After eight long years, Capcom has finally bestowed upon us the eleventh installment in the original Mega Man series. The last two games went back to the 8-bit era, but Mega Man 11 attempts to move the Blue Bomber forward. Not only does it give us a new direction in terms of art, we also get some added mechanics to the series. While Capcom’s newest title takes several steps in the right direction, it still suffers slightly in its control scheme and voice acting. It’s still very worth the time for any fan of Mega Man, however, as it sticks to its roots in more ways than one.
Will Wily Ever Learn?
If the first ten Mega Man games taught us anything, it’s that Dr. Wily will never stop with his nefarious plans. This story does something fresh, though. We see a glimpse into the history of Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. The opening cut scenes show them as young scientists arguing for what they believe is best for the advancement of science. Wily is obsessed with his “double gear” system, but Light believes it to be a dangerous path to take in the world of robotics.
It’s great to see these two prolific characters at such a young age, especially Wily. I won’t go as far as to say that I empathize with the villain, but I definitely see his side of the story. His transformation at least seems mildly justified, and seeing the doctor as a good-natured scientist is a bit of a treat. The upgraded art style in particular has a very current Japanese animation feel that is very welcome.
Unfortunately, that’s where the cut scenes stop providing anything of high quality. The voice acting, while nowhere near as bad as Mega Man 8, is cringe-worthy. The robot masters themselves even have little quips at the beginning of each fight that fall in the “dad joke” category. To make matters worse, you’re forced to listen to Roll and Auto say the same annoying phrases every time you purchase an upgrade. A man can only hear the phrase, “Ta-da! All ready!” so many times before going insane.
But What About the Platforming?
Let’s be honest, though. The real reason anyone wants to play a game in this series is the gameplay, and that’s where Mega Man 11 succeeds. The level design is superb. While some areas are tougher than others, traversing each level becomes a learning experience that sharpens the skills of even veteran players. Each boss’s theme feels less like a gimmick and more like a legitimate pathway to the next enemy.
The game uses a new system called “double gear” (wonder where Light got that idea), which upgrades Mega’s abilities. One gear allows the player to slow down time to help navigate tricky platforming sections, and the other boosts his weapons’ power. Both are equally useful, and will make speed runs of each level very interesting. The double gear has limited use and even overheats if used too frequently. Not to worry, however, as a new kind of capsule occasionally drops, allowing you to refill the double gear meter.
Mega Man 11 also uses its boss weapons in a way that feels much more helpful than any other game in the series. Even the mini-bosses for each level have a specific weakness, which was a lot of fun to discover. What’s really great is how different Mega Man looks while equipping each weapon. Instead of merely swapping out a different color palette like before, Mega Man dons an entirely new outfit. This makes each weapon feel much more special and enticed me to use them more frequently instead of relying on my standard weapon.
Two Steps Forward, One Giant Step Back
My only frustration lies in the controls, which seem to have lost the tightness that Mega Man is known for. For one thing, Mega Man climbs ladders incredibly slowly. While this is a minor issue, it definitely slows down gameplay. On top of that, the distance that Mega Man can stand on the edge of a ledge seems very suspect. I can’t count the number of times that I fell to my death when I knew I had plenty of space left from which to jump. Because of this, many of my failed attempts to platform didn’t feel like my fault. I don’t have an issue replaying an area because of a stupid miss on my part, but it was irritating when it felt cheap.
Thankfully, the game does not pause for a moment when collecting energy or weapon capsules. That was something that always bothered me in the past. After playing so many games in the series, it was refreshing to not have that mechanic interfere with my platforming.
Nostalgia Done Right
While currency is not a new feature in the series, Mega Man 11 expands on that formula. This feels closer to an RPG than any other Mega Man game that isn’t Command Mission or Legends. Rather than spending time farming for extra lives and energy tanks, you can replay levels to acquire more bolts for purchasing items needed to survive future boss fights.
The throwbacks to previous games was a very welcome one. Many of the enemies return, like Sniper Joe, Met, and even Gabyoall and Pickelman. There’s even a couple of fun surprises that I won’t spoil here. Additionally, the Blue Bomber’s faithful companion, Rush, is at his side once again. The Rush Jet and Rush Coil are great throwbacks, even if I didn’t use them nearly as much as in previous installments. These inclusions were great and added a little nostalgia to a game that otherwise had a fresh coat of paint.
Mega Man 11 Final Verdict
If you’re a fan of the series and can look past the cheesiness of the dialogue, you won’t be disappointed with Mega Man 11. Slight platforming issues aside, this is a well-made game at its heart that offers a fair share of nostalgia and novelty. Even after finishing the game, there’s a ton of extra content for those who crave an extra challenge. That makes the price point a bit easier to swallow, although admittedly, I have no interest in speed runs or challenge rooms. The pros definitely outweigh the cons, so it’s an easy recommend for those who are up for a challenge. Just be prepared for an occasional desire to smash your controller against a wall.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Mega Man 11. The game is also available on PS4, Switch, and PC for $29.99. You can watch the launch trailer for the game below.
You can also hear us discuss our further love for Mega Man on our 205th podcast episode, where we reviewed the Mega Man X Legacy Collection.