Block Man? More like this rocks, man!
Unlike most of the other games I’ll play at E3, a single level of Mega Man 11 is actually enough to give a comprehensive look at the quality of the final product. There are two available for my session — Block Man and Fuse Man — and I will only have time to complete one before I move on to bigger and bloodier things. As my Capcom handler breaks down the controls for me, I have some apprehension about the changes made to the series.
For the first time in the franchise, Mega Man has added abilities called in the form of the Double Gear system. For my demo, I have access to the Power Gear and the Speed Gear. Both share an energy meter that shorts out and makes them unavailable if I keep them powered for too long. The Power Gear lets Mega overclock his attacks, unleashing hellfire on his opponents, while the Speed Gear slows time and movement.
Together, I wonder if the two gears will break the game. They don’t. In fact, as I barely survived my scuffle with Block Man on normal difficulty, any thoughts of Mega Man 11 being broken or too easy are replaced with an intense craving for more.
The Block Man level is beautiful. It’s bright and sunny, inviting me in before trying to crush my spirit. Literally. Massive concrete blocks falling from the sky are just one of the hazards standing between me and the robot master. Mega Man’s controls are tight, his movement smooth as butter. While some may take issue with his running animation, complaints like that fail to register with me as I try to survive the gauntlet ahead.
Like the very best Mega Man levels, Block Man’s stage exceeds with a steady stream of similar challenges that escalate in difficulty. The mini-boss, for instance, a massive stacking robot that splits into four pieces as it tries to crush Mega Man, challenges me twice and acts as the checkpoint for the level. The first battle is manageable with the Speed Gear, slowing down time when the robot is most vulnerable for maximum damage. My second bout with it required a new strategy and bit of luck as a moving walkway nullified that previous strategy.
The Speed Gear was the most useful of the two for this stage. Several enemies, some you’ve seen in the trailers released so far, are difficult to kill without it. It’s still possible shoot them at the exact right time, just not probable. The further into the level I go, the more uses I find for it. One section of the stage has me traversing a series of conveyor belts vertically as massive concrete blocks fall from above and small flying robots try to knock me to my doom. In the second of these sections, I have to use a combination of the Speed Gear, Rush Coil, and my charge shot to make it through.
When I finally reach the gates to Block Man, I have just two lives remaining. I’m glad I choose to go with him because his battle is something special. Like in Mega Man 8, he talks at the beginning and throughout the fight. Block Man’s assault is divided up into three different attack patterns. The first of which has him jumping around and dropping blocks from above, all of which are easy to avoid. In the second, he summons a massive block body and I have to dodge the swipes of his fists as I aim for his weak spot. After I defeat that body, he has an absolute hissy fit as he throws scores of blocks my way.
It actually takes me two turns to defeat the blockhead. I strike him down with just a few blips of health left in my meter and score his weapon — the Block Dropper — trying it out a few times before my demo ends. Unfortunately, I’m unable to take on Fuse Man as it’s time to move on. But I want to. I want to skip the rest of my appointments and just play more Mega Man 11.
In one level it’s shown me it can be everything I could want from a new title in the series and more. It’s challenging, rewarding, and tightly controlled. The Dual Gear System has great opportunity for risk and reward, and the Superhero difficulty level will no doubt lead to some amazing YouTube speedruns. Despite its poor handling of the franchise over the last decade, Mega Man 11 proves when push comes to shove, Capcom knows how to make a great game for the Blue Bomber.