This is the next generation, Mega, so get your arse in gear

Mega Man 11 (2018)

Never mind your Top Gears or your Fifth Wheels or your Grand Hoors, I’ve got the only bit of car advice you need – make your next car purchase an automatic. You’ll probably want to make it an electric or hybrid motor too, or at least something that doesn’t completely cackle at the polar ice caps like an evil vaudeville villain tying the dainty demure dame down to the train tracks. If your car doesn’t run on tofu then somewhere, somehow, there’ll be a Green Party policy there to thwart you. I’m all for environmental concern, but I’d rather the holes go in the ozone layer than in my pocket, know what I mean?

You’ll be warned off buying an automatic by others for a few, easily dismissed reasons. Firstly, it’ll cost you a bit more money if they go wrong. Well, there’s no “if” about cars going wrong. But anyway, given how automatic cars are more of a rarity, at least outside of America where the brainpower to remember both how to  “drive stick” as well as which side of the road to stay on tends to prove a bit much, especially when they’re driving 8-litre Dodge Vipers, you can expect the parts to run you a bit more.

But look here, the heartbreak caused by your car’s sad lights coming on is never far away. And by God, the inconvenience it causes. When you’ve got a stricken jam-jar, manual or automatic, you just want the bloody thing fixed as soon as possible. Therefore, provided your local mechanic isn’t too much of a villain (whether vaudeville or just a plain old decentskin) and the cost of repair isn’t more than the car itself, then you don’t care what it costs, just get the ruddy thing back on all four wheels again. So you don’t need to worry yourself about the costs.

The most laughable thing the doubters really hit you with is that, with an automatic, you miss out on those pleasures of driving. What please? Changing gears? That sort of stuff might sound nice if you were taking a Sunday drive in a beautiful 1960s Ferrari, with driving gloves on and no other sod around, or if you were thrashing a race car around Spa.

But for your stop-start commute, or your daily trip to the shops, you’ve got to be kidding yourself if you actually enjoy the left-boot, left-hand workout of a manual car. Actually, that’s right-boot, right-hand workout to just about everyone outside of Ireland, the UK, Australia and Japan. But how accessible do you want me to be?

The benefits might sound rather minor when written down, but not having to prat about with gears constantly as you slowly move through traffic is a godsend. Not to mention that you’ll never suffer that panic of stalling at the lights and having an obnoxious beeper behind you, winding you up, leading you to panic as if the car will explode and you’ll fail all your exams if you don’t get that bloody engine started.

Still, manual gear changes are here to stay. And in the long awaited (really?) eleventh installment to the classic Mega Man series, gear changing is a necessary step. That’s the gimmick this week you see, with Mega Man now given the ability to switch his cogs to either a Power Gear or a Speed Gear as he makes his way through eight more humdrum levels, with a fortress at the end of them. The Power Gear boosts his Wave Buster’s horsepower, I suppose, while the Speed Gear slows time down – just what you need for weaving in and out of other vehicles and machinery.

I’ll not deny that the graphics are nice, but… I don’t know, when you bring a game series like this to the PS4 as a fully fledged retail game, it needs a bit more under the bonnet than this. I’m certain I’ve already had a go at one of the newer Mega Man games about them being too retro in a modern setting. Mega Man 9 or 10 perhaps, it’s difficult to keep up with all this guff. This is hardly Dragon Quest XI, Grand Theft Auto 11, or the 11th Gal-Gun you’re playing here. There are standards.

The jury’s out on the music as well, some interesting techno-funk is present but there’s not much that’ll linger in the memory, sadly. Even with four difficulty settings, I find this one bloody hard, though I never swallowed my pride and chose Casual Mode – I’m a Mega Man legend, after all. Well, I’m lethal with the rewind button anyway.

I just wish more health powerups would appear during the level – Mega Man 11 would put you in the mind of the old NES days when there’d be too many sprites on the screen, so much so that the flickering would give you and Mega Man seizures, during which you could say goodbye to that health powerup. Also, when you do die, and you will die many, many times, then what’s greatly annoying is that the checkpoints set you way, way back. I feel it very important to mention that you can’t jump “through” the doors in this game, which is one of the finest Mega Man traditions. If I was submitting suggestions for the next patch or update, that one would be top of the list.

They’ve tried voice acting again as well, but this time they really went for it, no risible Mega Man 8 stuff here. And again I’m being hypocritical, because although I castigated 8’s voice acting for making Mega Man a girl, and I probably did the same thing to X4, Mega actually sounds a bit too old here. He’s meant to be a boy, right? In my mind he is anyway. More Ash Ketchum than Sailor Moon, or Goku.

So that’s next-gen Mega Man. A nice little experiment I guess, and on the whole, probably a good break away from the retro Mega Man stuff which was already threatening to get repetitive. But with average music, Robot Masters who don’t inspire, the usual short length, and a gear-change powerup gimmick that gets tiresome and isn’t really Mega Man, I’d say avoid this one like a manual car. At least this one won’t cost you too much.

28 May 2021

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