It still hasn’t fully sunk in that I’m reviewing Mega Man 11, the eleventh title in the mainline series of one of gaming most famous franchises, and also a game I never thought I would come out. Capcom mostly ignored the series this decade, and many titles tried to take its place. Some titles like Azure Striker Gunvolt were successful, while other like Mighty No. 9 were duds. Now we have an official, eleventh installment to play, and I couldn’t have bee more excited going in.
The weirdest thing is that Mega Man 11 acts like none of those things have happened. The developers have picked up right where the series left off, and are moving the mainline series forward for the first time in decades with the graphical overhaul and new Double Gear system. While some aspects of the game’s presentation are surprisingly lackluster for the lauded series’ triumphant return, Mega Man 11 still provides the satisfying and well-designed platforming that put Capcom on the map in the 80s.
While the Double Gear system is new to Mega Man 11, its origins go all the way back to Dr. Light and Dr. Wily’s college days. The game starts with a cutscene showing the two storied scientists pitching their ideas, though Dr. Light is able to convince the board that Dr. Wily is too violent in his ambitions and gets his invention, the Double Gear system, rejected. This is what started Dr. Wily on the path to become the evil man we all know and love.
Dr. Wily returns, brainwashes a new set of robot masters, and gives them the Double Gear to up their powers, so Dr. Light gives Mega Man the same ability so he can go and stop them. Putting the story’s roots so far back in the Mega Man timeline is a good way for Mega Man 11 to establish its story within the series canon and a necessary continuation, which helped motivate me beyond my pre-release hype. That being said, I’m not very impressed with how Mega Man 11 presented cutscenes throughout the game.
These presentation flaws are the most prominent sore spot for me throughout the entire game. There are no fully animated cutscenes, only static in-game models or more detailed drawings with dialogue on top of them. For a series that has had more impressive cutscenes (for the time they were released in at least) in the past, the presentation of these struck me as surprisingly budget title feeling and not too dissimilar to how Mighty No. 9 did things. For the eleventh entry in such as famous series, this really stands out.
In-game models also had a bit of notable aliasing in Switch handheld mode as well, which took me out of some of the cutscenes as well as some gameplay segments. While some of this could be attributed to the game going for a “retro feeling,” I’d rather Capcom put more effort into this part of the game. I’m not saying it needs a story on the level of the Mega Man X series, but a little more polish and fleshing out would’ve been nice. The soundtrack is also bit unmemorable, considering the series’ pedigree in this department.
The presentation isn’t all bad though. Outside of the aliasing issue mentioned above, the game otherwise has a very colorful and nice-looking art style. Considering that Mega Man 9 and 10 opted to go with the same graphical style of the NES games, Mega Man 11 took a risk going for something more akin to a 3D version of Mega Man 7 or 8, and it paid off. The design of returning characters is sleek and recognizable, while the new enemy and robot master designs are memorable.
Graphics are one place Mega Man 11 doesn’t get caught up in trying to be a retro-imitation outside of a few classic movements, which is appropriated in the era of pixel art games that Mega Man 9 and 10 helped kick off. Voice acting is also good all around for the basic dialogue they are given. This includes Dr. Light, so no more “Dr. Wahwee” or “we must wecover all the energy immediately w-Mega Man.”
As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout the review, Mega Man 11 tries to iterate and build upon the series with interesting new level gimmicks and mechanics. Even though Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were fun in their own right, one could definitely argue that those games tended to feel like more of Mega Man 2, not true continuations of the series. Mega Man 11 doesn’t have that problem, mainly due to the new double gear system.
That isn’t to say gameplay feels unfamiliar. From the start, Mega Man can jump, shoot, slide, and Call Rush, with various other small upgrades to be purchased during the adventure. Mega Man feels as good and responsive as ever to control, showing that Capcom hasn’t lost their touch with gameplay even after an extended hiatus.
The only small problem I had with gameplay, which could also be coupled with my presentation issues, is that the hit detection on some walls or objects in tight spaces could feel a bit off. Going up really thin openings was also a pain, and Bounce Man’s stage, while easy, was a bit annoying to get through because I would occasionally bounce off a wall or corner it didn’t seem like I had hit.
Level design was excellent most of the time. The game does a great job of introducing a gimmick, enemy, or hazard in an isolated environment before mixing them all in some true gauntlets that test your skills later in the game. These are some of the tightest controls and level layouts Capcom has produced in years, which is why it was a shame that when some parts of levels would become unfairly difficult at some points, usually when running away from or falling into an instant-death hazard.
These sections were a bit too unforgiving and were probably done to ensure Mega Man 11 had retro-like difficulty. Sadly, these sections just end up being frustrating and dated and made want to cheese through them with extra lives and an ample supply of E-tanks. One boss fight towards the end of a game with a classic boss, in particular, was infuriating, even with the buffs mentioned above, which was very disappointing considering it came off of one of Mega Man 11’s best-designed stages.
Some situations that would seem difficult usually can be solved or made easier with the help of the new Double Gear system, which is the best addition to the Mega Man series formula since the charge shot. After being equipped with it at the start of the game, the Blue Bomber is able to use the Speed Gear to slow down time or the Power Gear to get a power boost. These might seem excessive at first until you notice that both the stages and robot master fights were designed with these mechanics in mind.
The speed gear especially can be used in many situations to outrun something or slow an enemy down to keep them vulnerable longer. Coupled with the upgrades that let Mega Man move at normal speed during this time as well as the automatic charge shot, some really neat opportunities can open up for skilled players who want to take advantage of the system.
If you are at very low health as well, you can activate the Double Gear Boost, which slows down time and increases Mega Man’s power at the same time and will probably be helpful to new players. Personally, I used that less often and instead choose to see what creative ways I could use the Double Gear system and boss abilities in unique ways within stages.
On that note, the Robot Masters in Mega Man 11 are all memorable and quirky and give Mega Man some interesting abilities after a neat looking sync sequence. Boss weaknesses even make sense concerning each one’s theme for the most part (You can check out our boss order guide for more information). Once you’re done with the main game, there is a pretty hefty challenge mode to tackle, which should keep more talented players interested.
The main game is quite short though, only lasting about up to 8 hours if you are inexperienced or playing on a harder difficulty. That length shouldn’t really come as a surprise to most series fans, but it alongside the presentation inconsistency and occasional frustrating room or boss may drag things down for some, especially for $29.99. For me though, the mostly excellent level design and willingness to iterate upon and change up parts such as long-running formula more than make up for it.
Mega Man 11 is a very faithful and exciting continuation of the series many players have come to know and love. After such an extended time away from the character, it’s great to see Capcom bring the series back mostly unscathed. The game’s easier difficulty modes and Double Gear system help make the experience more appealing to new players, while the intricacies of the level design, boss order, using the gears will keep veterans pleased.
The Mega Man series is back, and with Mega Man 11’s ending indicating it’s here to stay, I couldn’t be happier. Even when taking this title’s problems into account, Mega Man 11 has finally given the series forward momentum for the first time in years, and I can’t wait to see where Capcom does with the famous Blue Bomber next.