October 18, 2019 at 3:07 AM #631
Mega Man 11
Rating: 4.0 – Great
No Longer Crying Like An Anime Fan on Prom Night
After what seemed like an eternity and multiple canceled games, Capcom has finally decided to grace us with a real sequel to the Blue Bomber, utilizing a more contemporary art style for their visuals instead of recycling the 8-bit NES graphics that were used for Mega Man 9 and 10. After a certain other game left Mega Man fans completely disappointed, Mega Man 11’s development announcement was news that was met with both joy and discretion. Given Capcom’s history of the way they’ve been handling their game development, it was difficult having no skepticism on whether they would treat the Blue Bomber with the love and respect deserving of Capcom’s Mascot.
Well I am happy to say that Mega Man fans can all rest easy, because Mega Man 11 is not only a good game, but it’s also a good Mega Man game that really captures the spirit of the original NES games. For those who are uninitiated with the series, Mega Man (named Rock Man in Japan) is run and gun action platformer that puts emphasis on navigating through cleverly arranged rooms with death traps and enemy placements that tries their best frustrate players in similar fashion to many classics of the 8-bit era like Ninja Gaiden. Every game typically have 8 stages for players to choose from, and players have the options to tackle these stages in any order they want. Defeating the boss of each stage will earn Mega Man a new weapon that varies in utility and range coverage, and having the proper weapon ready can make many stages and rooms a lot easier to navigate and progress. If that wasn’t enough, every boss in the game all have a weakness to one of the 8 possible sub-weapons you receive, and knowing which weapon to use on whom can give players a good idea of which stage route they choose to progress with. With the 8 main stages cleared, you will then be allowed to proceed to the final stage which are usually divided into multiple substages and eventually confront and fight the final boss.
It’s easy to tell that a lot of care was put in the design of the stages. There’s very few room that’s considered a "give away" room, almost all of them have a specific theme, gimmick, or pattern for players to use their execution and reflex to clear, whether you’re dealing with underwater current physics, slippery ice physics, rooms with no illumination, autoscrolling rooms with instant death flames chasing you, simple platforming while avoiding enemy fire, or simply gunning down a strong enemy. The length of each stages are also much longer than most previous Mega Man games, which also means that dying can make you lose a lot of progress as you get sent back to your last checkpoint, which are very few to begin with. You are still stuck with your 3 lives per stage attempt, and losing all 3 means you have to either start over from the beginning of the stage all over again or select a different stage. Imagine reaching the boss with only one life left and very low health and the pressure of knowing you’ll have to start all over if you fall can be very frustrating. The sort of frustration this system can potentially give to players, but just enough to make players not want to give up and try again as players adapt to the stage and boss patterns and improve their gameplay in each successive attempt is one of the many reasons Mega Man games have the following that they have today. While the overall difficulty of Mega Man 11 isn’t nearly as steep or unforgiving as the infamous Mega Man 1, it was still fairly more challenging than many of previous iterations, which is a good thing.
While the story of Mega Man games are largely not important and mostly just serve as an excuse for players to go through 8 stages blasting robot masters, Mega Man 11 was nice enough to give us a bit of backstory between Dr.Light, Mega Man’s creator, and Dr. Wily, the main antagonist who creates or corrupts the robots you fight against. Just by starting up the game we are shown a cutscene of Dr. Light and Dr. Wily in their younger days arguing within their scientist committee on the direction of robotics research. Dr. Light believes in giving robots the ability to think, feel, and make decision for themselves like real humans (which ultimately led to the creation of Mega Man as a house keeping robot before he was converted to a combat robot), while Dr. Wily believes in releasing a robot’s full potential forcefully with his Power/Speed Gear invention, believing that any robot can be a super hero with his research. His ideals were deemed too dangerous and was shut down by the committee, which eventually led the enraged Dr. Wily down the path of evil.
This story exposition is particularly important because this is what one of the major gameplay mechanics of Mega Man 11 revolves around: Dr. Wily’s Gear. Dr. Wily seems to have completed his research on his Power Gear and Speed Gear device, and now he’s installed it on 8 new robot masters (that he conveniently stole form Dr. Light, again) to rampage about with their new found power just to strut his genius. In order to stop these powered up robots, Dr. Light, whom still happens to have Dr. Wily’s prototype, installed the same device within Mega Man to better equip him to combat his new foes, believing that Mega Man would be the one to use this power responsibly and correctly. What this means gameplay-wise is that Mega Man now have the ability to get two power-ups with a limited usage timer. Activating the power gear will temporarily increase Mega Man’s fire power in his buster shots, which is ideal for taking out sturdier robots and bosses, as well as giving sub-weapons a powered up version similar to the Mega Man X games. Activating the speed gear will increase Mega Man’s speed, resulting in everything around him moving in slow motion. This is very useful for navigating difficult rooms and platforming with ease due to the slowdown. Overusing these two gear power-ups will overheat them and lock you out from using them again until their timer recovers.
While these abilities are great for what they do, to many established Mega Man fans, these powers simply makes the game too easy and destroys many of the challenges designed by the developers. Of course, the player always have the option to not use these abilities at all if they wishes, as there are no instances where using them are mandatory to progress through levels. On the other hand, these abilities give speed-runners many new ways to save those seconds and frames, which was clearly in the minds of the developers, as many rooms and their power up placements just screams to be abused with skipping strategies to seasoned speed-runners. Outside of these mechanics, the parts shop from Mega Man 7 and Mega Man and Bass returns, offering a variety of passive power-ups by exchanging the bolts you find in stages. Their effect varies, such as death insurance from pitfalls and spikes, to auto charging your buster, to increased health drop rate from enemies, and much more.
Outside of the main game you have various bonus and challenge modes with its own subset of rules, ranging from clearing X stage by jumping as little as possible, to classic modes like time attack by clearing a stage as fast as possible (complete with online leaderboards for all speed-runners out there), as well as running a gauntlet of 30+ challenge stages with only 1 life and seeing how far you can get. There’s a nice bit of variety of content and challenges for players to attempt even post-game.
The visuals of the game is very well done. This is the first classic Mega Man game to be done in full 3D, but the art style and shader used for the 3D models helped retain Mega Man’s classic colorful cartoony looks. The music of Mega Man 11 however, was a letdown. Mega Man games are famous for their memorable soundtrack that has spawned countless re-arranges from fans and independent artists, and while Mega Man 11’s soundtrack isn’t bad by any means, they just don’t feel as strong or memorable was the previous games. Only a few tracks stuck with me, which sadly isn’t a lot. Mega Man 11 does offer dual audio voice acting, which is also a plus and really adds to the experience. Listening to robot masters shout out "Speed Gear!" or "Power Gear!" as they power up mid-boss fight against you is a pretty cool touch.
With that said, let’s review:
-An actual good Mega Man game after years of silence.
-Aesthetically pleasing art style that retains the classic Mega Man looks.
-Challenging difficulty reminiscent of the classic earlier Mega Man games.
-Very strong and versatile stage designs offering a wide array of challenges.
-Plenty of post game content for a Mega Man game.
-Power and Speed Gear mechanics makes the game too easy.
-Music, while good, isn’t as memorable as previous games.
-Some power-ups from the shop can further take away some of the challenges.
Overall, Mega Man 11 is a fine addition to one’s Mega Man collection and is a worthy sequel to the legacy of one of the great classic IPs from the 80s and 90s. Fans of the series should definitely pick this up and support the series, as its launch price is a very reasonable $29.99. New players who are playing Mega Man games for their first time will also find Mega Man 11 to be a great introductory game, as there are many difficulty levels they can choose from to match their skill levels. Hopefully this game is successful globally and will encourage Capcom to make more Mega Man games in the future.
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