It has been almost eight years since we last saw the Blue Bomber in a proper sequel to 2010’s Mega Man 10, and with series stalwart Keiji Inafune having left Capcom, the odds were certainly stacked against an eleventh chapter.
Thankfully, with a new art style and challenges aplenty, we are glad Capcom and Mega Man 11 is bringing the Blue Bomber back with aplomb.
Despite the long dormancy of the franchise, Mega Man 11 does not try too hard to deviate from the norms associated with the series. Shooting, jumping, movement, and even boss battles remain familiar to veterans, and accessible enough for newcomers. What’s new is the addition of 11’s Double Gear system.
Throughout the game’s linear levels, which sadly, contain no secrets, you will be able to call upon the Double Gear system with the use of the shoulder buttons. The Power Gear amps up your weapons with alternate attacks and increased firepower, at a cost of your weapon energy.
While the Power Gear may not be always useful, it does add some interesting twists to your increasing arsenal. A powered-up P.Driver gives you not just a mid-air dash attack, but one that can fly you across the screen. Try to remember that if you are having platforming troubles!
Meanwhile, the Speed Gear, which is extremely useful, slows down time so Mega Man can more easily avoid projectiles, manoeuvre platforms, and generally give players more breathing room.
To say the Double Gear system changes up the entire Mega Man experience is an understatement – it is a fundamental change to the series formula, and has seemingly given the developers more room to experiment.
Additional enemies, more difficult platforming, and obstacles aplenty help make the levels significantly longer than before. Mega Man 11 has some of the toughest and most challenging levels you will ever see in the franchise, but they are entirely enjoyable.
In an attempt to balance the difficulty, you no longer have to fear forgetting the patterns and layout of levels, and be at the top of your game every single time. Mega Man 11 also allows the stocking up of power-ups, which can be invaluable.
Be it a timely refill of energy, protection from spikes, or undoing a bad jump, there is always a tool that can be purchased with bolts to aid you. Be prepared to grind, however, if you want to have a healthy supply of bolts.
While the series staple of beating levels and besting bosses, before heading to Wily’s castle to end it all remains constant, the conundrum of selecting the right sequence of bosses and having the right weapons is still the biggest challenge.
The frustration of going through an arduous level only to find yourself outmatched by not having the right weapon can be hard to stomach, but it is Mega Man after all. And if you want to save yourself the trouble, there are always guides to save you time and pain.
The new bosses are also different enough compared to their predecessors, but only by a little. Torch Man (think Fire Man, Heat Man, Flame Man and the like), Fuse Man, Thundra Man, and Blast Man fulfil the standard Mega Man tropes, while Bounce Man, Acid Man, Impact Man, and Block Man bring in new twists that help flesh out the experience.
Defeating the bosses grant you weapons that are wide in variety, but their usefulness varies. While you may experiment and find the right weapon for the correct situation, Bounce Man’s B. Ball and the aforementioned P. Driver from Impact Man are some of our favourites to go with.
Although a new art style might be jarring to returning players, all in all, it is not a bad overhaul/reboot of the series. Mega Man 11 is undeniably cute with plenty of details in stark contrast to its pixellated forebears, and it does so without compromising the gameplay of classic Mega Man.
The Blue Bomber looks good, feels great, and the overall enemy design often helps to let players realise the beauty and scale of levels, and the fact that Mega Man gets not just a new colour, but also custom helmets with each new weapon, sweetens the deal further.
What is disappointing, however, is the sound design. With instantly recognisable chiptunes, it is unfortunate to hear Mega Man 11’s repetitive and dour techno background tracks. Add to that some sketchy voice acting, and it ranks among the worst auditory representation for the series.
Finishing the game reveals plenty of additional challenges with the most ardent of fans to step up to the plate. Timed challenges with remixed levels, Jump Saver challenges with limited jumps, picking your shots with Buster Breakdown, and Balloon Rush which tasks you to pop/avoid certain balloons are all substantial content.
The pick of the bunch has to be Dr. Light’s Trail, an extremely tough, one-life only selection of unique levels that when completed, opens up another trial mode with its own challenges. If you are one of those Mega Man diehards, this is for you.
Despite its status as the latest title in the Mega Man series, Mega Man 11’s overall quality places it right in the middle between the series’ best (like Mega Man 2,3) and its worst (Mega Man 7).
It retains the DNA of all things Mega Man, with some crushingly hard challenges, adds in the Double Gear system, and brings the Blue Bomber into the current gaming landscape adequately. We cannot wait for another decade of Mega Man games and 11 is a solid foundation to build upon.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
There is plenty to like about Mega Man 11, especially for those looking for old-school challenges in a modern wrap.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 8/10