Mega Man as a series has a special place in my heart, the same way anything from my childhood does, with equal parts love and pain weaved together. I like to make fun of the series by calling it "Trial & Error: The Game", (not the first to make that joke and I won't be the last) because at some point there's always a level where you just die a dozen times until you figure out the pattern. It's a series that I've conquered alone and with friends over the years and probably taken a couple weeks off my life from rage at landing on spikes I never saw coming. So when Mega Man 11 was officially announced last year as a return to the old-school with a hint of the new, I absolutely had to get my hands on it for a review.
The story behind Mega Man 11 starts off like a lot of the games in the series do. Some old beef between Dr. Light and Dr. Wiley has put a world where robots and humans live peacefully together into chaos. This time around Wiley apparently had the idea of creating a special gear system that caused robots to speed up and gain more power, a Double Gear System if you will. He was rejected by a board of scientists that Light was on, and now here we are years later with Wiley looking for vengeance. Wiley causes a number of robots who come to visit Light for a checkup to become evil, and it's up to Mega Man to put an end to the predictable terror.
The game does an excellent job of capturing former titles in the series well by having you explore different themed platforming worlds in order to stop the robots and bring some sort of order back to things. Just like the older titles, it follows the pattern of beating one boss to get their powers, then moving onto the next one after gaining a new ability to help you defeat the next boss faster. Along the way, you collect screws that serve as currency back at the lab to buy items like no-slip shoes to stay grounded on the ice, and double-charge packs to fill your extra abilities faster. You also still have Rush by your side, but you'll have to unlock his additional abilities as you go.
The Double Gear System is a necessity in a lot of circumstances, but primarily for the speed. The cheap-shot factor of this game is that there are levels where bosses and enemies are just quicker than you. There's no way around it without using the gears to speed up Mega Man (or slow down time, however you wish to look at it). But be aware, this basically gave Capcom devs carte blanche to add more traps along the way. The other gear adds more power to your shots, but in all honesty, I barely used it as I'm so used to fighting my way out of touch situations with little to help me but my blaster on a normal setting. Some of the levels are just downright cruel, like the fire level you see below that has you dashing through spaces while a blaze chases you. Oh, side note, I had to go program the slide option into my controller through the options menu, the game did not automatically assign a button to it What the hell?!
Like all games in the series, Mega Man 11 is a test of patience. Bounce Man's level, for example, is made up of mostly balloons and bounce pads. If you don't time your jumps perfectly, you get bounced all over the level and even back to where you came from in some places. Fuse Man's level has a mid-boss that basically just rains down lightning from the sky that you can't avoid, even when you speed up. You're just being dealt punishment for playing the game in general. It's the kind of stuff that makes you wanna break a controller after having to learn the process a couple times over. Thankfully, the game has save points to record your progress and save what you've done (no codes!), so you can die all you want and return later to try again.
Overall, I loved playing Mega Man 11, but I also hated pieces of it. It's pretty much what you would expect from any Mega Man title. And there is a bit of disappointment at the end when you learn that beating the game is pretty much the end of it. No bonus features or special gear earned to beat the game over again, or at least nothing beyond speed trials and a special Dr. Wiley gauntlet which aren't as difficult as they sound. It's nice to see the series return and get back to its roots, and there are a lot of people who are going to love this entry. But on the same token, it's still wickedly annoying in all the parts it's usually annoying in. Mega Man 11 is essentially comfort food for the gaming soul, meaning it will take you back to an era you love while at the same time wreaking havoc on your blood pressure.