It's been 8 years since Mega Man fans have received a game in the franchise's mainline series. Since Capcom's reveal of Mega Man 11 late last year, many of the Blue Bomber's fans have been anxiously awaiting launch day, and thankfully, the wait is over. Capcom is trying to kick things into overdrive by introducing a brand-new mechanic to the game, but the biggest question still remains. Does Mega Man 11 have what it takes to make up for the long drought?
Mega Man 11 starts off by introducing a younger Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Wily has developed a new tool, dubbed the Double Gear system, which kicks robots into overdrive, allowing them to surpass the limits of their programming to do incredible things. With this tool, Wily claims that any robot can be a hero! However, there were major concerns with this research, which led to the cancellation of Wily's research and consequently, the continuation of Dr. Light's. Of course, Wily vows revenge. Many years later, he captures eight robot masters and installs his Double Gear technology in them, causing them to turn evil. It then falls on Mega Man to save the day. However, he must also make use of the Double Gear to stand even a remote chance.
The Double Gear system allows Mega Man to overclock either his strength or speed at will. Enabling the Power Gear allows Mega Man to fire more powerful shots, both charged and with his special weapons. The Speed Gear, on the other hand, slows down time around Mega Man, allowing him to better navigate a storm of bullets or stage hazards. I initially had many doubts as to this new mechanic, but these fears were soon put to rest. The Double Gear abilities are completely optional, though I grew to love the complexity this feature added as I progressed through the levels and bosses.
The Double Gear system places a lot of stress on Mega Man, however, and he can only use these abilities for a limited amount of time. They can be switched on and off at will, but having them active builds a shared meter which overheats upon filling completely, preventing their use entirely until it cools down. This system introduces a new gear item (found in both a large and small variety), which acts as an instant partial cooldown.
Generally, you can only use one Gear at a time, and swapping between them cancels the effects of the currently enabled one. At low health, however, Mega Man can enact his Double Gear technique, allowing both the Power and Speed Gears to be used simultaneously. This is more of a last-ditch effort, though, as once activated, it cannot be turned off. After overheating, it also causes Mega Man's buster to fire weakened shots until the cooldown is finished.
While these abilities can be useful in completing the stages, I found them to be significantly more useful during bosses. Each boss has a desperation move that activates once it hits a certain health threshold. This attack activates either the Power or Speed Gear of that robot master, adding an extra layer of challenge to their boss fights. I won't spoil anything, but there was a nice boss surprise waiting late in the game which caught me off guard for a variety of reasons, one of which was the addition of this desperation mechanic. Using the matching Gear was beneficial in limiting the efficiency of the bosses' extra abilities, so much so that there was at least one fight I couldn't beat without it.
In one sense, this Mega Man feels a bit more challenging than others. Most of the stages feel longer than traditional stages and have multiple checkpoints, as opposed to only at the midway point. This allows Capcom to throw more enemies and more stage hazards at you, thus increasing the danger contained within each level. Despite this length increase, the stages are quite fair, introducing stage mechanics at a basic level before ramping up to more difficult scenarios. I definitely had my fair share of moments where I was completely stuck on a level, but with perseverance (and some help from Auto's shop), I emerged victorious.
In another sense, Mega Man 11 feels like it's a bit easier than some of the earlier titles. The main reason for this is the return of Auto's shop. Collecting bolts throughout the stages allows Mega Man to buy various items and weapons. All of the traditional items make a comeback, as well as a large selection of upgrades. These upgrades range from automatically charging your buster, to increasing the drop rate of bolts, to eliminating ice physics. Mega Man 11 throws a lot of bolts at you, so much so that I never had a problem making sure I had enough to keep a full stock of energy tanks on me at all times, as well as being able to afford most every upgrade by the end of the game. You can also access the shop from the game over screen, which is a nice shortcut to having to exit the level, then re-entering it.
I also appreciated the addition of tutorials whenever you gain a new ability. Though Mega Man 11 still plays a short video demonstration showing how new weapons are utilized, Capcom threw in an optional tutorial where you can play around with the weapon so you can get a feel for it (and its powered up version) without having to waste valuable weapon energy in the subsequent stages. It's nothing too major, but I felt I understood the weapons a lot better after actually trying them as opposed to just watching how they're used.
One last quality of life addition to Mega Man 11 is the ability to quickly swap weapons. Though this has been featured in earlier games, Mega Man 11 adds onto that creating a weapon wheel of sorts. You can now switch directly to any weapon in the game from any weapon without having to pause. While you can still scroll through weapons as before, this change will allow for easier swapping and some really cool speed tech for htose who like to go fast.
From a design and aesthetic perspective, the game looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. I'm sure some people will balk at the shift into 2.5D, due to the inevitable comparisons to Mighty No. 9. Rest assured though, Capcom has worked hard to make sure that Mega Man 11 features vibrant, detailed stages and enemies. One detail I appreciate a lot is that Mega Man's design changes slightly depending on his equipped weapon. It's not just a color change anymore—Mega Man's helmet and buster arm change completely!
Each of the stages features different hazards and enemy types, which went a long way in giving them a unique identity. It wouldn't be a Mega Man game without a great soundtrack, and though I think there have definitely been better tracks, there have certainly been a lot worse. The only real complaint I have here is that the voice acting feels a little cheesy at times. It's still a step up over the previous entries in the franchise, however, so I can't complain too much.
After you beat the main game, Mega Man 11 features a number of extras in which you can partake. The big draw is the inclusion of some additional modes. Some of these are your more standard time attack and boss rush modes. Some of the more fun ones, though, challenge you to beat the stages while limiting how often you jump, a balloon popping trial, and a gauntlet of tough Mega Man scenarios. All of these challenges have leaderboards associated with them, so you can strive to be the very best and claim the number one spot! My favorite post-game feature is the ability to purchase items that allow for unlimited gear and unlimited weapon usage. These abilities will come in handy for anyone looking to gather some easy achievements.
Capcom really kicked the classic Mega Man franchise into high gear with Mega Man 11. The title is everything I wanted out of a classic Mega Man game, and though I was initially skeptical about the Double Gear system, I love what its addition brings in terms of strategy and execution to the game. This is a game that should not be passed over lightly. I'm not sure what Capcom has in store for Mega Man's future, but if it is of the quality of Mega Man 11, I'm not worried in the slightest.
A copy of Mega Man 11 was provided by Capcom for the purposes of this review.