Capcom has been on the quite the reimagining spree so it’s only natural that Mega Man saw some sort of new awakening. Or maybe it isn’t quite so natural, give how the Blue Bomber has been the publisher’s blue black sheep. Over the years, he’s failed to get much outside of a few recent collections and an appearance in the most recent Super Smash Bros. games. But its publisher has shown a willingness to give him a chance and afforded him the opportunity to return to players begging for a nostalgic Buster blast. MEGA MAN 11 is that faithful return to form but with a few welcome contemporary upgrades.
The Double Gear system is the best way the game shows that it’s more than just a retro revival. Mega Man gets access to two new abilities: a Speed Gear that slows down time and the Power Gear, which soups up your Buster ability. Each is dictated by the same meter, meaning you’ll need to keep an eye on both so you don’t overheat. Combining both at the same time slows down time and makes your shots more powerful but will automatically overheat after a few seconds, which adds another layer of depth to this mechanic.
Mega Man 11 Review: Gearing Up
It’s simple to grasp and helpful to everyone. Mega Man 11 is still a hard game and this system gives newcomers a tool to acclimate to the fast action. But veterans will benefit too since it lets them more easily bypass hazards and perfect their skills. Regardless of expertise, it still requires timing and the muscle memory to activate these abilities under pressure and gradually working the Double Gear system into your repertoire is a brilliant way to give players more powers to master. Purists can, more or less, ignore these additions but it’s a new mechanic that deepens the strategic depth of the game without forfeiting the franchise’s core essence.
Mega Man 11 also welcomes hardcore and new players with its wide array of difficulty settings. From offering infinite lives to frequent checkpoints to testing even the most hardened Mega Man fans, Mega Man 11’s difficulty runs the gamut. Newcomer, Casual, Normal, or Superhero are varied enough to cover almost anyone who will pick up the controller.
It’s a fundamentally difficult game and the modes don’t rob you from the satisfaction of conquering each gauntlet; it just lets you choose your parameters instead of being forced into one narrow path. The lack of autosaves is the only source of arbitrary difficulty, which, while small, is hard to excuse for almost any game coming out in 2018.
Mega Man 11 Review: Showing Them Who’s Boss
While the game can be a bit of a jerk with its conspicuously placed traps and enemies, it’s almost never frustrating due to its fantastic level design. Stages play out in, well, stages: it introduces a mechanic, tests you on it, and then repeats this cycle a few more times with new variables before finally putting everything together in the final few stretches. Levels stay fresh not only because they all have enough unique themed gimmicks but also because this process allows for a natural, satisfying difficulty ramp. Nintendo also often uses this template and for a good reason: it’s incredibly effective at building an engaging, well-paced platforming level.
This method organically ramps all the way up to each stage’s climactic boss fight. It follows the typical pattern of eight main rogue robots that each have a weakness you can exploit if you have the specific power. Figuring out what powers hurt what boss adds in a neat layer of experimental puzzle solving, but each fight is good in its own right.
The inventive Robot Masters test your reflexes and ability to pick up patterns and quickly adapt. Multiple phases ensure that bosses build appropriately by starting out fast and only going from there. They act like condensed versions of the levels in how they introduce and layer on new attacks to constantly stay fresh and new. Aside from Newcomer, the threat of a “Game Over” hangs over your head, putting even more pressure on you to nail those bastards with your Buster. Dying and restarting the stage can be frustrating but that frustration is balanced out by the joy of finally overcoming a particularly difficult boss.
Mega Man 11 Review: Rock (Man) Solid Presentation
While its controls and overall structure make it feel like a Mega Man game, its presentation sells that feeling to your eyes and ears. Mega Man 11 opts for a cuter aesthetic that is unmistakably retro and Mega Man but without defaulting to the overused 8-bit visuals of its two predecessors. It has a look all its own with a cute and colorful art style that has faithfully recreated some classic Mega Man enemies along with some new themed levels.
The music also quite catchy and fits the upbeat, energetic nature of the gameplay. Songs don’t rely of chiptunes as it is a more modern interpretation of a Mega Man soundtrack but without directly emulating the past.
And that fits into the overarching thesis of Mega Man 11. The game is probably close to what you’d expect: a collection of hard-as-nails platforming levels capped off by a boss fight where you get more gear so you can tackle even more hard-as-nails platforming levels and boss fights. However, its new Double Gear system and difficulty settings simultaneously make it more accessible and deeper while not sacrificing its core identity. The Blue Bomber may stick to his blueprint but, when it has been modernized this well, it’s hard to argue that Capcom blew it.
Mega Man 11 was reviewed on PS4 via a digital code provided by the publisher.