For the first time in eight years, we have a brand new entry to the original Mega Man series. After flops such as Mighty No. 9 only two years back, it’s a bold move for sure. Thirty-one years and two legacy collections later, there’s a level of reverence surrounding the design philosophy of the Mega Man series.
Looking at the previous titles, I have narrowed down what I believe makes a strong entry in the series. Firstly, one of the most unchanging things about the design of Mega Man is the controls. No matter what game you are playing, the blue bomber moves accurately.
The movement has always been at a highly controllable speed, while controlling jump trajectory mid-air makes the control scheme of the first ten titles beautifully simple to control. Secondly, the series has always been lauded for creative, challenging and intuitive level design, easing players in before increasing the difficulty.
Finally, each title broke new ground in terms of gameplay with the innovative special weapons and their interactions. With these aspects in mind, we shall see how 11 stands up.
While it features hand-drawn environments and colourful characterisation, in spirit it is truly classic
Let’s begin with Block Man’s stage: I immediately felt at home from the healthy degree of difficulty throughout. A welcome change was the boss, which showed a markedly different second phase. These changes halfway through are echoed by all of the bosses, creating another hurdle for the player as they have to adapt to these new phases.
Level design also hits home on many fronts, with challenging sections preceded by shorter, more controlled snippets to help the player understand and overcome the mounting challenge. For me, the most outstanding stages - Bounce Man, Fuse Man and Blast Man - all brought new ideas to the series, which also gel incredibly well with the new ‘double gear’ system introduced in this title.
While Mega Man 11 may appear new, The ‘double gear’ system allows the player to either slow down time or power up weapons, which opens up entirely new gameplay possibilities. However, upgrading the blue bomber with 'parts' allows customisation reminiscent of Mega Man X, but fails to match the excitement of growing stronger, obstructing these changes behind a shop and an annoying robot.
Herein comes a stark difference between old and new, as the shop system has now replaced many in-level pickups. No longer does the player have to wait around in a single area, grinding for life pellets to fill the four E-Tanks.
Instead, their skillful play is rewarded with bolts to be spent in the shop. These items are also fairly limited, meaning they may only be used once or twice, and they cannot be used to breeze through difficult areas, instead supplementing the player’s skills.
To round up, Mega Man 11 may feel reminiscent of previous entries into the series, but, barring some forgettable music, it adds to the difficulty and creativity of the series in many new ways. While it features hand-drawn environments and colourful characterisation, in spirit it is truly classic. Mega Man 11, at £25, is refreshing in its simplicity, with much more killer than filler packed into its approximately 5 hour length.
Not only am I impressed with this new director, but also hopeful for the future of the franchise.