar for the Mega Man games, this might not be too much of an issue, but definitely something that isn’t welcoming to newcomers who aren’t prepared for this kind of tediousness.
The boss fights against each robot master and Dr. Wily are challenging, but not all of them are spectacular. The battles against Block Man, Fuse Man, and Impact Man have interesting events that happen mid-fight which look great. On the other hand, the rest of the bosses don’t get as flashy, with the exception of the boss battles against Dr. Wily at the end. It would’ve been nice to see a bit more effort put into making the robot master battles exciting for Mega Man 11, even though many of the boss fights in previous games of the series weren’t as different as the ones are here.
Mega Man 11 also has a meager offering of extra content that some may or may not find satisfying. There’s a Gallery that gives profiles on every enemy and boss you encounter, with some of their animations on display, but the rest of the cast isn’t included in it at all. It is nice having the backstory on every robot within Dr. Wily’s army, but it’s confusing not to included dossiers on everyone who appears in the game, rather than just the bad guys.
Outside of this, there are various challenges and a bonus difficulty setting you unlock after completing the game at least once, which ties into leaderboards that record your time and scores online. It feels like something more should’ve been included for those who complete the game, such as additional costumes or any filters that change up the visuals of the game. If you enjoy playing through challenges that remix the stages, then there is some fun to be had there, but otherwise, there’s hardly anything more to do once you’ve played through the entire game.
Missteps aside, Mega Man 11 is a solid entry for the ongoing series that veteran fans and newcomers will still enjoy. Its gameplay is challenging and fair, rewarding those who take the moment to anticipate what lies ahead of them before jumping and shooting. The 2.5D style works well to modernize Mega Man’s classic design and give a fresh coat of paint to its charming cast of robotic characters. It may have been a long journey over the last 30 years, but Mega Man still has plenty of fight in him to battle for everlasting peace.
This review was based on a digital review code of Mega Man 11 for the PlayStation 4, provided by Capcom.