Thoughts on the Mega Man 11 Demo from a long time fan.
After a bit of a hiatus, the Blue Bomber is back in Mega Man 11. Fans have been clamoring for another installment in the iconic franchise, and Capcom has finally listened. This time our rocking hero has a few new tricks up his sleeve, but are they all for the best? I dove into the Mega Man 11 demo currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop looking to find out.
The demo starts off simple, explaining some of the new systems put in place. It also includes a few different difficulty modes, which is great for accessibility since many players have found previous entries in the Mega Man franchise too difficult. I wish I could be there to teach people that many of the tricks in Mega Man aren't about playing harder but playing smarter. Regardless, these options will still be great for newcomers. Veteran Mega Man fans don't have to fret, though, because the Normal difficulty level is still here to challenge players, along with another locked difficulty called Superhero.
The demo only has one Robot Master to face, Block Man, and gives players two special weapons to use while playing this stage. There are also a bunch of options available for audio, controls, and more.
One of the things that I noticed right away was that the game felt right in a general sense when compared to previous entries in the franchise. The graphics aren't the best, but they’re passable and get the job done. Over time I've come to like them more. There are also some new upgrades to Mega Man's previous controls that seem like a nice advancement in terms of gameplay. First, is the fact that the Rush Coil is always available while Mega Man has his Mega Buster equipped. Just press X to drop him in. Second is it's now possible to cancel a slide maneuver by pressing in the opposite direction. This allows players to have a greater control over a technique that is important for dodging attacks.
While there are some great new things, I found myself displeased by a lot that I came across in the Mega Man 11 demo. For starters, I'm not a big fan of the new Double Gear System. This new gameplay element does add a new wrinkle to the experience. Pressing the R Button slows down time, allowing Mega Man to get more shots off and move slightly faster around the environment. The L Button increases Mega Man's damage, allows a fully charged Mega Buster blast to let out two shots, and also adds different effects to obtained weapons. Both of these techniques fill up a meter while in use that slowly cools down when not in use. If the meter fills, it will be a while before Mega Man can use the Double Gear System again. There is also a Double Gear Technique that can be used when Mega Man's health is very low. Doing so will increase his damage and speed for a short period of time, but then Mega Man won't be able to use the Gears for a while or even charge up. It's more of a last-ditch effort technique and if you don't get the job done with it, you are probably done for.
My issue with the Double Gear System is that I went into the game thinking it was put in place as more of a crutch for Mega Man players, but the entire game seems to be balanced around it. Yes, you can beat the stage without it, but it's clearly meant to be used. From enemies that have small attack windows, to some enemies having more HP than I remember many having in previous entries of the series. If you want to play this game well, you are going to have to use the Double Gear System. Additionally, the Double Gear System makes the game more complicated and difficult. This additional wrinkle will make the game even harder for newcomers to get into since there are clearly instances when using one gear over the other gives distinct advantages and figuring it all out makes the game harder to piece together. Trust me, I found the Mega Man 11 demo to be significantly more challenging than other classic Mega Man titles and it was all because the Double Gear System complicates things instead of building off the beautiful simplicity found in the previous entries of the franchise.
One other issue I have with the Double Gear System is that it's oddly toggled on and off by pressing the shoulder buttons. This makes wrapping my head around it all that much harder. It would make more sense to me if holding down the shoulder button activated the power, and shut it off upon release. Sadly, there is no option to do so as this would give the game a Viewtiful Joe type of feel, which is very likely what Capcom is going for in the first place. They could secretly be calling this project Viewtiful Mega Man for all I know.
The sound in Mega Man 11 needs to be completely redone. The music in the classic Mega Man games is some of my favorite in gaming, and in this regard Mega Man 11 is a letdown. There is nothing rocking about the demo's soundtrack. The sound effects also need work too as it's almost impossible to tell when you have a fully charged buster shot since the noise isn't very obvious. It would also be nice to have an audio warning when you're about to overheat while using the Double Gear System. I shouldn't be expected to stare at meters while having to jump on platforms and dodge attacks. The voice acting is atrocious, but luckily it can be shut off completely in the options. I just hope there aren't important story elements or gameplay tips given out this way.
There are other elements that bother me as well. I said earlier the general feel of the game is all right, and it is. However, I'm guessing the move to 3D models has hampered the precision found in the classic Mega Man games. I found myself able to jump up between two blocks, but it was very difficult to even judge the correct place to stand to replicate such a feat. While this wasn't a necessary task in the demo, it just highlights some of the problems with the game. It's also sometimes hard to judge what will hit you, especially in the fight against Block Man's second form, because of the 3D models used.
Block Man himself seems very overpowered when compared to the Robot Masters that came before him. He has three phases and regains some health on his meter during each one. The second phase transforms him into a giant machine that does an insane amount of damage. Canonically, I don't know how this doesn't just make every previous Robot Master seem weak and pathetic. Gameplay wise, this makes Block Man feel more like a late game Dr. Wily boss and seems very out of place. Again, the best way to deal with this guy is to use the Double Gear system; otherwise, you will be at a massive disadvantage.
There are a few other things that bother me about the Mega Man 11 demo. When Mega Man runs over a health pickup, the game doesn't pause and fill up your meter with a familiar sound effect. Part of this goes back to the bad sound design, but the game stopping briefly to really tell you what's happening is more of a general game design issue and makes it not feel like Mega Man. I often don't even realize I'm getting health pickups as a result. There is also a new feature that allows the player to change weapons using the right stick, but there is practically no dead zone on this stick so the slightest brush will change your weapon. I found myself selecting weapons by mistake because of this. It's a great idea, but the poor implementation means I am shutting it off in the options menu immediately.
One other gripe, which is minor but seems to be getting a ton of attention, is that Mega Man can't jump through the Boss Door. What's up with that?
While there are some good things in the Mega Man 11 demo, I feel like overall it lacks the polish we’ve come to expect from a Mega Man game. I love this franchise, and I really enjoyed what was done with 9 and 10. This demo, however, has filled me with a ton of doubt on how well the final product will turn out. I have no idea how long ago this demo was created and how similar it will be to the retail release, but with the game hitting shelves in a few weeks I'm a bit worried. As a big fan I'll still be picking up and playing through the game, but as you can see my concerns are high on this one. Regardless of how the final product turns out, I'll likely be sharing my thoughts on Nintendo News Report.