If you’re of a certain age, chances are you remember renting video games for the weekend. There were games that were better or worse for this sort of situation; it’s rare you’d be able to finish an RPG before having to take it back, for instance, while action games and platformers tended to be better choices. The Mega Man series were solid contenders for rental choices; they were short enough to be beaten in a weekend but difficult enough to present a fair challenge. It may have been this quality that doomed the series, as there was little reason to actually purchase them. Well, today we’ve got Mega Man 11 to un-doom the series and prove that it might be worth purchasing a Mega Man game after all (though 9 and 10 both did a great job there as well!)
Dr. Wily’s at it again! This time he’s hoping to get some vindication for an invention of his that was poo-pooed by Dr. Light back in their younger years: the Double Gear system, a device that allows any robot to become a superpowered hero by drastically boosting their speed or power. Light chose to focus instead on making robots self-aware and Wily’s carried a grudge ever since. Now he’s corrupted eight new Robot Masters, equipped them with the Double Gear system and sent them to wreak havoc! It’s up to a Double Gear-equipped Mega Man to save the day like he always does.
Well, mostly like he always does. Mega Man 11 is out to update the classic formula just a bit. Along with the obvious changes to the series’ aesthetic, Mega Man 11 also introduces the aforementioned Double Gear system as a gameplay element. This enables you to enhance Mega Man in one of two ways – Speed Gear lets you slow down time to better dodge attacks or make precise moves while Power Gear drastically enhances the Blue Bomber’s weapons, including special weapons. These both run on a cooldown meter and allowing that to max out will disable the Double Gear system for a time. While you never seem to need to use the Gears, they’re a lot of fun and add a little something to the classic Mega Man experience.
That’s not to say this doesn’t feel like a Mega Man game, because it totally does. In particular, it’s tough! Stages are fairly long and packed with enemies and hazards that are bound to wreck your face, while battles against the new Robot Masters are often brutal, especially when they use their own Double Gear abilities. Defeating a boss will, as always, let you claim their weapon, and the set here is one of the stronger arsenals we’ve seen in these games; the Power Gear offering enhanced firepower does a lot to make each weapon feel usable.
You’ve got lives in Mega Man 11, unlike many modern games, so dying enough will send you back to the start of the stage to try again. Collecting Bolts will allow you to purchase power-ups to make things a little easier. Again, though, you don’t need to do this. It’s just nice to see a game that really recalls how brutal classic platformers used to be without relying on the 8-bit aesthetic crutch. Little touches help make Mega Man 11 a little more pleasant to play, as well, like putting Rush’s movement abilities on their own dedicated buttons and offering a quick-select option for special weapons.
There was some justified concern regarding the new 3D aesthetic on display in Mega Man 11, but I feel like that concern ended up being unnecessary. It’s a great-looking game, particularly in motion, and it’s very true to the look and feel of the classic titles. What changes there are help enhance the experience rather than replacing classic touches, such as how Mega Man’s entire outfit changes based on what special weapons he’s got equipped rather than just his color palette. Even the music and sound effects would fit in nicely with an older title after a little downsampling. It’s a classic experience updated to the modern age rather than the usual indie standby of a modern experience desperately trying to be classic.
Mega Man 11, then, is an easy recommendation whether you’re after a classic or modern platforming experience. It’s proof that this formula can still work if it’s given a little love; Mighty No. 9 didn’t “get” Mega Man the way that Mega Man does. If you’re of the age we mentioned before, there’s a fair chance you’ve got fond memories of Mega Man, and Mega Man 11’s going to do a great job of bringing those memories into today’s world.