MEg a Man 11
The blast from the past steps up a Gear
A classic series brought up to date, enhanced and more accessible than ever. Turned up to 11, in fact.
While the likes of Link, Solid Snake, and fellow platforming pal Mario have completely changed tack to better fall in line with the expectations of gaming audiences over the decades, Mega Man has remained staunchly close to his ’80s roots. The Blue Bomber’s long-awaited 11th outing dishes up an experience that’s much the same as the series has been providing for the last 30 years, but with a refined recipe – including a few new ingredients – that’s been cooked to platforming perfection. The most apparent of those new additions is the game’s overhauled visual style. Gone are the flat and outdated 2D graphics, replaced with a modern styling that’s seriously snazzy. The visual overhaul, a blend of beautifully hand-drawn environments and detailed 3D character models, refreshes the ageing series’ art style with an eye-popping aesthetic that gives the game the charming look and feel of a Saturday morning children’s cartoon.
The new additions are far more than skin-deep, however. The Double Gear system is a particularly innovative introduction, offering two benefits: Speed Gear gives you the ability to slow down time; and Power Gear adds more oomph to your attacks. You deploy these using the shoulder buttons, and can instantly activate and deactivate them whenever you please. While either is active, the gear gauge gets filled – if it overheats you’ll be without both until the gauge resets, meaning you have to be clever about when you choose to use the system and pay close attention when it’s active, which isn’t always easy when you’re fighting off a flurry of enemy attacks or trying to outrun a deadly wall of spikes.
The Double Gear system not only rejuvenates the series’ long-established formula, it changes the very nature of enemies and environments, introducing a new level of challenge. The increased arsenal that comes with Power Gear means that enemies come thick and fast, but Speed Gear is the real game changer. The ability to slow down time allows for more punishing platforming as you navigate moving platforms suspended over spiked chasms or employ it to gain a few precious seconds to mow down enemies as you flee from approaching fire. The additions make for some of the biggest challenges the series has ever seen, its demanding nature sure to delight seasoned players.
For the uninitiated, Mega Man can be something of a baptism of fire, with
“Speed gear gives you the ability to slow down time; and power gear adds oomph to attacks”
bygone ideas like limited lives making mistimed jumps and careless combat techniques a costly affair. Unlike modern games, Mega Man has no qualms about confronting you with the Game Over screen and forcing you to start a level from scratch. Even on Normal difficulty, the game is brutal, giving you only three lives and enemies that don’t go down easily. Casual mode is a tad more forgiving, while the highest difficulty, Superhero, is only for those with godlike reflexes. Fortunately, Capcom has also considered newbies, whose fingers might not be nimble enough to overcome the game’s gruelling levels, with the introduction of Newcomer mode. Granting you unlimited lives, you’re also mercifully saved from instant death should you mistime a jump, and can soak up considerably more damage from enemies. It’s a welcome addition that means players of all skill levels can see the credits, and offers a training ground for those wanting to learn the layout of levels before taking on the tougher challenge of higher difficulties without the annoyance of repetition.
Otherwise, Mega Man 11 is pretty standard fare for the series, rigidly sticking to the established formula. To thwart Dr Wily’s evil plans, Mega Man must don his blue armour and fight his way through eight stages, each of which culminates in a showdown with that area’s evil robot overlord. The levels are engaging and well designed, each having its own distinct appearance, enemies, and obstacles. By far the most enjoyable is Bounce Man’s world; a nauseatingly cutesy level filled with bouncy balls that Mega Man can use to fling himself around bubblegum-coloured environments teeming with deadly balloons. Tundra Man’s level is also a highlight, offering a joy-filled jaunt across a snow-laden wonderland where you’ll have to make your way through deadly blizzards and keep your cool as you navigate icy platforms.
While they offer a considerable challenge, the boss battles aren’t overly thrilling, with the exception of Block Man who, midway through the fight, suddenly transforms into a huge hulking rock giant with a completely new set of moves. We eagerly anticipated the same happening with the rest of Wily’s robotic posse, but it never happened. Each boss bestows you a with new type of attack when they fall, though these vary greatly in their effectiveness. Best Block Man, for example, and you’ll get the ability to summon blocks that fall from the sky onto the enemies’ heads, useful for dealing with opponents at range, while Acid Man’s Acid Barrier allows you to absorb damage. Conversely, moves like Chain Blast see you unleash a string of sticky bombs that require clever timing to be really effective. Using any of these attacks while in Power Gear seesMega Man perform a much more devastating version that can clear the screen in seconds. Having a wealth of attack options to choose from and an arsenal that’s constantly bolstered as the game goes on, as well as a plethora of different enemy types, keeps excitement high throughout.
Mega Man 11 is a fitting instalment for players who were disappointed by 2016’s ‘spiritual successor’ Mighty No. 9 and longed for a current-gen Mega Man adventure that would do the game’s history justice. This latest instalment offers a true taste of the traditional, while the added gameplay enhancements, accessibility, and visuals provide enough modern extras to be welcoming to players who’ve missed out on the first ten games. (No, you don’t need to have played all the others to enjoy this one.) If you’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about, this should be just the title to initiate you into one of platforming’s most iconic series.
When life gives you a lot of enemies, you’re going to need a lot of rubber balls to throw at them.