It’s the curse of anyone playing a Mega Man game for the first time to look terrible in the recorded footage, and Mega Man 11 is no different. But even as we fumbled around these levels with old-school design and difficulty, we were able to get a pretty good idea of what the game is about.
For those unfamiliar with the brutal platformer of yesteryear, this game series is all about an uncompromising gameplay loop that asks you to make several difficult jumps, and then puts hazards and enemies in the most awkward places the developers can think of. It’s all fair though, given the game teaches you each enemy first. But that won’t stop you throwing the controller.
There are a lot of small mechanical things that make these challenges tougher than you’d expect. We’re accustomed, for example, to our characters “continuing” their jump even after they hit a ceiling. It’s a normal concession for games to keep the jump arc going, even though the character doesn’t go vertically higher. In Mega Man 11, hitting that ceiling immediately triggers your descent. All of a sudden, platforming challenges with stray bits of ceiling around become a lot harder.
Those respawning enemies can be a killer, too. If an area falls sufficiently off-screen, all those enemies will be back. It’s especially punishing when you’re climbing platforms. Hazards on the platforms you want to jump, and enemies shooting at you make it feel like a gauntlet. Everything needs to be cleared on your way up, and getting hit by one thing mid-jump sends you all the way to the bottom. That means most of those things will have respawned when you make your way back up.
But come to think of it, going downward isn’t that much easier. Often you’ll be falling from platform to platform with little knowledge of what’s below. True to the risk/reward philosophy of the game, the platform you can easily see will have some hazards and enemies making that jump challenging. But there will also be an unseen jump target that allows you to avoid a lot of trouble. Those who memorise the level will be able to, as a great astronaut once said, fall with style.
Approach Mega Man 11 if you love truly mastering levels. You’ll play these over and over again, solving each frame like a puzzle, and making risk/reward decisions along the way. Do you need that energy powerup? Is it worth taking on the more difficult route?