Do we really need another Mega Man? That’s perhaps a question for another day, but ardent fans of the long-running series will be pleased to learn he comes to this latest game in fine fettle. Boasting a rejuvenated visual style, some new party tricks and a host of new bosses to battle, Mega Man 11 represents the pinnacle of 2D run ‘n’ gun platforming.
You know the drill by now: fiendishly difficult gameplay made just about possible by the gradual appropriation of abilities from fallen bosses. The core template has never strayed too far from Capcom’s original vision, but this outing is enlivened with some novel new mechanics, chiefly the new Double Gear system. Mega Man can now deploy two special, time-limited abilities; you’ll come to rely on and appreciate both of these over the course of the game.
Tapping L1 activates a charge window, during which your firepower is markedly increased. The power can overheat in a matter of seconds, meaning it must be deployed sparingly. Meanwhile, hitting R1 allows you to manipulate the speed of time, useful for negotiating busier sections which are littered with hazards and enemies. Again, this power cannot be used indefinitely, necessitating a pause while it resets.
You can switch between the two powers at will, making for a more varied style of gameplay and a welcome change of tempo from the established power-ups. You can also call upon Rush Coil, a robotic dog sporting a spring which helps you reach seemingly inaccessible areas. Between stages, you can visit Dr Light’s lab to purchase items and upgrades – a nice touch.
Mega Man plays beautifully. The controls are responsive and immensely satisfying, while the spectre of repetition is repelled by the sheer variety from each of the themed levels. From the pyrotechnics of BlastMan to the frozen majesty of TundraMan, the levels are positively brimming with imaginative design flourishes, with not a dull moment in sight. I particularly enjoyed the TorchMan level; being chased by the wall of pulsating lava was tense as well as being hugely impressive to behold.
In terms of visuals, we’re talking series best. The hand-drawn 2D stages are gorgeous, while the 3D character models are impossibly crisp and detailed, moving with effortless fluidity. The music, punchy and pulsating, simply augments the feeling of playing a finely honed and polished arcade game.
Sound good? Well, it gets better, because the barrier to entry has been lowered with the introduction of a newcomer mode, which is more forgiving and provides a safety net against the many sheer drops ready to catch out the unwary. To avoid upsetting Mega Man masochists, it’s still possible to dial the difficulty all the way up to ‘superhero’ level, so that formidable challenge is still there if you want it.
Rounding off the package is a suite of extra modes, including leaderboards, character gallery and, most intriguingly, a challenge mode. Time attacks and collectable hunts are available here, along with more specific objectives such as reaching the end of level boss using the fewest possible jump manoeuvres. It’s an excellent way of sustaining interest after the main campaign is done.
Overall, then, Capcom has done an admirable job of refreshing a franchise that’s older than many of its players. Sure, at its core it is the same fundamental formula that existed in ye olde NES days, but here Mega Man has revitalised with such love, care and attention that it seems churlish to complain. Polished and refined to near perfection, whilst extending an olive branch to those who bemoaned the difficulty of the older games, Mega Man 11 deserves the attention of anyone with a penchant for shooty platforming. Welcome back, old chap.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*