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June 2019

Mega Man 11

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2018


PS4 Review - 'Mega Man 11'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 2, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Take a trip down memory lane and see how Mega Man has evolved in his latest adventure.

Buy Mega Man 11

It's been a long time since we've seen the Blue Bomber in one of his own adventures. The NES mascot may have spent time on mobile games and Smash Bros., but his solo adventures have been few and far between. Perhaps that is why Mega Man 11 is a comfortable, expected, and safe return to form for the franchise. There are no real surprises, sudden twists, or shocking revelations. It's just a standard, well-made Mega Man game.

Right off the bat, Mega Man 11 is a NES-style Mega Man game. It might have modern graphics, but it doesn't reinvent the wheel or change the formula in a significant way. You can charge your buster gun, jump, run, shoot, slide, and summon your robot dog to ride. You go through dangerous stages full of enemies to defeat a robot master, steal their weapon, and take on Dr. Wily. If you've played any of the games in the Mega Man franchise, this will feel very familiar.

There are some nice modernizations, though. The control scheme has seen some much-needed updates. Rush Coil and Rush Jet are now bound to their own buttons instead of being a separate special weapon. This makes them a lot easier to use as part of the general gameplay. The Charge Buster also has some nice changes. In addition to hitting hard, it now has the ability to make enemies "flinch," which can make enemies more vulnerable. However, since the ability takes time to charge and many enemies have brief windows of vulnerability, the regular pellets also get a lot of use. It's a good balance of power and speed and makes the Charge Buster feel like a distinct tool.

The big new feature in Mega Man 11 is the Double Gear system, which is comprised of two parts: Power Gear and Speed Gear. The Power Gear powers up attacks, allowing for massively increased buster damage or modified special weapons. Speed Gear slows down time for Mega Man and everyone around him, but Mega Man retains slightly more speed than his enemies. This can be used to escape traps, target enemy spots that are briefly vulnerable, and so on. Both gears share a recharge meter. You can activate and deactivate them at will, but if you overuse one or both, they'll overheat, and you'll temporarily lose access to them.

The Double Gear system is quite fun and naturally integrated into gameplay. Speed Gear allows the player to slow down time with a button press, so some interesting challenges and obstacles pop up rather suddenly. I wouldn't be surprised if some gamers refuse to the use Speed Gear because it can feel like a cheat, but it's also a genuinely fun addition to the game. On the other hand, Power Gear is a bit more inconsistent. It can be incredibly powerful in certain situations, but it feels like feast or famine. Rather than offering interesting gameplay, it lets you buzzsaw through enemies once you figure out where to use it. I didn't use it very often or only used it in short bursts because it wasn't as flexible and fun as Speed Gear.

The last part of the Gear system, the Double Gear mode, is sort of a waste. When a player gets low on health, they can choose to activate both gears at once, which slows time and allows powered-up shots to be used. Afterward, Gears are deactivated for a period of time. Even when I was low on health, it made sense to preserve Speed Gear to limit my damage rather than throw everything away on a last-ditch attack that was unlikely to succeed. There is an item that can be unlocked to allow for the use of Double Gear at any time — but it instantly drops you to critical health. I don't understand when I was expected to use this, and I imagine the majority of players will ignore that it exists.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Mega Man game without a wide selection of special boss weapons, and Mega Man 11 has a pretty good collection. By and large, the weapons are useful to eliminate tough obstacles. Block Man can summon a huge swarm of blocks that go through walls, so it's great for eliminating tough-to-reach enemies. Each of the boss weapons can also be powered up with the Power Gear, which tends to make them much more powerful. Tundra Man's attack goes from a powerful tornado that hits above and below to a screen-wide insta-kill for almost every regular enemy. The real star of the show is Acid Barrier, which is in the running for the strongest shield weapon in a Mega Man game. In addition to blocking shots, it retains the ability to shoot acid blobs, and its Power form causes all weaker enemies to die on contact.

Mega Man 11's weapon selection is quite excellent. Most of them were fun and interesting to use, and the Power form allows you to get some great use out of them. If I had one major complaint, it's that they're slightly overpowered. Getting Acid Man or Block Man's weapon can be the difference between a punishing stage and a trivially easy stage. The weapons have fairly low energy amounts by Mega Man standards, but one of the upgrades gives you the ability to refill all weapon energy with a regular energy pickup. W-tanks are also cheap and plentiful, so you can spam a weapon to your heart's content.

Lots of Mega Man fans enjoy using buster-only runs, and Mega Man 11 is very open to that. The Gear system makes the buster one of your most powerful and flexible weapons.  Between Power and Speed Gear, you can use your buster to duel pretty much any boss and not feel ineffectual. Sometimes, I found the buster to be more useful than the special weapons. I can't speak to how no-Gear runs will go, but they certainly seem possible, if difficult.

The level design in Mega Man 11 is inconsistent. Some of the stages are absolutely lovely, and others are dull and unmemorable. Mega Man 11 has some of the longest stages in the franchise's history, but not every stage is created equal. My recommendation is that players tackle Plug Man as the first stage; it's pretty basic and by the numbers, while Acid Man has tons of deadly traps and spike pits. As the game progressed and I got a feel for the mechanics, the stages stopped feeling long. There are a lot of small but fun ways to shave off time from your playthroughs, and I expect speedruns of the games will be quite interesting.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment were the Wily stages. They are probably among the least interesting Wily stages in the series. The first stage is probably the best in that it has an interesting selection of challenges, but after that, it's pretty much downhill. Perhaps the greatest disappointment was the final boss, who was so incredibly simple that I didn't see its second form because spamming one attack killed it in moments. I was so shocked that I expected another boss to show up, but the credits rolled, and that was it. Although it's one of the longer Mega Man titles, I just kept expecting more. There are bonus challenges and harder difficulty modes to entertain and challenge you, but Mega Man 11 is about the length of an average Mega Man game.

The difficulty of Mega Man 11 is tough to pin down because so much of it depends on the upgrades. The most difficult part is the early start, where you have few weapons and none of the passive bonus upgrades. As soon as you collect a handful of these, the game becomes much easier. Every new item represents a significant drop in difficulty, but some are more significant than others. (Acid Man's Acid Barrier weapon trivializes many challenging parts of the game.) Those who plan to do buster-only or no-gear runs may find it one of the harder Mega Man titles, but those who use all of the tools may find it surprisingly easy. The game does have harder difficulty modes for those looking for more of a challenge. The game is so free with bolts to purchase items that even after buying every piece of gear, I had more than enough to max out my E-tanks after every stage.

Mega Man 11 breaks away from the traditional 8-bit styling of the old-school Mega Man games, and it does so wonderfully. The stages and characters are vividly animated and charming. There are lots of nice touches in character animation, and I love that Mega Man changes more significantly when he uses his special weapons, adopting a new costume like Mighty No. 9 rather than merely changing colors.

One area where the game disappointed was in the soundtrack. I found it to be unmemorable, which is a shame since the music is usually one of the high points of a Mega Man title. It also was drowned out by the frequent voice clips, and I wanted to turn off voices rather than hear Mega Man shouting, "Speed Gear!" every time I turned it on. Fortunately, that is an option, but it's still aggravating.

Mega Man 11 is a solid entry in the franchise, but it's not an exceptional one. It's a well-made and enjoyable Mega Man game with a great variety of robot masters, fun levels, and interesting weapons. It suffers from some odd difficulty spikes and a disappointing finale, but nothing drags down the game too far. If anything, the game's biggest flaw is that it's too safe and too traditional, but after nearly a decade without a new Mega Man title, perhaps safer is better. All in all, Mega Man 11 is a safe and fun title that's a pleasant experience for fans and newcomers alike.

Score: 8.0/10

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