Release Date: October 2, 2018Platform: PS4 (reviewed), XBO, Switch, PCDeveloper: CapcomPublisher: CapcomGenre: Action-Adventure
There have been some truly great Mega Man games (2 and 3 come to mind immediately) and some pretty bad ones (like 6 and 7), and plenty that are somewhere in-between. Mega Man 11 adds a fresh coat of a paint to the series and the initially intriguing Double Gear system, but in the end, it just can’t escape feeling like another by-the-numbers Mega Man sequel.
Let’s start with the positives. The Double Gear system is the biggest innovation a mainline Mega Man game has seen in decades. Click one trigger button for the Speed Gear and Mega Man slows down time to dodge attacks. Click another button for the Power Gear and get a powerful new attack. But don’t overuse either or they overheat. When Mega Man’s life is on the line, he can call on the power of both gears for a super powerful shot that leaves him completely drained for a few moments.
The Double Gear system is actually incorporated into the story in some interesting ways, and I had fun experimenting with it at first, but most of the time I forgot about it. It feels kind of gimmicky and even unnecessary.
The other big change in Mega Man 11 is, of course, the graphics. It’s hard to believe, but this is the first true HD Mega Man game, since the last two titles went back to their retro roots with NES-inspired visuals. The results are largely positive. Finally, Mega Man and the world of 20XX look exactly like the box art we were promised long ago (if not better), and it’s always a welcome sight to see new visual takes of some of the blue bomber’s oldest foes.
But while this is easily the best looking Mega Man game, the stages themselves aren’t especially interesting to traverse. And most of them incorporate some especially frustrating hazards that will likely have you dying dozens of times (or just lowering the difficulty) before you finally get past them. I found Bounce Man’s stage and its tricky jumps to be especially frustrating, and the constantly creeping fire of Torch Man’s stage is sure to lead to some broken controllers.
Robot masters themselves are similarly a mixed bag. While Block Man and his extra giant form are a standout encounter, and Acid Man deserves credit for originality, most of these bosses are just variations on the same elemental themes of fire, ice, and electricity we’ve seen for decades now. It’s surprising to see Capcom take a step back from some of the more creative designs of the last few mainline Mega Man games.
My favorite stages, the ones that best combined new ideas and throwbacks to older titles, were actually the first two Dr. Wily stages. After conquering Dr. Wily, there are some missions and time trials to tackle, but that’s about it. Mega Man games have never been known for their length, but this is an especially barebones offering.
But the most disappointing part of Mega Man 11 has got to be the soundtrack. In the NES era, Mega Man games were known for having some of the best soundtracks in gaming. A lot of those songs still hold up well. The Mega Man 11‘s soundtrack, on the other hand, is completely forgettable. It sounds like it could have been composed for any random indie game. Given the franchise’s lineage, it’s just sad how little care apparently went into the music. At least the voice acting and other sound effects are competent though, even if nothing really stands out.
Mega Man 11 looks great and the controls are as tight as ever, but poor level design, unnecessary new mechanics, and an abysmal soundtrack hold it back from greatness, or even from being one of the better Mega Man games. Hardcore fans will check it out no matter what, but everyone else is better off revisiting the blue bomber’s classic hits instead.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.