After some time away and a few collection releases, Mega Man is finally back with a brand new mainline title – yep, Capcom have brought Mega Man 11 over to PC and consoles, bringing with it a fresh lick of paint and some all-new ideas. Thankfully, it maintains everything that’s made the series such a fan-favourite for years too, including tight and enjoyable platforming, satisfying showdowns against vicious foes, and, of course, an incredibly tough difficulty.
Story-wise, Mega Man 11 offers more of the same that players have seen from just about every other entry in the franchise. The nefarious Dr. Wily is up to no good, so you take on the role of the Blue Bomber himself as you aim to bring him down – sounds familiar, right? That being said, Mega Man 11 does touch upon the origin of Dr. Wily and Dr. Light’s rivalry a bit more, whilst the standout voice acting adds a cinematic touch to narrative sequences that helps bring them to life a bit more. Still, there’s no doubting that Capcom have prioritised gameplay over storytelling here.
The first thing you’ll actually notice though is the change in visual style, with Mega Man 11 shifting from the 8-bit look that’s come in every numbered entry before it and instead modernising it with a 2.5D cartoon-like flavour. Shifts in aesthetic are often a recipe for disaster in cherished franchises, but it actually works really well here. The environments are attractive to look at, the character sprites are full of colour, whilst the boss encounters stand out more than ever with their impressive sense of grandeur. Those who appreciated the old-school stylings of the previous entries will be glad to know it still maintains its retro vibe, but it just has this modern lick of paint that encapsulates the fact that you’re playing a brand new Mega Man game that isn’t afraid to embrace a little bit of change.
From a gameplay standpoint, Mega Man 11 follows the same set up as previous entries in the series, meaning you’ll tackle eight levels in any order you please as you bring down Dr. Wily’s minions. Each level offers something completely different too; Tundra Man’s level sees you tackling slippery snowy conditions, Bounce Man’s perilous environment sees you bouncing on balls to get around, whilst Acid Man challenges Mega Man to make his way through tricky underwater sections for example. One quality they all share though is some solid level design, with each stage carefully structured to offer an entertaining blend of challenging platforming and satisfying showdowns with enemies.
In fairness, I had an absolute blast taking on each foe, though one stood out as a real pain: Bounce Man. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some gamers will love the unpredictability of the bouncing environment and the additional challenge it brings to the player, but I found it a little frustrating to work through. Thankfully, the other seven levels are top quality (as well as the eventual showdown with Dr. Wily), so it won’t make you think any less of the overall experience.
Of course, whilst I found Bounce Man particularly tricky to take on, Mega Man 11 is a tough game anyway with a real demand for precision in your platforming and plenty of deadly enemies blocking your path. Fortunately, it’s a satisfying challenge where the game never feels frustrating but rather that it’s simply pushing your skills to the limit – it’s never the game’s fault that you die thanks to some shoddy controls or an unfair enemy, but just your lacking capabilities. You’ll definitely need patience if you’re going to make your way through each of the game’s levels and I’m sure even veteran Mega Man fans will have a tough time taking on this new gang of villains.
At least it has multiple difficulty options in place, so those who’re not up to the challenge can help themselves out with additional lives or extra checkpoints. Let’s be honest though: Mega Man 11 is meant to be a tough game, so hitting the easier difficulty isn’t the best way to experience the adventure. Still, at least it’s there for newbies (and wimps).
Whilst Mega Man 11 is a tricky game though, there are some new features this time around that make the titular hero more powerful than ever. The most prominent is the Double Gear system, which allows Mega Man to activate two special abilities: one to charge up his blaster and unleash a more powerful attack, and one that allows him to slow down time in order to get through some of the trickier platform sections with ease. I’ll be honest, when the Double Gear system was initially revealed I thought it’d be a bit gimmicky and ruin the flow of the game, but it actually adds an extra ounce of strategy to the experience and makes it feel that extra bit more enjoyable. It almost gives you an additional ‘Plan B’ in a way – when you’re facing a platforming section that you can’t quite get through or a bunch of enemies that always catch you out, rather than try to struggle through you can simply activate one of your abilities and increase your odds of success. You can only use one ability at a time though and they also need to charge up, except for when you’re at low health when you can have a ‘Hail Mary’ moment and activate them both at the same time as a last chance of success.
Of course, you’ll also have access to the special powers you obtain from vanquishing each level’s boss, so Mega Man certainly gets well-equipped as progress through the game. These showdowns against enemies like Bounce Man, Tundra Man, Block Man and Torch Man were some of my favourite moments in the game – I’m a sucker for a good boss fight, and Mega Man 11’s are creative in design and certainly put your skills to the test. Sure, it’s still a case of learning an enemy’s attack pattern and then ploughing them with your blaster, but they still make for a good time. Absorbing their abilities after is a bonus though and allows you to blast the likes of blocks, fire and electricity at your foes; some of these abilities will make certain levels a heck of a lot easier too, which might encourage you to actually tackle them in a specific order. Want a tip? Do Block Man first, it’s certainly the easiest place to start.
Between levels you’re able to head to Dr. Light’s lab to purchase new items and equipment, ensuring your next attempt at vanquishing a foe is easier than the last. You can grab standard things like extra lives (which can be vital in some levels) or even enhancements for your weapons, some of which are certainly helpful when taking on the trickier levels of the game. Players can judge what they need themselves though, so you can decide if you want to make yourself more powerful or simply have the metaphoric safety blanket of a nice supply of lives – I know I needed the latter after taking on Bounce Man…
Outside of the main campaign you can tackle Boss Rush mode which challenges you with taking on all of the game’s bosses in quick succession, whilst the clever Balloon Rush mode sees you head through stages full of balloons and challenges you to pop specific ones. It forces you to play the game in a way that might be unconventional to the player, but it makes for a fun little test of your skills. It adds some replayability to the overall experience too, which is nice for those who aren’t satisfied with just taking down Dr. Wily.
Mega Man 11 takes the formula that made the original games so successful and modernises it with the new Double Gear system and some fancy visuals, all without sacrificing the fantastic level design, great enemies, and enjoyable combat that made the series so beloved to gamers to begin with. It’s still a heck of a tough challenge too, though in a satisfying way as opposed to a ‘throwing your controller at the wall’ kinda way.
It offers just about everything you could hope for in a new Mega Man game (well… except maybe Bounce Man) and really marks a triumphant return for everyone’s favourite Blue Bomber. Here’s hoping Capcom don’t leave us waiting too long until we see him blasting away at enemies on our TV screens again…
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC