This feels like a long time coming. The last 8 or so years have seen re-releases of Mega Man’s previous outings (including the infamous 8th) and with 9 and 10 being pure digital only at the time, it felt for a while that as part of digital progress, the blue bomber’s final days may have been well and truly done. Especially since 2010 saw the mass cancellation of developments into the franchise, alongside the departure from Capcom of the man most involved with the franchise.
I genuinely thought the only time we’d see his little face would be on occasional Amiibo’s, Smash cameos and the occasional Capcom compilation. It’s this the most that makes me glad to say I was wrong, and want to say thank you to all of the fans who kept buying these compilations, which proved to the upper executives that the franchise still had a market, and with the rise of retro gaming, allowed for the green light for the 11th adventure to come forward.
Before I step into the world of 11, I want to remind people of the digital sequels 9 and 10. Both were fantastic games in 8bit packaging that did what they needed to do. They showcased to the fans and those that played the earlier titles, what was best of the Blue Bomber. Never really altering the formula but playing to the games strengths of finding the optimal level route, alongside finding which weapons work best on each foe and the enemy and level patterns, it provided an instant challenge to the fans. However this came at a cost of alienating new players due to their ruthlessness.
Then… silence, Capcom placed the series on Hiatus, until it’s 30th anniversary.
When the announcement for 11 came, I.. like most people thought the game would continue the trend of 9 and 10 and play graphical homage to the 8/16bit era once more. Which therefore came as more of a shock when the visuals indicated Capcom would be styling the game more around his anime look, which we all love, alongside giving the engine and gameplay mechanics a kick into the 21st century. For this 11 feels less of a sequel, and more the start of the next decade of games, revitalising the franchise rather than just cashing in on nostalgia or yearly improvements (Fifa 19…)
At the heart of this lies the duel gear system, balancing power for shots against power to manipulate movement, never once falling back to re-include the rewind feature from the previous games. Like any system, heavy overuse results in burnout which disables your ability to attack and makes you more vulnerable. While activating both when your almost out of energy, creates a powerful final guns blazing attack with the power to reduce bosses to mere dust, just don’t burn out here, or you’ll face the mother of all recharge recoveries. Oh and if you think this system, created by Dr Wily in his youth is exclusive to Mega Man, you’ll be happy to know that every Robot Master also has the feature, enabling a last minute power up/form change to alter the balance of the fight, and removing that age old tactic of ‘spamming the best move on the boss until it’s dead’ which should make for an interesting challenge to speed runners.
Being a pseudo 2.5D game the levels look beautiful, although the characters do look a little over polished in places. Almost like someone’s just found a copy of Unity, and just dropped those characters straight in. Again, the art style is there, they just needed less shine. Yet looking through the Level’s I’ve played this weekend, I’ve yet to find a weak area design wise, even in the quirky ones like Bounce Man’s there has been enough opportunity to test me on platforming and sequence memorisation. The last game in the series to make me think that was Mega Man X and before that Mega Man 2, so I’m glad this reaches for the same lofty goals.
If anything I would say the worst moments really come from the trials, which are more optional extras, due to the limited lives and rewards on offer. I suspect many wont venture into this part of the game, unless tempted by the promise of achievements/trophies. With regards to difficulty, Mega Man 11 offers four modes out the box: Newcomer, Casual, for us older players who haven’t picked up this series in years, Normal for those looking for reasonable challenge; and Superhero for veterans/nutters. All feel about right, and those of you who take on ‘Superhero’ have your work cut out especially when it comes to boss fights, right down to positioning of enemy placements.
Overall, Mega Man 11 is everything the series needed to be to continue into the next decade, while remembering it’s diverse history. It’s everything we want him to be, and everything that should have been (but wasn’t) with Mighty No 9. the future’s bright, the future’s blue.