Despite his long slumber, Mega Man has a history synonymous
with gaming. With Mega Man 11, the blue bomber is attempting the kind of
revival fraught with the same kind of dangers that dozens of other series have
tried before with few coming out the other end successful. Mega Man’s newest adventure,
however, might be more well-equipped for a grand return than any of his former
We got a chance to play the newest build of Mega Man 11,
which features BlockMan’s Egyptian/Aztec fusion-themed level and FuseMan’s newly
playable electric bugaloo around a power plant. Mega Man traverses these
environments with his usual repertoire of running, jumping, sliding, and
holding in the charge button the entire time.
The newest tool for Mega Man to use, however, is the Gear
system. Dr. Wily has an epiphany of the gear ability system in his advanced
age, recalling that he pioneered the technology with Dr. Light when they were
both young. The gears can slow down time, power up a fighting robot, or combine
both for a last-ditch effort in battle. Wily decides to power up his current
set of robot masters with the gear system and Mega Man insists that he also
receives the upgrade from Dr. Light to fight off these powered-up enemies.
Using the shoulder buttons, Mega Man can activate the Speed Gear, which slows down time, or the Power Gear, which powers up his Mega Buster
and gives him two full charge shots at its strongest charge. Both abilities are
set on a cooldown, meaning you can’t just walk through a level with time permanently
slowed down. Activating either buys you a few seconds to take advantage of the
gear until you stop using it or it runs out, requiring a full cooldown to zero before
it can be used again.
Mega Man can also build up a charge through the level that
allows him to combine both gears as a desperation move, slowing down time and
giving his Mega Buster an extra bit of oomph. The super fighting robot better
have defeated the boss with this ultimate attack, though, or he’ll overheat and
be unable to charge shots for a limited time.
The gears are not an easy button as I initially feared they
would be. It allows the designers to be a bit more devilish with the design of
optional challenges. An E-Tank in Block Man’s stage requires platforming off a falling
block to reach, which is doable for those with fast reaction times, but made
just a bit easier using the Speed Gear. The Gears alone won’t make anyone look
like a speedrunner, but they provide a little smoothing out of some of Mega Man’s
The robot masters also have this same technology and use it
to add different phases to the boss fight. BlockMan uses the Power Gear to assemble
a block-filled mech that looks like something akin to Mega Man’s monstrous
rival the Yellow Devil. The gears end up making the boss feel fresher than when
they simply bounced around the stage hitting you with projectiles, as classic
as that formula may be.
FuseMan’s stage revisits a trope well-worn in Mega Man’s long
history, an electric-themed stage littered with traps around Mega Man’s feet. Fuses
shoot electric beams as you go through the stage, invoking a Mario-style level
design of introducing a stage obstacle and iterating on its use over the level.
Before too long, Mega Man is avoiding moving electric beams while platforming up
a vertical corridor and avoiding the exposed flooring.
As someone who has grown up alongside the Mega Man series
and counts its games as some of my favorites, I was initially fairly worried about
whether the eleventh game could successfully channel the spirit of its predecessors.
After having played it, I am confident that the final product feels like Mega Man,
and the developers understand just how difficult to define that feel can be.
The blue bomber is modernizing, which in itself can be a game of inches, but he
has not lost his robotic soul in the process.
Mega Man 11 releases on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and
PC on October 2.