RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Nov 2nd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Crabmaster2000)
Posted under Mega Man 11, Capcom, Platforming, Rush, Wily, Light, Roll, Master Robots, Buster

As someone who's grown up with and lived and breathed Mega Man since the age of about five, I was particularly excited for Mega Man 11 to come out this year. I have a friend who has gone through every mainline and X series Mega Man game with me, so we cleared our first Saturday morning after it's release to dive into the game. Fast forward to one week later and I've done all there is to do in Mega Man 11: beaten it on each difficulty, unlocked every upgrade, gold medaled every challenge, and obtained every stamp in the record menu. So where does 11 fall on the Mega Man spectrum for me?

A few things really stood out to both myself and my friend during our initial playthrough that made this game feel a bit different than any previous Mega Man game. The levels were longer, the music seemed muted, the mid-bosses for the most part were very impressive, and the controls weren't quite a tight as I'd like them to be. We were also divided on the visual aesthetic.

Longer Mega Man means more Mega Man, so that is a big plus in my book. I'm a fan of the longer level design. I could see if someone was not enjoying a particular stage gimmick that they may find it frustrating. For example, if you didn't enjoy using the balls in Bounce Man's stage to launch yourself across pits, or were finding the acid pools in Acid Man's stage to be dishing out too much damage, or if the Quick Man-style instant death infernos of Torch Man's stage were too unforgiving, I could see having more of those things to be overwhelming. Coming from the perspective of someone who is quite familiar with the series, I loved the additional challenge that these longer levels provided.

The muted music was simply adjustable in the in-game menus, so we turned the music up and the rest of the effect down and it really helped a lot. I've never had to do that in a Mega Man game before. Music has always been such and integral part of the series that it's been up front and loaded in every previous release. It was an odd choice in the sound mix for sure. After solving that issue, I could take a proper listen to each track. Soundtrack wise the game falls in line with the weaker end of the series. In my opinion, there are 3 stand out tracks and the rest are just mediocre. I'll link my favorites at the bottom, but please chime in if you feel I missed any great tunes.

Now during my initial run, I had some control issues such as many dashes in unintended directions, falling into pits, accidentally swapping abilities, and not being able to reliably use both the new gear modes. After finishing the game in the default setting with the mounted Joycons, I swapped over to a Switch Pro Controller or used handheld mode. I also swapped the use of the trigger so that the ability swap was moved to the front triggers and moved the gear mode to the rear ones. Lastly, I disabled the new function to swap abilities on the fly with the right stick. I was finding that I hit it unintentionally way too much and it needed to go. After making these changes, the game controlled flawlessly and just felt really natural.

Now that I was able to comfortably use the new gear system, I got a far better chance to explore it and it was a lot of fun. The Speed Gear, which slows down time, makes tight dodges, tricky platforming, or spamming a simple shot as quickly as possible much easier. And since it doesn't ever fully run out (can overheat and need an extended cool down if abused though) you are encouraged to freely experiment with it to help you overcome new obstacles. However, I found myself using it less and less as I got more comfortable with each new challenge. It was a great learning tool/crutch for earlier runs and became less necessary during consecutive plays, but was still great to recover from mistakes that were bound to happen. On the other hand, I didn't use the Power Gear much at all until I started getting into the post-game challenges and needed that little bit of extra fire power in many circumstances. It basically supercharges your special abilities and is more useful with some abilities than others.

The enemies hit that sweet spot for me and there are just enough classic baddies returning to tickle my nostalgia, while also introducing a hefty bunch of new villains to the game; all of which fit in nicely to the Mega Man roster. Returning are the classics like Metool, Sniper Joe, and the Yellow Devil, and their ranks are bolstered with newcomers like Arc Weldy, Boyorn and the devilish Anti-Eddie! As I mentioned above, the Mid-Bosses were pretty fantastic as well. All of them were huge and vibrant and really fit into the theme of whatever stage you were playing.

As for the new Robot Masters, the only one that I feel was a total miss was Impact Man. His ability once in your hands is fantastic, but otherwise, he is boring visually and easily the least enjoyable boss fight in the game. The rest of the bosses have that great Mega Man quality where they feel impossible to defeat in your initial encounter, but after a few attempts you start to learn their patterns by discovering how they move and finding the appropriate weapon to dispatch them with. Each of them has a "desperation" mode when their health is depleted under half where they will either use a Power Gear or Speed Gear like Mega Man has equipped. This can be very cool. For example, when Fuse Man starts moving so fast you can't possibly track him or when Block Man morphs into a giant stone Golem and can dish out massive damage. This is a cool element that I don't remember seeing in the mainline series, but shares some similarities to several of the Mega Man X games in which bosses unlock stronger attacks when they get closer to death.

Beyond just the four difficulties to help players of all skill levels finish the game, there is also an in-game shop that you can spend bolts that you earn from defeating enemies during your playthrough that will power up Mega Man even more than the gear system already does. This ranges from simple items like 1Ups and Energy tanks to chips that auto charge your buster or help cool down your gears faster. If you're having particular trouble with a certain type of obstacle, such as spikes or pits, you can even find items to assist you with those specific troubles. There are even a couple post-game items that unlock after you defeat Wily that make the game fun to mess around with as they supremely overpower you as compared to your initial run through the game.

Speaking of Wily, his fight is really great and very in line with previous entries. It really encourages use of the gear system, so don't be shy about learning how to use them during the rest of the game. I had hoped for a bit more than two Wily stages though, but they are are pretty great, especially the new take on the Yellow Devil.

In addition to the main game, there are plenty of extra modes to keep you busy. Basic modes like Time Trials and Score Attacks are here, but also some oddities like the Balloon Mode, Don't Jump/Shoot Modes, and the lofty Dr. Light Trials! Over the years, thanks to (S)GDC, Twitch, and Youtube, I feel like Mega Man has become somewhat synonymous with Speed Running to the Time Trials, which feel right at place here, challenging you to beat each separate level as quickly as you can with online leaderboards to track your skills against others. Beyond that, nearly every other challenge mode is timed as well so if straight time trials aren't your thing, maybe a different take on it will be.

For me, the Balloon Mode was a stand out. In this mode, all of the enemies are gone from each stage and instead there are Red and Blue Balloons place strategically through each level. Your goal is to touch or shoot every Blue Balloon while avoiding each Red Balloon. By hitting a Red Balloon you'll suffer a small time loss and by missing any of the Blue Balloons you'll suffer a large time loss. The levels are quite easy to finish since there are no enemies, but it's quite a challenge to score yourself a Gold Medal time and for me it was a lot of fun both mastering the levels as well as experimenting with weapons and methods to avoid or destroy balloons in the most efficient manner.

Score Attack Mode was by far the worst. There is a reason highscore hasn't been a part of Mega Man since the initial game. It's just not fun. It's all about finding a spot to farm points and respawn enemies so each level simple requires you to find a cluster of easily dispatched baddies and continuously destroy them while keeping your eyes on the timer. Not fun.

Most of the other modes can be a lot of fun though, such as making your way through each stage while shooting the least amount of shots as possible or taking the least amount of jumps as possible. Some clever use of weapons and items are required to get good scores on these challenges and you can often surprise yourself with silly methods of avoiding a jump or jumping over multiple obstacles at once or taking some intentional damage to score that elusive Gold Medal.

The Doctor Light Trial is an interesting idea where they have designed a set of 30 challenge stages with the 10th, 20th, and final level being the Dr Wily stage Boss fights followed by a small health and weapon energy recharge. You are tasked with making it through all 30 stages with these limited resources and many of the areas are quite tough and often full of spikes, pits, or high damage enemies. After beating this challenge, you are "rewarded" with an endless version in which you need to beat it at least twice in a row with only the same amount of resources you get the first time for the Gold Medal. At this point, you should be fairly sufficient with just the Buster, so it's not a huge stretch to achieve, but it's really not that fun after doing essentially the same thing just before it. It's kind of a let down for the final challenge of the whole game.

All in all, I really enjoyed Mega Man 11 and grew to like it more the more time I spent with it. As I messed around with the controls and controller methods and even the in game sound options, I was able to optimize the game to feel better for me. This is something I've never had to do in any previous game so it does feel weird and a bit unnatural, but it works, so I can't really complain. I wish the soundtrack was stronger and I still maintain that this is among the uglier games in the series, but neither of those opinions keeps this game from being a lot of fun and a great new game in the series. While it doesn't dethrone my favorites in the series, it definitely cracks my top 5 and after letting it settle, it may eventually make a run at the top 3.

Only Tracks I feel are worthwile:

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Wow, great in-depth review, Crabby! I must admit, I was excited about this game coming out, but after diving back into the MM series recently via the Legacy Collections, I have found that I'm much worse at MM games than I had previously remembered. I want to play this, but the extra long stages and challenging elements are something I might have to warm up to. I may wait to grab this one until I've played through a couple of the older games and get a bit more of my confidence and skill built back up.
It does seem daunting at first, but the new difficulties and the item shop to help upgrade your character really do make the game very manageable for any skill level. I wouldn't hesitate to get it if your only reservation is the level of challenge.
@MetalFRO: Double what Crabby said, FRO.  The game just makes it easy for almost anyone to pick up and play.  Doesn't mean it will guide you to the end though.  I downloaded and played every Mega Man demo I could find on the PSN store for PS3 and had pretty much the same experience you did, that being terrible.  I really stink at MM games now, like badly.  But, I played the MMXI demo with my son on his Switch and had a ton of fun, and that is saying something.  I had all but left MM to live in the halls of my memory (better to let rosy reds keep'em bright), but with MMXI I feel like I could maybe play this one.  Well, maybe 2 (and 6; Woo-hoo!).

Anyway, awesome review, Crabby.  I was having so much fun I didn't even hear the music (which maybe is saying something), so I will have to go back and listen.
Great read Crabby.  I've been meaning to pick this up but just haven't for some reason.  I'm definitely going to be picking this up soon though.  I like the idea of longer stages.  I always felt that they were too short(even though I'm not that great at MM games)

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