Once again, the evil Dr Wily has corrupted eight Robot Masters, leaving Capcom's Blue Bomber no choice but to chase them down, retrieve their unique weapons after defeating them, and take down the nefarious roboticist once again. No points for narrative originality in Mega Man 11 then, but the series has always been best when it's delivering a blisteringly difficult action-platforming experience than trying to tell a story.
After Mega Man 9 and 10 reverted to the series' NES-era roots, emulating an 8-bit experience right down to a limited moveset, the eleventh instalment moves the series forwards again, with more detailed animation, backgrounds, and character designs ripped straight from recent animated series and comic books. Thankfully for long-time fans, the cartoonish look hasn't brought with it a dulling of the series' notorious challenge level. Mega Man 11 is as fiendishly tough as ever, and while it's no longer pixel-precise in terms of hit zones or platform landings, you'll still need to learn every centimetre of the game's eight main levels to make it through.
The unique factor here is the new Double Gear system, which allows Mega to either slow down time – pivotal to make it through some sections, which feature short-fuse explosions where you're racing along platforms made of bombs – or power up his weapons to take down tougher foes. In desperate moments, you can activate both at once for short bursts, but your regular attacks are temporarily weakened afterwards. The trade off to the Double Gear is that the system overheats rapidly, and has to cool down before it can be used again, mandating judicious use.
While the overall difficulty remains, Mega Man 11 does allow for several optional modifiers that make it more accessible to newcomers or rusty players. The game over screen is almost to be welcomed, as it allows you to return to mentor Dr Light's lab and buy upgrades that can make the levels more manageable, such as an auto-charging Mega Buster or boots that prevent slipping in Tundra Man's icy stage. These can then be toggled on and off, allowing you to increase the challenge as you become more confident.
For the truly masochistic player, there are also bonus challenges to conquer, with rule modifiers including limiting the number of jumps you're allowed to make or collecting balloons while making it through the levels. These are recommended for the most ardent of Mega Man fans only – they're tremendously frustrating.
Frustration remains Mega Man's overriding emotion though, and it's still immensely irritating when you can't nail the timing in a mid-boss or Robot Master fight and you have to repeat huge sections of stages over and over again. Yet when you do mess up, it's usually clear what you've done, and you're never without skills or items to remedy it on the next go.
Best of all, with Mega Man 11 Capcom seems to have finally struck a balance between keeping purists happy, while still making the game feel modern. One of the best modern outings for the hero.