By: Jeremy Davis
Let’s just be up front. Mega Man 11 is one of the most anticipated platforming games of this decade. While the blue bomber has certainly fallen from the spotlight he held in the 90s his fan base has never stopped their cry for a revival of the franchise. They have been miserable since the untimely cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 back in 2011. There have of course been a plethora of fan-made games to fill the void, Mega Man x Street Fighter (2012) and Mega Man Unlimited (2013) being personal favorites. But, the last official, Capcom-made, game in the franchise was Mega Man 10 in 2010.
It’s been a long wait. So the question is, is does Mega Man 11 live up to its legacy? This hardcore Mega Man fan might be horribly biased, but for me, the answer is a resounding YES!
I know some of you are embittered fans still riding the disappointment of Mighty No 9. Let me assure them that I have played that too, and Mega Man 11 rights all of that game’s wrongs. True to form; Mega Man 11 is not a thinking man’s video game. Some people are disappointed by the lack of a deep and meaningful story, but I appreciate that Capcom kept it simple and stuck with the established formula. One of Mighty Number 9’s biggest downfalls was its overly self-important plotline. Mega Man 11 gets you straight into the action with a plot line depth akin to Mega Man 7. Meaning that it is there, but only enough to keep the game moving forward. The game puts all its energy into what made Mega Man famous to begin with, tight controls, clever platforming, and of course the “run, jump, shoot” trifecta.
So with an established return to its classic form, what actually makes Mega Man 11 special? Let’s break it down into a couple questions:
Is Mega Man 11 challenging?
Absolutely! Not even taking Superhero mode account, Normal mode, is just great. By no means is it a cake walk, and those who have played Mega Man 1, 2, and 3 or 9 and 10, “the traditionally hard games”, will find that the challenges offered here are a new kind of gauntlet. Each level offers new gimmicks never seen before ranging from water that turns into acid baths. to flaming walls of fire that chase you through complex platforming sections. Each level has at least one sub-boss, sometimes several, and 11 has some of the longest levels seen in the classic Mega Man franchise.
If Mega Man 11 is so challenging is it accessible to newcomers and kids?
It sure is! For the first time ever Mega Man has a special newcomer mode, let’s call it easy mode. It takes the things that new gamers frequently struggle within Mega Man and puts a twist on them that not only alleviates the pain point but also balances it in a way that doesn’t feel awkward. Most importantly spikes and pits are no longer instant kills. Spikes just deliver damage and falling in pits summons Beat, the robotic bird, to pick you up and save you. Even as a legacy hardcore gamer, I’ve found it to be kind of fun to play on newcomer mode just to speed run and see how fast I go.
Does Mega Man 11’s new look and feel fit?
I struggled with this when the game was first announced and we saw the first screenshots. However, after playing just a few minutes of even the demo I can promise that you will feel right at home as a returning player, and old school and new gamers will both be pleased with the beautiful backgrounds and creative, colorful, and clever stage designs.
What’s up with that new Gear System?
I have mixed feelings here, mostly because I am a bit of a purist. I have a lot of positive things to say. The ability to slow down what’s going on around you and the ability to crank up your power is a pretty sweet power. I also appreciate that I almost never felt forced to use the abilities, and I even considered unmapping the buttons that trigger the abilities so I could repurpose them for one button sliding and weapon cycling. My only real criticism is there are one or two places where you all but must use speed gear. For players who want to try and get through the game without it this its a little bit of a downer. Additionally, I don’t really see how the mechanics will fit in going forward. I hope if/when a Mega Man 12 comes to fruition it doesn’t get shoehorned in just to include it.
Mega Man 11 is just what we needed to reinvigorate the franchise. It has a slew of alternative play modes, and achievements to unlock. There is plenty of replay value for those who enjoy being in the 100% club. The robot masters are clever and unlike the disaster that was Mega Man 8’s voice acting, the acting here feels on point, without being over the top or falling short or too campy.
All that said, I wouldn’t be being 100% honest without mentioning a few qualms, but I’ll be first to say some of these might be just me, and I don’t think the average player is going to care.
- One issue with Mega Man games is a lack of female representation. In the whole history of the classic series, the number of female characters has been limited to just a handful. Mega Man 9 was “generous” by giving us just one: Splash Woman. I had really hoped this time around it would have had a better split, dare I even dream of an even split. I personally feel that Tundra Man and Bounce Man especially would have been great opportunities to have had female designs, though honestly there is no reason why any or all of them couldn’t be gender-swapped. A really inspiring option would have been to go the route Shovel Knight took and just let you pick for each character, but alas not this go round.
- Music for Mega Man games is usually a bright and shining example of some of the best music in gaming, but this time around it falls a little flat. It’s not that its in anyway bad, but nothing about the soundtrack really sticks out. If you are able to get ahold of the download code for the instrumental soundtrack variants, I would encourage it, as they are better, but not enough to write home about.
- They did change the door transitions. If you are a newcomer to the series you won’t even notice this. But, It was something I had really hoped that they changed back after I played the demo. Many of you won’t know what that means, which is all the better. It means this complaint doesn’t really mean anything to you.
- While Rush Coil and Rush Jet make a return in this game, they really don’t serve much purpose. This felt odd considering they gave Rush’s abilities their own button. I would have liked there to be more applications for the classic tools.
- Finally my most petty complaint… Tundra Man is awesome, but why did they name him Tundra Man??? Sure his level is an icy landscape, but he is a figure skater. There is nothing about him related to “tundra” outside being ice-themed. My head-canon is that his name is Axel Man, but I suppose it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I have similar feelings about Torch Man, but they are not as hyperbolic…
What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!
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