Title (NA): Mega Man 11
Title (JP): Rockman 11 Unmei no Haguruma!! (ロックマン11 運命の歯車!!)
Platform: PS4, XB1, Switch, PC
Release date: 2 October 2018
Mega Man 11 is the first game in the main Mega Man series in eight years, and the first in the main series to be developed by Capcom since 8 was released on the Playstation twenty-one years ago. With the entire franchise mostly in hibernation for over a decade, many long-time fans were understandably skeptical of whether 11 would be able to pull it off; This doubt was exacerbated by the fact that the Mega Man X series’ foray into 3D was infamously bad.
The greatest reason for skepticism, 11’s transition to 3D graphics, turns out not to be a problem at all: The game absolutely succeeds in feeling like a proper Mega Man game. The base gameplay remains the same, but introduces one new mechanic- The Double Gear system. This new system allows the player to use a shoulder button to activate either the Power Gear, which powers up the player’s attacks, or Speed Gear, which slows down time. On low health, the player can also activate the Double Gear, which is both Power and Speed gears at the same time, which has the setback of weakening the player’s attacks after it ends. Both Gears share a cooldown timer which renders them unusable once it hits the maximum. While the Power Gear does not alter the gameplay in any significant way, the same cannot be said of the Speed Gear; A great deal of level design elements and boss patterns seem to be balanced around the player making gratuitous use of it, Torch Man’s stage being the most marked example, and thus managing the cooldown timer on the Speed Gear becomes a fundamental part of the gameplay in 11. While the reviewer found the Speed Gear to be extremely enjoyable, older fans who were seeking a more classic experience might be displeased with the changes it brings to the game.
Mega Man 11 also allows the player to choose a difficulty setting, which includes one for new players, one for players who used to be fans but have not played a game in a long time (labelled “advanced” mode in Japanese but “casual” in English), one for those who are still familiar with the series, and one for those seeking a challenge. Unfortunately, the difficulties do not seem to be very well balanced: The easiest mode makes too many concessions, which results in a very un-Mega Man-like experience. The second and third difficulty levels are the closest a player will get to a classic experience, but the second still has a number of concessions such as reduced damage, and while the third has generally similar difficulty to the older games, it has less checkpoints than the lower difficulty levels, which is more of a frustration or inconvenience.
While the boss fights are mostly enjoyable, a great deal of level design choices involving cheap deaths make the game more frustrating than difficult at times, and the fact that the game allows you to buy extra lives and E-tanks with bolts you find in the stages at cheap prices suggests that this was a conscious choice, perhaps in a way to make playtime last longer, due to the reduced amount of content.
One of the greatest problems with 11 is with the small amount of content: There may be alternate difficulty levels and challenge modes, but when it comes to the base content, there are eight boss stages, four Wily stages, and nothing else. There are no intro or intermission stages, no mid-stage surprise bosses, no second castle or even collectibles like Super Mega Man parts. While there are stage gimmicks that react in unique ways to certain weapons (like fire being frozen by Tundra Man’s weapon, or explosives being detonated by Blast Man’s), these are not use to hide any secret items, as there are none to begin with. Additionally, the last two Wily stages are practically just their boss fights, without any real stages attached. Characters such as Proto Man, or Bass and Treble, are also notably missing from the game to an unnatural extent, their names not so much as mentioned.
It should also be noted that the last parts of the game are also extremely disappointing due to a massive drop in difficulty. While the first two Wily stages do feel appropriately tough, the second Wily boss is more of an annoyance than a challenge, and the final boss is a complete pushover compared not just to final bosses in previous games but also to other bosses in 11 itself; The reviewer defeated the second form easily on his first try and was fully expecting a third, only to be treated to the ending of the game.
Mega Man 11 does manage to get the general feel of the classic series right despite its transition to 3D, which is more than can be said of the previous foray in the Mega Man X series. The twists to the classic gameplay brought by the Speed Gear are also refreshing- Turning it on for just a second or two to dodge a boss’ attack never fails to be exhilarating. The lack of base content is thus unfortunate, but there is definitely enough here to satisfy series fans. New players, however, might be better off picking up one of the Legacy Collections.
The Good: Classic gameplay is unaltered by the transition to 3D, and the new time-slowing gear system is immensely fun to use. The eight bosses are all fun to fight, with spot-on designs as well.
The Bad: Not much base content, several dodgy level designs centered around cheap deaths, questionable casting choice for Mega Man’s English voice actor, missing characters, all topped with a letdown of a climax.
Conclusion: The sequel that fans have been craving, Mega Man 11 does manage to live up to the series’ legacy in spirit. In practice, however, it is lacking in several ways. Long-time fans should nevertheless enjoy it, but people looking to be introduced to the series would be better off picking up one of the Legacy Collections instead.