Mega Man 11 (Nintendo Switch) Review


Mega Man is a gaming icon. The series bearing his name is nigh universally regarded as sublime. In typical Wilcox Arcade fashion, I’m terribly late to this party—but I’m so glad I came.

Funnily enough, I actually received Mega Man 11 for Christmas 2 years ago and only just now got around to beating it. Sometimes, when a game really kicks my rear end, I have to take an extended break before I make any headway.

What does my little anecdote say about the quality of the title in question? Lots, naturally, but you’ll have to read on to find out. I’ll weasel you out of 5 minutes of your time whether you like it or not.

Ready, suckers?

Mega Man 11

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Release date: October 2, 2018


Gameplay

Mega Man 11 is a fairly straightforward run-n-gun 2D platformer. The gameplay loop is concise yet captivating: Run and jump across ledges, blast little baddies, and tackle a mid-boss or two before confronting the Robot Master of a given level.

This is something I knew even before diving into the package, but I never could’ve imagined just how fun it would be in practice. No matter how many 2D platformers I’ve played, I can’t say I’d experienced something exactly ike Mega Man until I’d played...well, Mega Man. It’s good stuff.

Perhaps I should be more specific. Mega Man 11 is one of the most pixel-perfect platformers I’ve played in ages—by design, not accident. There were no “saving grace” double-jumps on which I could lean. Before I made any death-defying leaps, I had to be darn sure I was going to land.

Demanding platforming is admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine. Luckily for me, such demands carry over to the combat, as well. Starting out, Mega Man is equipped with no more than the itty-bitty bullets of his M. Blaster, and precision aiming is of the utmost importance.

I really appreciate that Mega Man can run and shoot simultaneously. As painfully obvious as it is to point out while reviewing a, erm, run-n-gun, this “feature” does wonders for the sense of flow in a combat-based platformer.

Shooting isn’t all Mega Man’s got. New to the eleventh entry is the Double Gear system, by which the portly protagonist attacks with more power (Power Gear) or slows down time (Speed Gear) for as long as the rechargeable meter allows.

I absolutely adored the sheer versatility of the Double Gear system in the midst of enemy altercations. While the Power Gear was plenty fun in certain situations, the Speed Gear was my favorite to use by far. I don’t think I would’ve been able to survive most Robot Masters relying on my reflexes alone.

Speaking of Robot Masters, those sons of guns might as well be the star attractions. They’re tough as nails but oh-so satisfying to beat. Again, precision is the key word. My favorite part of beating a Robot Master by far is capturing his ability and using it to take down another Robot Master.

Yes, this is the “rock, paper, scissors” element for which the Mega Man franchise is so well known. In all honesty, I couldn’t always figure out which abilities were effective on a given Robot Master, so I had to rely largely on trial and error. Oh, and items…lots of items.

What are these items, you may ask? Found wihin levels are energy pellets, weapon capsules, Double Gear recharges, 1-ups, and bolts (the game’s fictional currency). There was also this one blue pill-lookin’ item that I kept picking up, but I never actually figured out what it did.

The aforementioned bolts can be spent in Dr. Light’s lab on a plethora of expendable items, including 1-ups, Energy Tanks (refilling health), Weapon Tanks (refilling weapons), Mystery Tanks (refilling energy and weapons), Super Guards (halving all damage taken in a stage), Eddie Calls (dispensing a random item), Beat Call (rescuing you if you fall in a pit), and Pierce Protectors (granting one-time immunity to spikes).

Parts, on the other hand, provide a permanent advantage. Offered are the Energy Balancer (automatically recharging the weapon with the least energy when you pick up a weapon capsule), the Energy Balancer Neo (recharging all weapon gauges when you pick up a weapon capsule), the Auto-Charge Chip (auto-charging the Mega Buster), the Buster Plus Chip (increasing Mega Buster shot size), the Power Shield (lessening push back when taking damage), Spike Boots (enhancing grip on icy surfaces), the Shock Absorber (negating recoil on high-powered Mega Buster shots), the Speed Gear Booster (allowing you to move at normal speed in Speed Gear mode), the Energy Dispenser (reducing energy gauge but enabling the Double Gear technique immediately), the Awakener Chip (allowing you to use special weapons without expending weapon energy) the Bolt Catcher (making bolts appear more frequently), the Energy Catcher (making energy pellets appear more frequently), the Cooling System (recharging the gear system faster), the Mystery Chip (providing a special bonus when you complete a stage quickly), the Buddy Call Plus (increasing the maximum number of Eddie Calls and Beat Calls you can hold), and the Tank Container (increasing the maximum number of Energy Tanks and Weapon Tanks you can hold).

I’m sure there are plenty of gamers who could knock out all the levels using pure skill, but I had to lean on items and upgrades pretty hard to make any real progress. This game kicked my rear end most of the time.

That being said, based on the little bit I’ve played of Mega Man Legacy Collection, I feel like Mega Man 11 is one of the easier entries in the mainline series. Your mileage may vary, but know this ain’t no slouch.

The skinny? Mega Man 11 is tremendously if you’re willing to put in the necessary elbow grease.

Content

I got a surprising amount of mileage out of Mega Man 11—more than 25 hours, in fact. Does that mean Mega Man 11 is lengthy game? Well, the reality is a bit more nuanced than that.

I knocked out the main campaign in just over 12 hours, which is three times the average time on How Long to Beat. The reason for my bloated playtime is, quite simply, I sucked. Early on, I played levels over and over again to little success. My skills (and in-game stats) gradually improved until I was able to breeze through the final four Wily levels without much strife.

As someone with a boatload of patience to my name, whittling away at tough-as-nails video games such as this doesn’t wear on my sanity to any significant degree. I crave the challenge. However, I can understand why some people wouldn’t want the bulk of their gaming hours to comprise of deaths and redos.

If you, unlike me, are an actually competent gamer, Mega Man 11’s campaign shouldn’t eat up too much time. That’s where the downright delightful Extra Modes—which present a variety of special win conditions—swoop in to pad out the experience.

Complete each stage as quickly as possible in Time Attack. Reach the Robot Master using as few jumps as possible in Jump Saver. Reach the Robot Master using as few attacks as possible in Buster Breakdown. Earn as many points as possible in Score Attack. Attack blue balloons in Balloon Rush. Collect eight medals in Medal Collector. Complete brand-new challenges within the time limit in Playground. Fight the eight Robot Masters one after another in Boss Rush. Push though 30 nasty areas without dying in Dr. Light’s Trial.

There’s clearly a ton in store for those who crave the additional playtime—and it’s all a blast to complete. Though I’d like to take a break for the time being, I fully intend to come back to Mega Man 11 whenever I’ve got some time to kill. I foresee many hours ahead of me in order to get gold rank on everything.

Did I mention there are achievements, too? A fat 50, in fact. These range from as inevitable as completing the game on Normal or purchasing five parts to as random as destroying a Tetepakkan from the back or using a Chain Blast to destory a stone wall. I doubt I’ll ever nab every achievement, but I’d sure love to try.

One of the most interesting features is the Gallery, which provides written blurbs on every enemy and boss in the game. Stuff like this is right up my alley, so I’ll come back and read these in the future. (I’m too busy playing Marvel Ultimate Aliance 3 and Legend of Kay: Anniversary at the moment.)

As for options, you can manually remap all the controls, adjust the brightness, play with the volume, change display and voice languages, toggle rumble, and turn off the right stick weapon select wheel. I couldn’t ask for much more than what we got.

Considering that you can pick up a new copy for around $20 to $30 these days, Mega Man 11 delivers a supremely satisfying serving of content.

Controls

Reflecting on my own experience, I have a strong feeling that most players will either love or hate the way Mega Man 11 controls. The game is tight as all darn, sometimes to the point of frustration.

Jumps are all or nothing. While you change direction midair, Mega Man’s arc is pretty well defined. If you’re so much as pixel off, prepare the hit the deck. Fortunately, there isn’t a single jump that’s straight-up impossible. You’ve just gotta have some patience.

Until you upgrade shot size, you’ll also have to be rather precise when wielding the Mega Buster. For regular enemies, this isn’t really that big of a deal, but it can be an issue with bosses. I had to work hard to line up shots when those dudes were bouncing all around the stage.

Overall, I really enjoyed Mega Man’s range of movement. Shoot with the Y button, summon Rush Coil with the X button, summon Rush Jet with the A button, enter Speed Gear with R, enter Power Gear with the L button, cycle weapons with the ZL and ZR buttons, and slide by crouching then pressing the A button.

Once you get the hang out things, Mega Man 11 is honestly a breeze to control—in my eyes at least.

Graphics/Presentation

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Mega Man 11 looks slick as heck. Never once did I take for granted the technical quality or art direction during my playthrough. That being said, I sorta wish some things had been different.

On display is a polygonal 3D reimagining of the classic 8-bit pixel art that comes off as a cross between Dragon Ball Fighterz and New Super Mario Bros. (Weird comparion, I know.) My friend Ethan considers it the best approach to contemporary Mega Man aesthetics, and he’s probably right.

Even so, I can’t help but fantasize about how gorgeous this game would’ve looked had it been rendered more akin to Mega Man 8 in HD. I go crazy for highly detailed sprite work. Unfortunately, I think such work more or less died with the NEO-GEO in the ‘90s.

Allow me to reiterate that what we have here looks plenty pretty. I’m just putting to print something I’ve thought about countless times since embarking on Mega Man’s eleventh mainline outing. At the very least, I can 100 percent confirm that Mega Man’s world makes a graceful transition to 3D. Whoever designed the Robot Masters deserve a raise.

Pivoting to the techy geek crud, I’m immensely grateful that the dudes and dudettes at Capcom got this to run at a smooth 60 frames per second on the Switch. An experience as twitchy and precise as Mega Man 11 would be basically unplayable if there were frame drops of any sort.

The resolution stays similarly consistent—excepting the level introduction screens, which are grainy as all get out for some bizarre reason. Knowing next to nothing about game development, I assume a loading sequence would be less demanding than the moment-to-moment gameplay.

Load times are pretty brief, as you might expect on the Switch. I suppose the most cumbersome presentation element is just how sluggish things can be in spite of these fast load times. Some text and menu elements crawl to a greater degree than I’d like. (Fortunately, most everything can be skipped.)

UI elements are compact yet detail rich. Conveniently stacked to the left side of the screen are the Energy, Rush, and Double Gear gauges. Every other piece of pertinent information can be found within the pause menu, which isn’t much hassle to consult during gameplay.

The way I see it, the story provides solid enough context for the gameplay without blowing anybody’s mind. All I’ll say is this: Don’t expect character development from a 30-year-old platforming series. I liked the story just fine, but I now know to temper my expectations.

What I’m a bit mixed on is how the story is presented. The opening cutscene is presented in still, 2D images and looks fairly nice. All other cutscenes are done in engine and from a side view, which feels a bit cheap. At the very least, I can say they faithfully captured the retro aesthetic.

But hey, Mega Man 11 is a real shiny treat for the senses regardless. Don’t let my 2D-lovin’ weirdness and, like, a handful of goofs put you off from this masterpiece.

Sound/Music

My gosh, can we all take a moment to appreciate the Mega Man 11 soundtrack? Marika Suzuki’s modernized chiptune ditties really did a number on me throughout the entirety of my playthrough.

Unbridled awesomeness smacked me in the face as early as the title screen. The hits just kept on rolling from there. Some personal favorite tracks include “Main Title” (duh), “Dr. Light”, “Game Start”, “Game Over”, “Stage Clear”, “Ending”, and “Staff Roll”. Taste in music is a wildly subjective concept, but I have a feeling most gamers will enjoy what they hear.

As for the rest of the sound design, I’d wager it stacks up just as well. Most of the sound effects are seemingly pulled straight from previous Mega Man games—to great effect, I might add. If you’re a long-time fan of the Blue Bomber, this release should undoubtedly serve as a blast from the past.

I especially appreciated the implementation of stereo sound when I was listening with headphones. While it’s not any groundbreaking, such design hugely contributes to the general sense of “physical space” that may otherwise be lost when playing a 2D platformer. I love what the people at Capcom put together here.

Although I say this about games all the time, Mega Man 11 is not a game for everyone. Some will revel in the unbridled challenge at hand. Some will call the gameplay style archaic. Me? I had a heckuva fun time.

While I still have yet to play the first 10 Mega Man games—let alone the side series—Mega Man 11 has shown me that these classics may very well be worth my time. I just hope I don’t monumentally suck at them.

Anyway, I guess I’d best be lettin’ ya’ll go. Provided you can stomach a decent deal of frustration, I absolutely recommend Mega Man 11, especially if this is your introduction to the franchise.

Catch ya ‘round, freaks.

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