The Blue Bomber Shifts Gears

A free Mega Man 11 demo was just released for Switch, Xbox, and Playstation without much fanfare; presumably it was going to be announced at the cancelled Nintendo Direct, but instead it dropped as an almost total surprise. The demo consists of a short tutorial and a single level, which is just enough to get a sense of what to expect for the full game. So, what are we dealing with here?

Well, Mega Man 11 is most certainly a Mega Man game. If you’re into jumping, shooting, and running to the right, it delivers the same crisp action that has defined the series since its first entry. However, unlike Mega Man 9 and 10, this game aims to build on the formula instead of just going back to basics.

Double Your Gears, Double Your Fun

This time around you’ve got all of the old tricks from previous games, as well as a new one. The slide and charge shot make a most welcome return, and the demo introduces you to the biggest change this game has to offer: the Double Gear System. Mega Man’s greatest strength has always been his versatility, and the Double Gear System builds on that by giving him a power that he doesn’t have to acquire from his enemies.

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"You've stopped him ten times before, but you probably need this to REALLY get him!"

This aptly-named system allows you to use one of two Gears, which give a brief but potent boost to Mega Man’s abilities. The Speed Gear, as the name suggests, increases your speed (which is shown in-game by having the rest of the world slow down around you). This is useful a few times in the demo, enabling you to dodge attacks, time hits against shielded enemies, and get through the trickier bits of platforming. The Power Gear allows you to fire two charged shots at once for devastating damage, and will also power up your special weapons. However, the Gears must be used sparingly, because they’ll overheat if used for more than a couple of seconds and then you’re stuck without them until they cool off.

Aside from the Double Gear System, the biggest - and, I think, one of the best - changes is to the control scheme. Mega Man is finally taking advantage of modern controller design, with almost every button serving a purpose: R1 and L1 activate your Gears, R2 and L2 switch weapons, and Triangle calls out Rush Coil without interrupting the action to look through a menu - I played on PS4, clearly, but the controls carry over to other systems without a problem.

Feels A Bit Bloated

My one real gripe with the demo is the length of the level. Admittedly I died a couple of times while going through it, but that single level took me nearly 20 minutes to beat. Compared to other Mega Man games, where you can blast through a level in half that time (or less, if you’re a speedrunner), it seemed to drag on forever. It would have been one thing if the game kept throwing new obstacles or enemies at me, but I reached a point where I felt like I’d seen everything the stage had to offer and it just kept on going. The last third or so (aside from the boss, of course) could have been removed without losing much value.

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The graphics - and the bosses - have gotten signigicant upgrades as well.

There are also a lot of things that the demo doesn’t show off; it’s only a single level, after all. It gives you two boss weapons and Rush Coil to play around with, but there are many, many empty spots in Mega Man’s inventory for unknown items. I don’t know if those are reserved for weapons, powerups, or something else entirely.

Time To Pre-Order?

Even with this demo there’s a lot we don’t know, but it’s enough to let you get a feel for the game. Personally, I pre-ordered Mega Man 11 as soon as I heard about it, but that’s because I grew up on this series and am a fanboy to this day.

I will say that Mega Man 11 is $30 to pre-order on Steam, which is a steep price for a Mega Man game (you can buy both Legacy Collections for only slightly more). I appreciate that they’re trying to make it worth that price with the improved graphics and longer levels, I only worry that they’re increasing level size without enough increased content. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if it were a bit cheaper; at $20 it would be a must-have for Mega Man fans.

Still, I highly encourage everyone to go download this free demo and give it a try. Maybe you’ll fall in love and want to immediately drop the thirty bucks to pre-order - though I think it’s more likely you’ll decide to put it on your wish list and wait for a sale. Personally, I had my order in a month ago, so keep an eye out for my review where I’ll let you know if it was worth it.