Mega Man is one of the longest-running side-scrollers around. It’s seen multiple revamps and re-releases, most recently being the Legacy X collection for Switch. With Mega Man 11, I was hoping all of the improved, refined, innovative games that have come out as a homage to the classic man in blue would in return influence the next installment in the long-running series. Unfortunately, the lack of innovation and unresponsive controls left Mega Man 11 feeling like a shell of the game it was trying to be.
It’s no new news that the Mega Man franchise is known for it’s demanding gameplay, and pinpoint accuracy. However, while a part of this is what you’d expect from a Mega Man game, the button input lag works against you and leaves the challenges you’re presented with feeling borderline unfair. Obviously, it can’t all be blamed on “button lag”, this game is meant to be challenging, and as such, I went in expecting to die countless times, but there is a fine line between player mistakes and what the game is responsible for.
The only new addition to this title is the Double Gear system, which traversal heavily relies upon. Hitting one bumper lets you increase Mega Man’s power, but the weapon energy required is so taxing I often didn’t bother with that option unless I was in a boss fight. Tapping the other button slows down everything around you, and it is this mechanic that basically runs the show.
Navigating through Mega Man’s levels is impossible without the use of the feature, primarily because every level has sections that require you to shoot out obstacles while jumping and sliding through moving platforms that are always headed towards some deadly contraption. This is a large portion of where the button lag and pin-point accuracy rear their ugly heads. Again, to an extent, this can be partially blamed on player error, but there are some sections, regardless of how comfortable you might be with the controls, where you will inevitably come up short so many times, you know it’s not just your fault.
Mega Man 11 is a speed runner’s dream, and those looking for a challenge will absolutely find that here. Sadly, this difficulty spike makes the title severely limited in terms of accessibility. Only the die-hard fans that grew up with the series will most likely stick it through the games most aggravating sections. Newcomers looking to dive into the series should probably look for other titles to serve as their jumping on point.
When Samus Returns dropped for the 3DS it was a remarkable feat that delivered a classic re-imagining of a beloved title that brought a slew of changes to the gameplay as well. I went into Mega Man 11 excited to see what decades of improvements would bring to the series, aside from the Double Gear system though, Mega Man 11 is nothing new. The gameplay feels stuck in the 90’s and while I can appreciate the nod to classic titles, there just isn’t a place for the clunky controls in today’s gaming world.
Had Mega Man come with more fluid controls and more new systems to play with, it would have resonated a lot more. Instead, it feels like another run of the mill side-scroller looking to make a name for itself in the ever-growing sea of similar games.
Even most of the bosses grant abilities that really don’t change the way you play the game. What was cool is figuring out the best route to take and which power-ups worked best against which boss, but after acquiring Tundra Man’s decimating frost ability and Impact Man’s platform-clearing ability I found myself not talking to most of the others. Almost half of Mega Man 11‘s bosses fill familiar Mega Man boss tropes, but there are certainly a few that stand out; most notably Block Man and Acid man.
The 8-bit inspired soundtrack tends to get pretty old as well. While some tracks will stay with you for hours after you’re done playing, that isn’t always a good thing. The new art style feels bland overall too. While certain areas shine with their new 3D coat of paint, a majority of the levels feel familiar to sections you already left, and as a result they just all blend together. It would have been nice if the levels felt more varied instead of the “copy/paste” feeling you get from staring at the same recycled walls or platforms over and over again.
Finally, for those wanting even more of a challenge, the game offers a number of unique trials after you complete the 6-8 hour campaign. Time trails and re-pieced levels offer a slew of side content that will keep completionists busy for hours on end. So at least there is a replayability factor to sidetrack you from the game’s stagnant, repetitive campaign.
Overall, Mega Man 11 isn’t a bad game.. it just didn’t seize the chance to deliver a fresh, new experience to a series that’s been 30 years in the making. Because of this, it fails to stand out among the ever-growing roster of side-scroller titles. While it’s demanding gameplay seems to cater to the hardcore fans, that same difficulty makes it almost inaccessible to the broader crowds. Maybe Mega Man 12 will be the one that changes up the formula and delivers a game worthy of the Mega Man title.