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Mega Man 11 (Switch) artwork

Mega Man 11 (Switch) review

"Mega Man 11 is an acquired taste, thanks to overly long stages and a gimmicky new ability, but give it a chance!"

"Mega Man is back!" proclaims the back of the Mega Man 11 case, and this is indeed exciting news. The last Mega Man game, the retro-styled Mega Man 10, arrived in March of 2010. It wasn't even developed by Capcom, but Inti Creates did the expected good job. It's just that some fans wanted more, and now they have it. Mostly.

Taking its cues from Mega Man 8, which released on PlayStation and Saturn in 1996, Mega Man 11 features a Mega Man who knows how to power up his arm cannon and release charged shots, who collects bolts so he can purchase upgrades in a store between levels and who is supported by friends Beat, Fliptop and Rush. Taking its cues from Mega Man 9, the game also is tough as nails. That's true for a variety of reasons, so let's look at them in some detail.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) image

The first reason Mega Man 11 is so difficult (on the Normal setting and above, I mean) is that the stages are now supersized. It used to be pretty easy to run through a Mega Man stage, particularly once you had played it a few times. But Mega Man 11 takes a different approach. Its stages feel like they must be at least twice as long as usual, and sometimes more.

I mentioned difficulty settings, so here's how they work: when you begin a new campaign, you can choose from one of four options. Normal is the default, but I recommend that you pay close attention to the description of each option and--if you value your sanity--maybe start out by dropping down a level or two. On Normal, the game is ludicrously stingy with its checkpoint placement, to the point where if you're playing through a stage you haven't mastered, you might easily play for several minutes, lose a life to a bottomless pit or spike or a barrage of difficult enemies... and then find yourself back at the very start of the stage. This sort of setup is monstrously frustrating, because if your time is anything like mine, it's precious. There's virtually no up side to this sort of checkpoint placement, especially when you have a limited stock of lives anyway.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) image

On lower settings, the game becomes considerably easier. On the "newcomer" setting, you have unlimited lives. Beat will pull you out of a bottomless pit if you happen to fall into one, and spikes--previously fatal to the touch if you brushed against them while not temporarily invincible after taking damage at the hands of some nearby enemy--inflict only mild damage. Your shots also do a great deal more good, so that mid-boss fights and confrontations with robot masters are much more manageable. Mind you, some stages have multiple mid-boss encounters, because whoever was in charge of level design let "bigger is better" philosophy have its way with things.

As I noted above, you can also buy items in Dr. Light's lab. The cost of those upgrades depends on the difficulty setting you choose. On Normal, they cost quite a lot and you'll have to scrounge for bolts. On lower settings, enemies drop bolts all over the place and you'll have more than you know what to do with well before you reach the end of the campaign.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) image

Of course, some uses for bolts are obvious. You can purchase extra lives, energy tanks (up to an eventual maximum of 9) and slight upgrades to your character. These allow you to do things like fire slightly larger blasts from your arm cannon, or to automatically charge your shots while you run. It's nice not to have to tend to such things manually unless you really want to. Sadly, there are no options to increase your armor's durability, but you can buy consumable items that forgive a brush with spikes.

Thanks to the game's sometimes merciless difficulty, stages start to feel like a chore rather than the futuristic playground they have in most past Mega Man titles. There's pretty scenery to see, most of the time. Huge stone pyramids rise from a canopy of trees. Or deep mine shafts loom extend into the background. That stuff looks nice, but you don't often have time to savor it because the local robots are so good at draining your life meter or helping you along toward the nearest dispenser of instant death. I replayed the same stages many times, gradually getting better until I could clear most of them with only moderate difficulty, but that took hours even though I have extensive experience with the series. And I still never came to appreciate most stages, like the lengthy and frankly annoying Bounce Man stage, where you're sent careening all over the place from springy surfaces such as inflated balls and trampolines.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) image

Fortunately for Mega Man 11, I've been saving my thoughts on one of its most interesting--and ultimately redeeming--features for last. I am referring of course to the "Double Gear" system. It is the game's new gimmick, and it isn't applied halfheartedly. You either will master the mechanic or you will almost certainly give up out of frustration, because there's barely a moment as you work your way through each stage when the Double Gear setup won't come in handy or prove downright necessary.

The way it works is that from the very beginning of the game and onward, you have the ability to briefly slow the flow of time or to switch to more powerful damage output. For story reasons, you can't do this indefinitely. But you can control when you freeze time or gain a damage boost, and the duration of the effect. It's kind of like using turbo in Excitebike, where you enjoy a nice boost for a while but then you have to stop lest you overheat.

Mega Man 11 (Switch) image

Freezing time is useful and lets you cheese your way through otherwise intense scenarios at every turn. For instance, there's one segment of Block Man's stage (the one Capcom made available in a demo a few weeks back) where you are ascending a vertical chamber, leaping from one conveyor belt to another. Blocks drop from the ceiling, potentially crushing you and dealing significant damage, or perhaps knocking you back so you fall into a pit. You can initiate the Double Gear and slow their progress, so that it's easier to avoid them while dealing with the airborne enemies in the vicinity. At some points in the stage, you can also slow down time and then leap to a falling block, then leap again to reach a higher ledge.

This truly is a unique setup for the Mega Man franchise, and it changes how a person plays the game. It also takes some getting used to if, like me, you're used to playing in a more straightforward manner. But the good news is that those lengthy stages are made more interesting because you can find multiple ways to blast your way through them. And it's really fun to run up to a mini-boss and practically freeze it in place while you hit it with a barrage of bullets. Or perhaps you will just choose the option that lets you temporarily deal more damage (even with special weapons you gain by defeating the robot masters). The choice is yours!

Mega Man 11 is at times an enormously frustrating game. More often than is ideal, the stages feel too long. Cheap deaths are more frustrating than they normally would be as a result. But the Double Gear system truly makes a difference. It keeps veterans on their toes, and it should ensure that relative newcomers--especially if they are playing on the difficulty setting made just for them--can enjoy and maybe even finish a Mega Man campaign. Let's call it a win.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 05, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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pickhut posted October 06, 2018:

Ha, I went to sleep thinking everyone is too busy doing other games and horror titles to have time for a possible Mega Man 11 review, and I wake up staring at your submission on the front page!

Very interesting read, especially compared to my experience with the game! I actually really liked the longer levels and tougher difficulty setting. I also wasn't too impressed with the Double Gear system, as I personally didn't find much use for it. That's why I always like reading others' views on a game I just finished reviewing, as it's nice to see a different perspective on the same product. Nice read.
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joseph_valencia posted October 06, 2018:

This review reflects my thoughts on the demo exactly. The stage was too long, and the difficulty level is ludicrously high even when compared to the original NES games. I'm also not a fan of the Double Gear system. I've noticed that people can't decide whether it's meant to be a crux for newbies or an essential mechanic. A straightforward Mega Man experience would be better.

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