A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mega Man 11 is a side-scrolling action game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, and is the latest installment in the long-running franchise. It stars a humanoid robot who fights enemy robots using a variety of weapons, ranging from an energy-blasting arm cannon to a gun that fires pink bouncy balls. The art style is cartoonish, and there's nothing more graphic than robots that explode in flashes of light. Parents should be aware that the Mega Man games are known for their difficulty, and this one is no different, though there is an "easy" skill level that offers aids such as infinite lives, which should help kids avoid frustration.
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What's it about?
The Blue Bomber has returned after a lengthy break in MEGA MAN 11, a classic side-scrolling running, jumping, and shooting adventure with a handful of modern innovations. The story begins with a flashback of Mega Man's creator, Dr. Light, arguing for robot intelligence and individuality against his colleague, Dr. Wily, who believes robots should never be anything more than tools for humans. Fast-forward to the present, and an elderly Dr. Light has clearly won the argument, having created several intelligent machines. Dr. Wily suddenly appears and kidnaps most of his rival's robots, promising to transform them into unthinking super-powered weapons. Mega Man volunteers to save the day, vowing to do battle with and defeat the transformed machines and eventually Dr. Wily himself. Before he leaves, Dr. Light equips him which an experimental Double Gear system that gives Mega Man two new powers: the ability to move so fast that it appears the rest of the world is moving in slow motion, and the capacity to engage a super-power mode that adds extra oomph to his weapons. He can even use both abilities at the same time. Ready for battle, he heads out to take on Dr. Wily's newly created hench-bots. With each one he defeats, he acquires a new and unique power, such as the ability to throw fireballs, create energy pulses, and fire blasts of bouncing pink balls. Along the way he also learns how to use a robot dog helper to let him bounce to higher levels and glide over danger. He'll need to master all of these abilities in order to make his way to the final battle against Dr. Wily.
Is it any good?
These side-scrolling adventure games have always relied on classic running and gunning action more than gimmicks, and this one is no different. Mega Man 11's cartoonish side-scrolling action will be instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever played one of the Blue Bomber's previous games. Movement and combat should feel familiar, too, with players forced to make skillful jumps across hazards while avoiding and shooting at enemies. This forces players to quickly and wisely choose the most appropriate weapons in fast-changing situations. The new Double Gear system is this entry's biggest departure from previous games in the series, but it fits in nicely, adding new strategic options not just in battle, but also when facing tricky gauntlets. For instance, this can occur when you're moving through maze-like game environments while trying to keep ahead of a quickly moving wall of fire. As usual, though, it's the boss battles that are most memorable, with plenty of challenge coming in the form of bad guys who transform, teleport, and unleash complexly patterned assaults that require great skill and practice to avoid.
All of this said, much of what makes Mega Man 11 great for nostalgic players might end up turning off some kids (and older players who've grown used to and comfortable with modern gaming elements). It's relatively short compared to most modern games, entirely focused on solo play, and extraordinarily difficult. You can dial down the difficulty and take advantage of aids such as infinite lives and zero fall damage, but this also takes away much of the challenge, which defeats the whole purpose of a Mega Man game, robbing us of the satisfaction of doing something hard. Mega Man 11 successfully achieves what it sets out to do -- provide a challenging old-school side-scrolling action experience -- but its audience may be limited.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Mega Man 11 affected by its cartoonish destruction of robots? Would the violence be intensified if you fought humans instead? Should destroying conscious machines have the same emotional effect on you as killing living creatures?
Can machines ever achieve true self-thought? If so, should they be treated like people?
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