MegaMaster Musings

December 31, 2019

Thanks to the Christmas holiday, I recently had an opportunity to watch someone who had never seen a Mega Man game before play Mega Man 11. In the same vein as watching someone who is unfamiliar with your app use your GUI, this experience gave me some new insights.

My first observation is that Mega Man games—even in Newcomer mode—are remarkably brutal on a newbie. Being effectively immune to spikes kept my intrepid guinea pig player from paying much attention to those particular bits of evil, but in one section of Block Man’s stage, for example, he fell into the same pit about three dozen times. (In the process I also discovered that Beat seems to last longer in Newcomer mode, or maybe that’s just my faulty memory. Not long enough to fly past the problem area, though, much to the player’s chagrin.) Ironically, the infinite lives meant he kept banging his head on that one spot rather than just getting a Game Over and moving on to some other stage. (Here’s to perseverance, though!) So infinite lives turn out to be kind of both a blessing and a curse—especially for people who don’t realize you can exit the stage at will (since the developers hid that in a menu).

Secondly, Mega Man games (probably like any other game) are really designed around their gimmicks, perhaps more than they initially appear. The first time I played Mega Man 11, because I wasn’t used to the Double Gear system, I navigated through the first few stages largely forgetting to use it. I didn’t have too many troubles (relatively speaking) because I’m used to this style of game. But it wasn’t just me. The newcomer player generally didn’t use Speed Gear either—and made the game more challenging as a result.

This is a little curious considering how much emphasis the opening sequences in the game place on the Double Gear. It’s easy to understand a veteran overlooking Speed Gear because we’re so accustomed to playing Mega Man games that don’t have it, but this shows that the Double Gear is an unusual system even for people who are brand new to the series and are approaching the game without any preconceived notions. (Well, okay, he had some preconceived notions—those taken from other games. It’s amusing watching someone who is used to playing Super Mario reflexively try to jump on enemies’ heads as Mega Man. That doesn’t work so well here.)

So I guess if I could give a tip to newcomers to this game: use Speed Gear. It’s your “easy” button. If any part of any stage gives you trouble, try using Speed Gear on it and see how you fare.

Other observations include that the slide is not at all an obvious maneuver (a manual describing Mega Man’s moves would be helpful here—assuming anyone read it); charging the Mega Buster also isn’t terribly intuitive; and new players don’t always realize they have to manually run over and pick up items that enemies drop before they disappear. On the flip side, the player grasped Master Weapons immediately, and once he had one, he practically ran through the entire subsequent stage using it exclusively. (Mega Buster? What do I need one of those for?)

Ultimately, of course, action games like this are largely a matter of memorization. The key is to repeat the stages over and over enough to become accustomed to their obstacle and enemy placement. This is true of Mega Man games just like it’s true of Mario and Sonic and so on.

Oh, and use Speed Gear. You’ll make your life a lot easier.

- The MegaMaster