Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

‘Mega Man 11’ is a legendary return for an iconic character

Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.

For a franchise as legendary as Mega Man, it still remains a  shock that the series was dormant for so long. Capcom famously attempted  to destroy the franchise during the dark ages of the company,  cancelling game after game after game at varying stages of development.  The cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 remains the most  heart-breaking, considering the game had a fully fleshed out demo before  getting iced by corporate. The rise of Kickstarter didn’t do the Blue  Bomber any more favors, as his bootleg brother Beck ended up in one of  the highest profile disasters of 2016, Mighty No. 9. Even with an appearance in Smash 4, it seemed the character would simply fade to dust and nostalgic merchandise.

Then, out of nowhere following successful releases of the Mega Man Legacy Collections, Capcom drops their announcement of Mega Man 11,  a modern revival of the classic series. With a promising demo and only  good news coming out of development, it is my pleasure to say that Mega Man 11 is a fantastic return to form for a once-dead legend.

A tune-up to presentation leaves a couple screws loose

Image from Steam

Mega Man 11 is everything a fan has been hoping to get for years now. While Mega Man 9 and 10 are  both great games, they always just seemed to lean too heavy on  nostalgia with the 8-bit art style rather than letting the series  finally evolve to the modern age. Mega Man 11 doesn’t deliver  cutting edge graphics or anything, but it manages to clearly recreate  that classic look with a brand new coat of paint. The character and  enemy designs are all classicaly inspired, but distinct and memorable.  It’s like if they made 3D models directly from the 2D artwork, and it  all looks great in motion. The Robot Masters in particular all look  great, even if Blast Man is possibly a knock-off of Bakugo from My Hero Academia.  The stages also all look wonderful, with some aspects looking  hand-drawn and blending in beautifully with the detailed 3D designs. A  personal favorite of mine is Bounce Man’s stage, with all of its bright  colors and lovely looking balloons. They took the one great aspect of Mega Man 8, the stunning artwork, and gave it new life.

So, visually the game is a stunner, but what about musically? The Mega Man franchise  is famous for its incredible soundtracks full of upbeat and hype tunes  that drive the player through the sometimes insanely hard levels.  Unfortunately, this is one aspect of Mega Man 11 that is a bit of  a miss for me. The soundtrack is overall good, but that’s just because  its great at parts and not-so-great at other parts. For instance, I love  the music in Blast Man’s stage, but Torch Man’s stage has music that  made playing through the level three times as difficult. The sound  design is also hit-and-miss, with the new weapons all having satisfying  sound effects, but iconic sounds like the charging of the Mega Buster  and picking up an E-Tank are noticeably absent. The voice acting, at  least, is pretty good, especially when you consider the series’s past  relationship with… below average voice acting.

Get-equipped with a classic Mega Man experience

Image from Steam

So it looks like Mega Man, sounds (mostly) like Mega Man, but the real question is this: does it PLAY like Mega Man?  The answer is a massive glowing neon YES! This game plays exactly like  you expect it to play. Mega Man runs, jumps, shoots, slides, flies, and  dies in spike pits just like the classics. Add in a few quality of life  changes to how movement works with sliding getting a slight redesign,  the Rush Coil and Jet always being available at the press of a button,  and the quick weapon swap being mapped to the right analog stick and you  have one of the best feeling platformers in a year of fantastic  platformers. It may not change much up in how it plays, but considering  the pain fans went through with Mighty No. 9, it’s like laying in your bed at home after sleeping in hotel beds of various qualities for years.

Yet, the series still needs a bit of innovation to stay fresh and  Capcom delivers the goods with a mechanic that quickly integrates into Mega Man’s arsenal.  The tool added the Mega’s utility belt is the Gear Shift mechanic. This  new trick allows the player to switch on the fly between the Speed  Gear, which slows down the level and any hazards it may contain, and the  Power Gear, which enhances Mega Man’s attacks similarly to how the  upgraded Mega Busters in Mega Man X would. At first, being a  veteran of the series it felt weird to use the gear changes, but by the  Wily stages at the end of the game it came as easily as any other tool  making the flow of stages even better. It always felt satisfying to see  dangerous looking obstacles being made child’s play by the speed gear,  especially in some of the more difficult stages.

Image from Steam

Speaking of which the level design in this game is on point. Each stage is longer than your traditional Mega Man level,  turning stages into more of an endurance run than previous games. While  some might find issue in this I appreciate the longer levels a lot. The  developers get to experiment with a whole range of stage hazards and  gimmicks, sometimes all within a single level. Another great thing is  the lack of RNG within level design. If someone were to execute a stage  perfectly consistently they would likely get the exact same time in  every single run. It comes down to pure skill whether or not the player  can conquer a level, which is a delight to see. My only complaint is  that some longer levels could use a definitive continue point, a  mechanic from Mega Man 8 that I would have highly appreciated here.

A Yellow Devil of a game

In terms of difficulty, don’t be concerned Mega Man fans, this  game has teeth. The normal difficulty for the game, said to be designed  for veterans of the series, is perfectly tuned to bring back the highs  and lows of the classic series. Some stages and Robot Masters are a  breeze, Tundra Man’s in particular being a gentle day out ice-skating  when compared to the spikey-watery Hell that is Acid Man’s stage. The  Wily stages also provide an appropriate challenge, including a Yellow  Devil that may be one of the toughest Devils in the series’s history.  The player is expected to use every weapon at their disposal to get  through the stages, but there’s always something satisfying to just  running-and-gunning your way through using only the trusty Mega Buster  and few extra lives.

Image from Steam

The only aspect that I would say makes the game easier is the return  of the shop mechanic. In previous titles with the shop, bolts were  infrequent enough that purchases had to be made intelligently. In Mega Man 11,  however, the shop can be a bit of a crutch to get through tougher  stages. The upgrades are fantastic additions and make the game even more  enjoyable, particularly the upgrade to the speed gear, but the ability  to buy extra lives on the cheap may be a little too tempting for the  weak-willed. This includes me, of course, I abused the heck out of the  easy extra lives. To the game’s credit, a lot of stages still managed to  devour them faster than I could load my saved data to try again. It’s  tough, but it’s fun in a way that only Mega Man can capture.

And for those who want to get into the series but don’t want to get  pounded into the dust by the Yellow Devil so quickly, easier  difficulties are added for people of various skill levels. I haven’t  tried them out myself, but I’m sure they are a lovely addition for those  looking for it.

Images: Steam

Featured Image: Nintendo

For more entertainment related content, visit us at Bytebsu!