After eight long years, a new entry in the original Mega Man series finally released today. With it comes a new art style, brand new mechanics, and multi-form boss fights, but it also brought with it a lot of questions. Could a game like this work in 2018? After Keiji Inafune’s Mighty Number 9, it sure doesn’t seem like it. After such a long break, would Capcom be able to recapture the spirit of those old games?
All in all, I’d say that Mega Man 11 is a fantastic revival of the franchise. The core gameplay is still very much intact. You move from the beginning of the stage to the end, jumping on platforms and shooting enemies. At the end of each stage is a boss, whose power you steal after you defeat them. This is still very much a Mega Man game, but it adds a new layer by introducing what’s called the “Double Gear System”.
At any time, you can either slow time down or power Mega Man up with a push of either the R or L button. This is represented by two different gears and a meter that fills up rapidly while using either power. Once the meter is maxed, the Double Gear System will overheat and you’ll have to wait a short while before you can use it again. If you’re low on health, you can hit both buttons to activate both powers, which is a cool touch.
Personally, I found the speed gear way more useful than the power gear. The levels often feel unfair with just how much stuff they throw at you, especially if you’re a fan of the older games. It took me a while to remember that I could slow down time and manage a crowd much more easily. It’s a welcome addition, you just have to remind yourself that it’s there. This is probably the most significant change to Mega Man’s gameplay since the slide was added way back in Mega Man 3. Meanwhile, the power gear just makes you stronger, which is fine, but I never felt a need to use it.
Surprisingly, one of the other neat things that the Double Gear System adds is story related. The system was originally developed by Dr. Wily back when he and Dr. Light were students. Dr. Wily wanted to use it to make powerful robot tools, but his ideas were shut down by a committee in favor of Dr. Light’s project to make free thinking robots. This is shown as the turning point in Wily and Light’s relationship and what would lead to the conflicts in all the other games. It also means that Mega Man is using one of Dr. Wily’s inventions against him.
While all this story stuff is very neat, it’s ultimately still a pretty typical Mega Man tale. There are eight robots that are used for various jobs, like construction or pyrotechnics, but Wily has turned them evil. Now Mega Man has to go stop them. There are still pretty cool touches though, such a cutscene actually showing Wily capturing and turning the robots. While the story hardly breaks new ground, as a long time fan, I really appreciated this stuff.
The Double Gear system has also been installed on all of Wily’s robot masters, which leads to more complex boss fights than previous games. It used to be that once you figured out a boss’s patterns, you were set. Now, once you get them down to a certain amount of health, they’ll activate a gear and change things up. This could be as major as Block Man turning into a massive version of himself, or simply more powerful attacks.
The graphics have been a point of contention with fans since they were first unveiled, but personally, I really like them. Rather than making the game in the style of NES game, like Mega Man 9 and 10 did, 11 goes for something a little more modern. All the characters are polygonal, but still cartoony. It reminds me a lot of Mega Man 8’s style, but the 3D characters pop much more than those old sprites. The end result is a game that looks like it fits in the series, but also isn’t just playing off of players’ nostalgia. I really like it.
What I’m not as crazy about is the music. Don’t get me wrong, the songs aren’t bad, but the Mega Man series has some of the greatest video game music of all time, and this hardly stands up. The songs in this game are pretty generic techno inspired tracks, where as the old games were fast paced rock. Change isn’t always bad, but this really wasn’t my thing.
The game features an upgrade shop, similar to one found in the last few games. By spending bolts that are dropped by enemies, you can unlock permanent upgrades or special items. For the most part, I liked this system, but it definitely made things easier than they needed to be. In older games, using an E Tank to refill your health was often a difficult decision, because there was almost certainly a harder fight ahead of you. But in this game, E Tanks are only 100 bolts, so I constantly had plenty of them, meaning that I almost never lost a boss fight. Who cares if I use an E Tank, I’ll just buy another before I go to the next stage.
It took me about four hours to complete the main game, which doesn’t seem like too long of a time, but it’s pretty typical for Mega Man. Besides the main game are a series of challenges you can do with options that open up as you progress. There’s also a gallery of enemies, complete with explanations of what they were before being turned evil, which I really enjoyed. There’s also an in-game achievement system, which is neat, but since I played on the Switch, there’s no actual achievements associated with them.
Mega Man 11 is an outstanding new entry in a legendary series. With fun gameplay, new options, some neat story bits, and a great new art style, I can’t recommend this game enough. If you have any love for Mega Man, you owe to yourself to play this game immediately.