Despite the huge effort that Capcom made to celebrate the Mega Man’s 30th anniversary, it’s still hard to believe that it has been eight years since our little azure-tinted hero dusted off the old Mega Buster. Well, he’s back now, fully charged and ready for action as Rockman hops into gear in Mega Man 11. The key question is, can this brand new sequel tickle the taste buds of the modern gamer while simultaneously seeking approval from the hardened fans of the past?
Unless you have been sleeping under a bridge for the last three decades, you will probably already have a good idea of what to expect from a Mega Man game. Eight themed stages guarded by eight robot masters, all of whom are in possession of a juicy new weapon for our Blue Bomber to steal. In this latest bot-busting adventure, the despicable Dr Wily wakes up from a nightmare in which he relives a bad memory. While the unwelcome flashback stirs up a sour taste in the mouth of the evil genius, it also sparks the idea of a potential use for a once discarded prototype. This, of course, leads to a new plan for domination and it’s up to the pint-sized hero take on the evil forces of the nutty professor. To achieve this, the Blue Bomber can no longer simply rely solely on his famous Mega Buster and Charge Attack to get the job done. This time, he now has access to a multi-functional technology known only as the Double Gear System.
In using the very same prototype that was created and then dumped by the villainous Dr Wily in his youth, this handy little device provides the player with the technique to slow down time or increase the power of each weapon for a limited duration. Both abilities share the same energy gauge that will eventually overheat and malfunction – deeming it temporarily useless if used to its maximum capacity. Knowing when (or what) function to apply at any given moment is key to a successful strategy within the gameplay. A heavily armoured foe may need to chew on some extra firepower to tear it down for example, or a highly congested area would fit nicely for a John Woo-style slow-motion dive as the Blue Bomber blasts his way out of a sticky situation.
The Double Gear System is implemented right from the beginning of the game and is easily accessible with a quick tap of the L or R Buttons. However, the technology does have one more sneaky trick hidden up its sleeve. Once Mega Man’s life meter drops to below a certain threshold, a devastating Double Gear Technique can kick into effect when slamming into both functions simultaneously. This leads into an all or nothing last-ditch attempt to take out that robot master during those incredibly tense situations where your life hangs by a thread. If your attacks miss or don’t quite nail enough damage to clean out the bosses life bar, then you are left completely vulnerable into becoming nothing more than a pile of blue scrap metal.
As you would imagine, landing an epic final shot with the Double Gear Technique to finish off a guardian is an extremely rewarding sensation. In fact, the whole Double Gear System, in general, is an absolute joy to use as it never feels overpowered in its standard state. There are some ingenious ways in how the system can be implemented but by no means is it a necessary requirement for the player to even use at all. It’s very possible (although very difficult) to completely bareback the whole adventure old school should you viciously crave for the ultimate challenge.
While Mega Man games are notoriously known to be fiendishly difficult, there are a few things set in place to soften the blow for the less eccentric player. In similar fashion to later instalments of the previous games, you can collect bolts that work like currency to upgrade the values of your abilities. This includes simple perks like extra Energy Tanks and life stock to keep you in the game or more fully-fledged enhancements such as providing you with the power to still move at a normal pace when manipulating time with the Double Gear System. The shop is generally updated regularly and is littered with plenty of similar boosts that can be purchased quickly thanks to how easy it is to earn bolts.
Surely, there will be hardened fans who will undoubtedly scoff at the idea of such safety nets and get-out-of
-jail-free cards. The sole concept of catering to the lesser skilled player can sound like it tarnishes the series reputation with a submissive wave of a white flag. In any case, if you do hunger for a more perversely challenging appetite, then Mega Man 11 has certainly not forgotten about you. The grid of in-game achievements will see to it that you have all the proof you need to boast of your accomplishments. Just try beating the game on Superhero difficulty without spending a single bolt and see if you still have something to frown about. If the temptation to buy becomes too much for you, then maybe you’re not quite as hotshot as you may think you are.
The challenge to be found in Mega Man 11 doesn’t just end with the main story campaign. There’s tons of extra content embedded here to keep the old power armour in practice. Modes such as Time Trials are available for each stage to mark your territory amongst the online leaderboards, whereas the Balloon Rush mode will challenge you to take out all the blue balloons while avoiding red ones. Then, of course, I mustn’t forget Dr Light’s Trials – a challenge ladder that contains a familiar but nasty surprise that’s waiting for you. There are nine challenge categories in total with each one split into a plethora of subcategories for you to abuse yourself in.
Having access to an all-new gear system and extra features is all well and good, but how does the game itself stand up to the rest of its lineage? Well, you will be pleased to hear that Mega Man 11 feels, smells and sounds like a core sequel without relying too heavily on nostalgia. Controls are very tight and responsive with the Right Stick now catering for suit-swapping abilities on the fly. The design of the levels and the enemies to accompany them are as adorable as ever and fit perfectly within the lore of the franchise. There’s plenty of new ideas that make up each lengthy stage design that feel incredibly fresh and somewhat different from what you may normally expect from the average Mega Man title. I don’t even want to go into detail for what’s in store in an effort not to spoil any surprises, but if you have played the demo, then just understand that you are genuinely just scratching the surface of an excellent Mega Man adventure.
In any case, the real stand out point of Mega Man 11 has to be the bosses. Each one is very different by design and full to the brim with personality. Eating a roundhouse kick from Torch Man has a firecracker sting to it, while blasting Bounce Man around the joint will have you dodging death like Neo from The Matrix. The power suits you obtain for your efforts in victory are as equally great to look at, too. Gone are the days of a simple palette swap in favour of a robust wardrobe fit for one of the most badass robots on the planet.
The only real problem that I had with Mega Man 11 didn’t even have anything to do with the game itself, but rather the Joy-Con on Nintendo Switch. While the game plays just fine with Nintendo’s versatile controllers, the fact of the matter is that the Right Stick sits so close to the buttons that it would tend to cause me a lot of frustration. Seeing as the Right Stick can be used to swap power suits easily, I found myself constantly slipping into different forms unintentionally. This can be a nightmare during faster paced moments or when you are trying to stay suitably dressed for the occasion. You can turn the feature off in favour of the pause menu or ZL or ZR Buttons to change attire, but I really didn’t want to do that due to how convenient I found the suit wheel to be. Not only that, but you can always handily revert back to the original blue suit with a quick click of the Right Stick and turning off this support disables that particular function entirely. I suppose that I can’t grumble too much as it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of portability. It just happens to grind my gears enough for me to whinge about.
It may have been a long time coming but Mega Man sure knows how to make a grand entrance at his own party. This may sound like a bold statement, but, after pushing nostalgia aside, Mega Man 11 could quite possibly be the greatest adventure yet for many a fan looking to fire off some lemons. The stages are beautifully designed, the music stands in serious competition with the best of the series, and the gameplay as a whole is an absolute joy to interact with. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not, I would highly recommend Mega Man 11. For those who are as diehard as they come, there’s no better way to upgrade your Nintendo Switch into a fully-fledged Mega Man machine than to top it off with this wonderfully formed little cherry bomb of a sequel.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom