E3 2018: Mega Man 11 mixes simple layouts with complex platforming

Capcom /

I was pleasantly surprised by how Mega Man 11 looked incredibly simple, yet played more difficult at first glance. It fits the series’ aesthetics.

While I personally liked the Mega Man X series from the SNES better, there’s no better example of early action platforming than the Mega Man franchise, starting on the NES. There’s a lot to like about the Blue Bomber’s original titles, often presenting a hook per level that challenges the mind and tests your patience. I’m glad to find that Mega Man 11 challenged me in the same way at E3 2018.

I got the chance to try out the Block Man stage as the first game I got to try out, as everyone and their mother rushed to get in front of the ever-sprawling Resident Evil 2 line at Capcom’s booth. As it tradition, the stage is very block oriented, as you have many stage hazards where big stone cubes try to knock you into the void.

In Mega Man 11, the titular character has a few new tricks up his sleeve. The Speed Gear lets you slow down time, giving you the perfect opportunity to time your actions and avoid a crushing boulder or a quick escape. The Power Gear lets you charge up even stronger buster beam shots, presumably powering up all your special weapons beyond standard use.

Mega Man 11 screenshot
Capcom /

These may seem like ways to make the game feel easy, yet even on Normal mode (there are four difficulties available in the full game), Mega Man 11 is challenging. There are tons of enemies with hard to hit weaknesses, and tons of enemies pop up to knock you off balance while performing tight platform navigation.

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I noticed that even during the middle of the stage, you would need to jump from one Mega Man-sized platform to another, requiring precise jumps. As enemies with eight-directional projectiles and mosquito-like robots chased you down to knock you off kilter, I found myself going through all my lives in pursuit of the end of the stage.

Though there are just eight basic stages in Mega Man 11 (giving me about 12.5% of the first part of the game available in the demo), the Block Man stage is long and evenly paced. One part, you’re running down a corridor and trying to take out wheeled enemies that have a small window of attack opportunity. The next, you’re on a conveyer belt as gears come from the left to grind you up, forcing a quick navigation through increasingly difficult obstacles just to survive.

Mega Man 11 Block Man
Capcom /

Facing off against Block Man himself, I’m glad that Mega Man 11 isn’t completely staying traditional with its boss encounter design. You do get moments of “big bad jumps from one side to the other as they shoot their special weapon,” but eventually he transforms into a gigantic robot with large swipe attacks while taking up a better part of the screen.

Mechanically, the Blue Bomber feels just slightly faster than usual, but it still fits within the flow of the level’s monster and platforming design. With an optimized route, speedrunners should be flying through the game with ease, as strategic Roll jump and platform floats will surely produce a fun, quicker style of game.

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As a much more methodical player, all I can be is elated that Mega Man 11 exists. It’s been close to a decade since the previous title in the franchise, as I hope that the full package (including shop upgrades and other aspects of gameplay) comes together to breathe life back into the once great series.