The Mega Man series has a reputation for being unforgiving, but beyond the veil of pitfalls and instant death spikes are miniature puzzles waiting to be solved. Enemies and hazards are always in the same place run after run, so once you’ve cracked the code you’re on your way to success.
Whether you’re a Mega Man veteran or a newcomer, this guide will help you understand how to navigate Mega Man 11’s many old-school and updated nuances.
Understanding the double gear system
Mega Man 11’s main twist is the inclusion of the double gear system, which translates to two separate powers known as gears.
The first is the power gear, which allows Mega Man to fire powered-up shots that do more damage. When firing a normal shot out of his Mega Buster, it looks like a tiny pellet. But using it while kicked into power gear will make it more formidable, dealing more damage and covering a larger range. Mega Man also gains access to another charge shot level by holding down the shot button for an extended period of time.
Next up is the speed gear, which theoretically speeds up Mega Man in-universe, but for our purposes, it slows down time around him. You’ll be using this gear to make tricky jumps or deal more damage in a shorter period of time.
When in doubt, the speed gear is always a good gear to use. (With one exception that we’ll explain below, you can’t use both powers at the same time.) Veterans may insist on not using gears for a self-imposed challenge, but it is never a bad idea to pop them, so long as you don’t run them over their limit.
Both gears are governed by a meter that depletes while you’re using either power. If you spend too much time powered up, the gear meter will break and you’ll need to wait a few seconds to use them again — this is known as a cooldown period. All you need to do is keep an eye on the meter and press the same gear button again to cancel it. This will avoid having to enter the cooldown period, though you will still need to wait for the meter to fill back up.
One final note about the double gear system: You can also enact a life-saving ultimate move if you’re low on health. Just press both gear buttons at the same time when critical, and you’ll trigger both powers. The caveat is that you can’t cancel this ability, and Mega Man will enter a longer cooldown period that doubles as a weakened overheat status. You can’t use charged shots until you recover.
You’ll hear a special tone that indicates that you’re able to use the double gear ability, so you don’t have to guess.
Farm some easy bolts in Block Man’s stage
Bolts are the lifeblood of Mega Man 11.
They dictate how many power-ups like extra lives that you can purchase, as well as how often you’re able to permanently upgrade Mega Man.
Block Man’s level is one of the easiest places to farm bolts. Get to the first checkpoint (a small arrow will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen momentarily denoting that you triggered it), then head to the room with the conveyor belts. There’s tons of respawning enemies at the top of the room to farm (kill over and over for rewards), not to mention a good deal of bolts on the way. If you press start and use the stage select option, you can exit at any time without a penalty.
If you’re having trouble with a particular level, experiment and learn it first all the way through before you dump a ton of bolts into e-tank and extra life upgrades. There’s nothing worse than being thrown a curveball last minute and watching all of your power-ups and lives deplete to zero.
What to buy first
Mega Man 11 offers a huge variety of items in its shop, which you can access during the stage select screen between levels. You’ll need bolts to buy them, but it’s smart to finish off a few robot masters before spending all of your cash. Then you’ll know where your weaknesses are and what you need to augment to counter them.
You’ll want roughly five extra lives for mistakes, several full life refilling e-tanks and one or two pierce protector (single-use guards from instant death when touching spikes) and Beat calls (single-use items that protect you from pitfalls) at any given time.
Bring what you need for the task at hand, and scout out the level and the boss. For instance, Acid Man’s stage contains a lot of spikes, and Bounce Man has a large amount of pitfalls. Knowing this will allow you have to purchase a small cushion for mistakes while you’re making your winning run.
One clear winner for a first purchase is the cooling system item, found on the last page of the store. It’s just a straight upgrade that allows your double gear meter to charge back up faster after use with no downside.
Once you start branching off into other upgrades, just know that not all equipment is worth having on at all times. For example, the speed gear booster, which allows you to move faster when you slow down time, can actually hurt you during boss fights. Having Mega Man go slower can assist when making tricky dodges, and going faster will propel you through some of the race-like level gauntlets.
Stagger shielded enemies with a charged shot
If you can’t do any damage with a regular shot, try a charged shot instead.
To use a charged shot, hold down the shot button until Mega Man glows, then release it. You can hold in a charged shot indefinitely, even before a boss fight begins with the intention of unleashing it after the battle commences. Consider always staying in a charged state, so you can handle whatever obstacle comes your way.
You can also get creative and try to use the charged shot differently rather than always firing it head-on. While climbing on a ladder, for example, you can unleash a charged shot to hit someone above or below you. The blast is big enough to hit enemies beyond the scope of Mega Man’s normal reach.
Dodge ground slams
Mega Man 11 has a lot of tricky cues that you need to become aware of. One of them is a ground pound ability, employed by enemies and hazards.
Whenever something slams on the ground and stuns you, odds are you can dodge the stun by jumping before impact. If you need to get the timing down try to use the speed gear to make things easier.
There’s a quicker way to swap abilities
Mega Man games used to require players to press start to swap powers, but that changed with the Mega Man X series. As follow-ups in the classic timeline started to arrive after the advancements made in X, they incorporated many of its systems.
You can still press start to enter the menu screen and swap to whatever weapon you need. While this is the slowest method of swapping, it’s also actually the safest, as it allows you to fully assess the situation and change tactics without having to frantically try to remember the right button combination.
Once you’ve graduated from swapping weapons the old-fashioned way, you can start using the triggers. Pressing either trigger will rotate your arsenal in the order of the pause screen — an order that never changes. If you want to get back to your mega buster, you can press left/right weapon swap at the same time (L2+R2 on PS4) to instantly swap. You can also click the right analog stick to get back to your standard shot. This is important to remember during boss fights if you ever find yourself wielding a weapon (a stolen enemy ability) with an empty gauge.
The third way to swap is through the right analog stick. It’ll bring up a weapon wheel similar to first-person shooters with tiny icons. This is the quickest way to change your gear on the fly.
Make the most of your weapons
If you’ve never played a Mega Man game before, one of its major mechanics involves stealing abilities from defeated bosses, called weapons. There are always several weapons that are more effective for general use, and the power gear can make them even better.
Here are a few of Mega Man 11’s all-stars.
Acid Barrier (Acid Man)
Shield weapons are often the most useful abilities in the series, and the acid barrier absolutely cleans up as the most effective power in the game.
While many shields in other Mega Man titles simply provide you with a protective barrier and even fewer provide latent offensive capabilities, the acid barrier doubles as a free-fire weapon. Enable it, then continue to fire to shoot out globs of arcing acid.
You’ll want to swap to the acid barrier whenever there are projectiles involved. The barrier will nullify incoming hazards like missiles, allowing you to focus on platforming.
Pile Driver (Impact Man)
The pile driver isn’t something that’s found in most classic era Mega Man games, as it’s more of a Mega Man X-style weapon. It can trivialize a lot of tricky jumps.
After using the pile driver, Mega Man will dash forward in the air with an attack. It can dole out damage, but the real hidden ability is forward movement — when you need to make a tough jump, try it with the pile driver first.
The power gear really comes in handy with the pile driver as it upgrades the length of the dash.
Tundra Storm (Tundra Man)
Several other weapons allow for attacking enemies above or below, but tundra storm does both.
When in doubt, you can swap to tundra storm. Think of it like a catch-all that can strike anything and everything, a power that is extremely useful when climbing up series of ladders with enemies raining down above you.
Likewise, if you’re dropping from a huge distance and have no idea what’s lurking below, popping a quick tundra storm will clear them out before you can take damage.