Mega Man 11’s demo has been available to download for a few days now, and it’s obvious that Capcom’s latest attempt to revive their flagship character modernizes the Blue Bomber in all the right ways, as far as we can tell with the "Block Man" stage on offer, even if there are some flaws.
Anyone who's picked up a mainline Mega Man game knows that these aren't for filthy casuals and 11 is no different. Underneath the cute Saturday morning aesthetic, the game continues its franchise's long history of controller-chucking difficulty, but Capcom was generous enough to add a few more difficulty settings with “Normal” being the default alongside two easier modes. There was also a “Superhero Mode”, but it’s not available in the demo, and we’re scared to see what Capcom considers "hard" at this point.
Yet, the difficulty is only really felt at the entry point. Just like Mega Man titles of yore, repetition is key, and a clear understanding of the new mechanics implemented will go a long way. With this title, Capcom introduced a combat system that really shakes the game to its core in the form of gears. With the press of a single bumper, players can slow down time or give themselves a powerful attack, while pressing both activates “Double Gear” which gives Mega Man a speed and power boost. There are consequences to using these, however, as they only last a certain amount of time and require a lengthy cooldown after. This is where a lot of the fun comes in. The asset management that comes with using the right gear at the right time and managing its energy to get through tricky sections of the stage can create some truly tense moments.
It’s a sign of great level design, and it's hard to argue that this stage isn't well built. With old tropes like conveyor belts and some good old-fashioned platforming, there’s a lot of variety that encourages the use of the aforementioned gear system. There are even some newer ideas like mid-level logic puzzles that require players to figure out how to make their way through obstacles with the fear of being shredded following closely behind. When everything works, Mega Man 11's demo borders on brilliant.
However, it’s important to note that Mega Man 11 is still in development, so this demo won’t be a smooth ride. While the game runs well (we played on the Nintendo Switch in both docked and handheld, and even as the screen filled with enemies, there was no drop in framerate), it does feel like there’s something wonky going on with Mega Man’s hit detection, and it’s especially notable in tight areas. When jumping vertically in narrow passageways, it often feels like there the Blue Bomber should fit, but can't. In situations where the player must move upward or die, this will get frustrating. We also encountered some strange AI mishaps when fighting “Block Man” where he appeared to ignore the pattern he displayed in multiple previous fights. It only happened once or twice, but it was enough to throw us off, especially in a game that is really dependant on repetition. Capcom did mention that this isn’t the final version of the game, and there could be some flaws, but with a release date of Oct. 2, 2018, we’re curious if there’s enough time to really fix these issues.
Still, for the first glimpse at Mega Man 11, Capcom did a great job. Sure, the demo might be a little messy, but this is shaping up to be a love letter to the Blue Bomber while setting a clear direction of where the publisher wants to go with the series. Classic Mega Man is back for a whole new generation.