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CONSOLE: PlayStation 4 DEVELOPER: Capcom PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 2, 2018 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

It is what it is.

Mega Man is my favourite video game franchise of all time. I love popping in one of the Blue Bomber's epic adventures and going at it. The smooth, rich blend of action-platforming and the rock-paper-scissors style of determining which weapon works best against whom is one that has genuinely endured through the ages. Even with the original Mega Man being well over three decades old at this point, it's still highly playable and somewhat enjoyable (though not as much so as its many, many, many sequels). Even though Mega Man has branched off into a variety of sub-series, the fun factor has remained relatively constant, even when attempting to visit new genres. Unfortunately, with the departure of Mega Man head honcho Keiji Inafune in 2010, Rockman's future came to a standstill (though not before tossing up a bone with the excellent Mega Man 10).

The best we could get afterward was 2016's Kickstarted Mighty No. 9, headed by Keiji Inafune, which I suppose was "better than nothing". But that spiritual successor fell very short of expectations, thanks to sub-par graphics, poor voice acting and scripting, and the game having been coded by a skunk on tainted heroin.

In December 2017, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series, Capcom finally tossed fans a life preserver: Mega Man 11 would be coming in 2018. The Internet rejoiced, winced a bit after seeing the artwork, then resumed rejoicing after watching the game in action. I pre-purchased the game just a couple of days before its release date, shortly before testing out the demo version. By the time I was finished, I felt like crap. The demo didn't inspire confidence. The demo DID inspire me to grab the nearest hatchet and aim directly at the PlayStation 4. Upon subduing those urges, I ended up playing the full version soon afterward for about an hour... before abandoning it entirely for two and a half months.

Something didn't gel with me. Mega Man 11 may elicit feelings of nostalgia in some people, but let me be perfectly clear: this isn't the same Mega Man us old fogies grew up with. Granted, it has all the basic elements of classic Mega Man games: Dr. Wily's up to his old tricks again; eight Robot Masters stand in the way of tracking him down, each equipped with their own special weapons that you can absorb from them and use later; you can hop on Rush's back and either use him as a springboard or a jet; you can collect screws and use them at Auto's shop. But something's off, very off.

The big "evolution" in Mega Man 11 lies in its Double Gear system. By pressing L1, you can activate the Power Gear and temporarily amp up your offensive power until you cancel it or Mega Man overheats; the R1 button flips on the Speed Gear, slowing time around you for a bit, making enemies and projectiles easier to dodge. Manipulating this new mechanic is almost fundamental in surviving all the tough situations thrown your way; it's practically expected. Slowly down the stage to ease survival rates wasn't something relied upon in previous games, and it demonstrates the decreased value the developer has placed on player skill.

Eleventh time a charm?

One of my other gripes is that some stages overstay their welcome. They're more than twice as long as they ought to be. "Barbara, cancel my 3 o'clock." Just look at Block Man's stage, the one featured in the demo. Mega Man stages have never been as lengthy as this. You get so far along, you meet up with the mid-stage boss and think, "well, I'm halfway there", only to discover later on that he'll reappear later on, followed by an even longer stretch of platforming peril with no sign of mental mitigation. It feels like they fit two old-school stages' worth of space into each stage, perhaps to offset the relative short length of Wily's fortress. The stages' lengths also really drill home how bereft of ideas the designers were at certain points; I swear, I never want to tackle Bounce Man's stage ever again. Reminiscent of Spring Man's stage from Mega Man 7, it simply bleeds of a constantly annoying bouncing mechanic I could do without. Thank goodness Bounce Man was enough of a pushover that I didn't need to retry that level.

The special weapons are generally okay, but even after having finished the game, I still have no clue what weapon works best against whom. For some, I ended up using the Mega Buster half the time and dropping the occasional E-Tank, which worked just as well. Doubling up with the Power Gear is the equivalent of charging them for that extra boost of power (and visual flair). I still found a couple to be annoying in execution. The Pile Driver reminds me too much of the Charge Kick from Mega Man 5, where you literally have to slam through enemies. Not preferable.

If you're having trouble with the game, no worries — there are FOUR difficulty levels from "Beginner" for those who've never touched a Mega Man game, all the way to "Superhero" for those who want the game to swallow them whole, digest them thoroughly, and then... well... ermmm... But with the inclusion of the Item Replicator shop, where you can buy E-Tanks, Weapon Tanks, and all sorts of other fun goodies, that certainly drops the challenge a bit. I was able to enter every stage (once I had built up adequate funds, which isn't difficult), fortress included, with full E-Tanks and W-Tanks, making the journey much less worry-free...except for slightly crusty level design, of course.

Visually, I admit, having played countless Mega Man titles in the past, this one is a bit odd. Instead of old-school pixel art, all characters have hand-drawn qualities to them and are animated with such sleekness that you can't help but differentiate Mega Man 11 from the hero's past. The game is filled with colour, and environmental effects are lined up like tech nerds waiting for the iPhone XX-5000-A-3. It's the little things that make the difference, like having the area around your buster shots light up in a darkened situation; at least a little processing power's been pumped into this one. In the various cutscenes, the characters have been drawn in the classic Japanese style that we've come to know and love, and seeing Dr. Wily and Dr. Light in their younger days adds an extra layer to their history.

Also, Mega Man drops to the ground when he jumps into a boss gate, as opposed to his legendary mid-air floating pose. Messing with the gate float is unacceptable.

Mega Man games have always been known for their upbeat tunes throughout. Mega Man 11... errr, breaks that trend by lining each stages with only the finest of generic electronic fuzz. Nothing stands out, which is a bloody shame, because I wanted to rock out while accidentally falling off every platform imaginable. At least the voice acting is far more tolerable. Mega Man actually sounds like a mega man, rather than a 50-year-old woman pulling out her 8-year-old Japanese boy impression.

It's not a BAD Mega Man game, or a bad game in general. But there was something initially inexplicably off-putting, resulting in me dropping the game for well over two months. My reactions were more subdued; I did finish the game, although some of the more inherent flaws were still pronounced. Bounce Man's stage is as fun as taste-testing asphalt.

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