With the Mega Man series sitting on top of my all-time favorite platforming games, my excitement reached a fever pitch with the release of Mega Man 11. As I near the end of the adventure, can I put Mega Man 11 along the upper echelon of the series? Find out below!
Without question, the Blue Bomber’s games follow the identical pattern throughout every adventure. Take out the 8 robot masters, advance to Dr. Wily’s castle, get through several uniquely crafted stages with new bosses, and take out the mad doctor himself to save the world until the next Mega Man. The 11th version of the series does not hide the fact the exact same thing will be going on.
At the start, you are treated to a cool little backstory about how Dr. Wily came to be and then goes on to sabotage robots to turn against the good guys. From there, you get the option of deciding on which robot masters to stop first. The 8 masters have unique enough names that figuring out which power will work best on the next boss is not very obvious. Two of them are pretty clear; the rest will be a guessing game on your first playthrough to sort out the best weapons. From the first Mega Man to the 2018 version, the entire setup and story should be second nature.
So, how does Mega Man 11 stack up to the others in terms of the raw, platforming experience? Pretty darn well. The experience is buttery smooth. The majority of mistakes that the player makes are self-inflicted, and rarely will you blame the programmers for an untimely death. Occasionally, a spike will nick you if you get too close to an edge, but this is not a frequent occurrence. Mega Man 11 introduces death walls: a slow-moving insta-kill that forces you to hustle as quickly as you can, avoiding enemies and jumping over pits before meeting your doom. At first I found the experience very frustrating due to my poor play, however, this is a subtle way that Mega Man 11 wants you to use the Double Gear system.
Double Gear allows you to either slow down time Max Payne-style or give yourself a temporary increased damage output at the expense of slower fire at the conclusion. Slowing the screen down made these insta-kill scenarios substantially easier to navigate. The Double Gear system brings a very cool element to Mega Man 11, drastically changing up your play style. You can be a high-risk, high-reward player or take your time.
Compared to past iterations of the series, Mega Man 11 is downright hard. Every stage runs very long, echoing reminders of the first Mega Man. The enemies can be unforgiving, blasting out of nowhere and throwing you off-course without notice. Most of the enemies are re-invented from past concepts but done in a very fun way. Without a large amount of patience and extra lives, getting through each stage is a challenge. If you are not adept at platforming, you may get frustrated. There are several sequences that require a very sensitive touch of the jump button to wiggle through rows of spikes or other obstacles.
Fortunately, each robot master’s power earned helps a ton. In the past, I could survive the levels without thinking about using various abilities. In Mega Man 11, I found myself leaning on the various tools at my disposal, almost non-stop. This concept adds a unique dynamic that I truly enjoyed. Ultimately, once you learn the rhythm of every level and how to take down the boss, you will have an easier time.
Speaking of bosses, the 8 robot masters are designed exceptionally well and are quite tough. If you do not have the correct corresponding weapon to do the maximum damage, make sure to bring extra energy tanks. Their patterns are quite unpredictable and your health bar will be trimmed down quickly. You can also purchase items and upgrades for the Blue Bomber between worlds, helping your experience along the way. For me, stocking up on additional lives superseded the mechanical upgrades. With the game as difficult as it is, I found the extra attempts essential in my experience.
Graphically, Mega Man 11 is a joy to look at. Each stage brings a fun, unique element to the world. From an industrial work zone with electric barricades to a world of acid, the designers poured their collective efforts into crafting an enjoyable world to be a part of and watch. Things will often be happening in the background, reminding me of the N64 version of Donkey Kong. Each robot master looks the part, some of them larger than the screen, others quick and nimble, every pixel in the right spot. Occasionally, the bosses will undergo a transformation during the middle of the fight, switching up design entirely.
The music is typical Mega Man fun. Catchy tunes throughout the entire game, all of which helped illustrate the world you are in. While I did enjoy listening to the music, none of the tracks stood out. Some of my all-time favorite tracks are from Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, and the 2018 version did not offer anything memorable. Good? Yes. Great? No.
With all of this in mind, do I recommend Mega Man 11? Absolutely. If you have played ANY of the Mega Man games in the past and even remotely enjoyed the experience, you’ll love this version. While nothing drastically changes in the game besides the Double Gear system, the game is highly-polished, great to look at, challenging, and fun. Mega Man 11 packs a ton of content in a shorter game. You owe it to yourself to stop Dr. Wily once again.