Before I get into the review, I have to say, as someone who grew up with games like mega man, ninja gaiden, and castlevania on the NES, capcom did a great job of catering to different levels of skill in Mega Man 11. There are several difficulty options for newer or limited experience players, while also including a difficulty setting that feels like a truer old school, scream at your TV, level of difficulty that the original action platformers would illicit. While playing on the highest difficulty, this game is equal parts beautiful and frustrating. It’s fun and infuriating. This game is rewarding while also making you question whether or not you can afford to just spike your controller on the floor one time to let the hate out. If I were a man of opulence I would have probably gone through 5-6 controllers by now. But, I’ll be damned if you don’t feel good every time you steal the
soul powers of another robot.
This game, at it’s core is about a vendetta. It starts out with Dr. Light and Dr. Wiley at University together, as young scientists. They are in front of what looks like a committee of other scientists. Dr. Light basically convinces the committee to go with his research instead of Dr. Wiley’s, and the committee agrees, infuriating Wiley. Wiley wakes up years later, as you realize the first segment was a dream. Wiley recalls the research he was working on at the time, a gear system that can alter the strength and speed of robots. While Dr. Light, and his god damn glorious beard, is performing routine maintenance check ups on some of the named robots (the future bosses) in the city, Wiley blasts through his roof just as the rest of the bots show up for their check up. He then kidnaps them all in an energy bubble with his little floating ship, and takes them away, reprogramming them, and putting his gear inside them. Dr. Light says he can give Mega Man the same gear, as he remembers the technology, but warns Mega Man that it could have adverse affects on his system and strain them. Mega Man, being the O-est of G’s, laughs and tells Light to hook it up. From there, Mega Man heads out to do battle, with his trusty buddy, Rush. Rush, who no one mentions for some reason. Rush, the best mechanical dog there is, the best mechanical dog there ever was, and the best mechanical dog there ever will be. Sorry Dynomutt.
Now, I’d never lie to you guys, and I have to say, I’m still more of a Mega Man X kind of guy. As you know, X gonna give it to ya. However, growing up with the original Mega Man games, even up until “buying items” became a mechanic in the game, Mega Man 11 is a near flawless throwback to that time period, without feeling dated. First of all, holy effing crap, this game is gorgeous. Everything just pops off the screen. Enemies we’ve seen a ton of times in the past, look better than ever, and Mega Man looks as lively as I’ve ever seen. With this in mind, level design is absolutely phenomenal. Much like Mega Man games of old, every level has a gimmick associated with it that is in line with the boss of each level. For instance, in the level where you face Torch Man, you have to outrun a forest fire, or in the level where you face bounce man, there are walls and floors all over the place that make you bounce around like a bounce castle. Over the years I’ve felt some of the gimmicks and level designs have always been solid, but something about this installment feels special. The length of the levels feel long enough that it doesn’t feel like a breeze or a slog. It feels satisfying to finish a level, and if you’re playing on the highest difficulty, it feels like you EARNED it. Much like most Mega Man games, you have 8 levels to choose from off the bat. I started with Fuse Man because he kind of looks like Frieza, and Frieza killed Krillen. Not cool.
Now, as I mentioned before, the difficulty of some of these levels can be absolutely infuriating. It has more to do with platforming pieces than anything else. However, when playing on the highest difficulty, every hit takes a huge chunk of your health. To counter act this, the game, like some of other Mega Man games, has a lot of items you can buy to help Mega Man survive. To start with, periodically as you kill enemies, they will drop screws. You can take these screws back to Dr. Light, and he will make new items for you. They are broken up into categories. There are somewhat passive upgrades, like being able to carry more energy tanks. You can buy items that can be equipped as well. These items may make your buster shot bigger, or they might charge your buster for you. Finally, there are usable items, such as items that will refill your health bar, or items that cause you to only take half damage until you die. These are an absolute must when playing on more difficult settings, and even with those, it still feels like a legitimate challenge to get through some pieces of the game. The balance, in my opinion, is near perfect.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, one other thing you have at your disposal to tip the scales in your favor, is the gear system. If you hit the right bumper (speed gear), it slows down time, so that you can dodge things moving too fast, or jump on moving platforms that move past you too quickly. If you hit the left bumper (power gear), you get the ability to charge up your buster (or special move) and unleash a more explosive version of it. The buster for instance, shoots too fully charge buster blasts instead of one. When you use either gear, the gauge above Mega Man’s head fills up, if it fills all the way up, it overloads his system and he is unable to use either gear for a short period of time. I’ve found the speed gear is particularly useful in boss fights when trying to dodge their attacks. Bosses will use the speed gear from time to time as well, to do faster and more destructive versions of their basic attacks, so it’s kind of cool to see the enemies using it, as part of the story.
One other somewhat not particularly important things, but I see it as a QOL improvement, is by using the right stick analog stick, you can simply choose which unlocked boss power you want to equip Mega Man with by rotating to it, and pressing A. Otherwise you would either need to go into the items menu to equip it manually, or cycle through each ability with the triggers, which is a significantly more annoying option. So, I really like this small change. Speaking of boss abilities, after you unlock one, the game lets you test it out a bit immediately afterwards. This game 100% feels like it’s all about convenience for the player, in terms of controls and mechanics.
Visuals and Final Thoughts
When looking at Mega Man games over the years, there’s always been good level design, with an ever increasing quality to visual presentation. In the later X games, as well as my long lost love, Mega Man X:Command Mission, we saw some 2.5D and 3D environments. Mega Man 11 sides with the 2.5D art style this time around. On top of absolutely slick level design that makes sense in terms of the gimmick for each boss, and mechanics that feel sharp, the visuals are just stupid this time around. Things just pop off the screen, the characters look absolutely bad ass. Some of the bosses look like they could be legit anime villains, and Mega Man looks like a bot on a mission. There’s not a lot to complain about here, at all. There are also other game modes to check out, like challenge mode, time attack mode, etc. However, none of those feel particularly special. It would have been pretty cool to see an unlockable character like Bass or Protoman to have an alternate play through with, especially after all this wait to get to Mega Man 11. In the end Capcom came to chew bubble gum and make a kick ass Mega Man game, and they were all out of bubble gum.