Mega Man 11 – Same Old Tricks
The Blue Bomber, a.k.a Mega Man, has been in our lives for quite some time now. First appearing in the 80’s he has gone on to star in 10 main games, 8 “X” games (though not technically the same character) and countless (mostly forgettable) spinoffs and cameos. As far as video game characters go he is right up there with Pac-man, Ryu, Mario and Sonic as one of gaming’s most recognisable characters. Throughout the years his popularity has endured, so much so that a new entry in the main franchise was inevitable. So here we are with Mega Man 11 and for better or worse it really is a true Mega Man game.
The first thing players will notice is the graphical upgrade. Gone are the classic 8-bit looks and in their place are some fancy animations and smooth edges. I can see this look splitting people’s opinions but I for one liked the upgrade. I never really fell in love the whole idea of making a game look old for nostalgia’s sake, I mean why not make a game look good if you can (and Capcom certainly can) so I am happy with the direction they have taken with Mega Man 11. It is smooth, shows plenty of character and it suites the franchise. Once again this will all come down to personal preference, but for me, Mega Man’s new look is a welcome upgrade.
What hasn’t changed is the basic structure of the game. Once again Mega Man is tasked with clearing out 8 robot bosses before taking down the nefarious Dr Wiley. Every time a boss is taken down, Mega Man collects a brand new power, which will be the weakness of one of the different robot bosses. The key, as always, is the order in which you tackle the bosses. Finding the best way to go about things is part of the fun of a Mega Man game, but in this particular title, I found it perhaps the biggest challenge. However, I implore people to find their own way with this title. By buying the game you are already signing up for the challenge so don’t short change yourself by looking up a guide on the internet.
There is no getting around it, this is one tough game. Yell at the TV, drop your controller, swear at the creator of the universe level tough. Split second timing is required and the slightest mistake sees Mega Man’s life come to an abrupt end. There are some new mechanics to help out in the form of the double gear system. This system gives Mega Man two new abilities. The first is the ability to overcharge his current weapon, doing more damage. This is a power I barely used, as I found it ran out way too quickly to be useful. That said it turns one weapon into a screen-clearing blast, destroying every enemy in view, akin to how bombs used to work in classic SHUMPS like 1942. The other ability is much more useful. It allows players slow time, making dodging and platforming easier. That said it feels like the designers have taken this into account with the level design, meaning some areas are almost impossible without this ability.
There are some assists for players that are struggling through the fiendish levels. Multiple difficulty options increase the number of lives that Mega Man has as well as some minor adjustments to enemy health. There are also boosts to be bought from Dr Light’s store. These boosts can be purchased with bolts, an item collected throughout the game. There is a boost that will get you out of just about every situation but you will need to redo levels to get enough bolts to purchase it, so it can feel like a bit of a grind. Even with these options, there is just no escaping the fact that Mega Man 11 is a tough cookie to crack so please be warned before buying.
The rest of the game is something you have seen before, many many times. In fact, after recently playing the Mega Man X games thanks to the excellent collection that Capcom recently released, I feel like Mega Man 11 is a bit of a step backwards. The X games introduced exploration into the mix, something that added to the longevity of the game. That is missing here and I must say it feels to me like it will shorten the lifespan of the title significantly. What it comes down to is the fact that Mega Man 11 is almost exactly like the previous 10 titles, which depending on your feeling towards Mega Man is either wonderful or a reason to avoid the game entirely. I feel like I sit somewhere in the middle, with an appreciation for this style of game but with an unfulfilled desire to see the franchise move forward and not stagnate.
Mega Man 11 is really just more Mega Man. It doesn’t evolve the franchise in any meaningful ways and it doesn’t welcome new fans. It is simply more of what people have played for the last few decades. That being said, it is a testament to how good that original formula actually is for it to hold up this well after all these years. If you are looking for challenging, nostalgic platforming then Mega Man 11 should fit the bill quite nicely. If you are looking for something new and innovative you would be better off looking elsewhere. Mega Man 11 is one for the fans, not for the uninitiated.