Coming October 2 on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Mega Man fans have been some of the hardest-suffering in gaming. Left in the wilderness for years, with no new game in sight, at first we were given a return of the Blue Bomber in his original box art form in Street Fighter X Tekken, which felt like a slap in the face.
Then came the knockout blow with the truly dreadful Mighty No 9. Capcom creaked open the door with re-releases in the form of Legacy Collections, before finally announcing a brand-new numbered entry in the form of Mega Man 11. Getting the chance to battle against two of its bosses, this game shows signs of delivering everything Mega Man fans have waited decades for.
Tying in with our hero’s 30th anniversary, Mega Man 11 goes back to his classic format: old-school 2D side-scrolling with some modern innovations to keep it feeling fresh. This isn’t X, so there won’t be any air dashes or hidden mods within the levels (at least I don’t think). This is all about beating end-level bosses and using their abilities against the next boss you face.
There’s a really cool new Gear mechanic, too. Activated on the shoulder buttons, Mega Man has two new timed abilities that become crucial throughout each level. First is Speed Gear, which slows everything down, allowing Mega Man to take out a bunch of enemies before they have a chance to attack – or dodge projectiles before they land and move through tricky platforming sections before taking hits.
The other is Power Gear, which allows for a super-charged Mega Buster to help quickly dispatch of tricky enemies. It’s limited-time use makes its effectiveness harder to exploit than the Speed Gear – at least in my short time with the game – but once Mega Man can use this gear with boss abilities, it will become far more prominent.
You can also combine both powers into ‘Double Gear’ as Mega Man reaches critical health, which becomes a literal life-saver in boss battles. Being able to slow things down while dishing out extra damage can really help turn the tide.
In the demo, I got to jump into two levels: Block Man and Fuse Man – and immediately it was apparent that this is a beautiful Mega Man game. Colours pop, explosions shine and everything flows exactly how you’d want from a game in the series. Might No 9 this certainly is not.
Even the pacing is classic Mega Man. The way he strolls across the screen feels like it’s ripped right from the NES, and is immediately satisfying. I wouldn’t say it’s old-school, but anybody with those sensibilities will feel right at home.
For those put-off by Mega Man’s challenge, there have been numerous ways in which Capcom has accounted for you, too, across all difficulty levels.
First off, there’s the Newcomer difficulty. Here, enemies take fewer hits to die, Mega Man take less damage from enemy attacks, and when you fall down a pit, a robot bird will come and collect you, after which you choose where to be dropped off in a safe part of the level. However, you can’t have the bird fly you to the end boss – I tried and failed.
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Even for seasoned veterans, Newcomer is a great starter difficulty with which to become familiar and includes level layouts and boss attack patterns.
Then, in Normal difficulty there are ways in which some of the annoyances of earlier entries have been alleviated. It feels like Mega Man’s stun from enemy attacks has been shortened, meaning you’re not stuck screaming at a screen, waiting for control to be wrestled away from the game and back to you to kill that enemy that just hit you.
Also, when Mega Man does get knocked back by a hit, it will only knock him to the end of a platform, not off it. You have to be on the floor for this to be the case, however, so if you’re hit mid-air, you’ll still fall directly down and likely into a chasm.
Enemies from previous entries return – Battons and Mets, for example – but so many new designs are in play and feel right at home in the series. Their design feels inspired by what’s come before, while simultaneously appearing completely fresh. Both levels are wonderfully designed to keep you on your toes, while also constantly giving the feel that you’ve been here somewhere before in the series. It’s beautifully nostalgic.
And again, on Normal, that challenge is as tough as ever. I failed to even make it to Block Man without knocking the difficulty down a notch; Fuse Man was seen only for a brief spell before the ‘Game Over’ screen flashed up and I was back at the start.
Nevertheless, I was eager to jump straight back in and go at it again – because, after so many years, it felt like Mega Man is back.
For the first time in what feels like a generation, Mega Man fans can finally be excited again. A brand-new Mega Man game that doesn’t kick-start your heart strings only to break them, nor does it keep you playing the same games we’ve played for years. This is fresh, it’s fun and based on these two levels – it’s amazing.