Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games have delivered a tight, direct Mega Man X-influenced title that gives fans of platformers and the Mega Man series something new to chew on each time they play. Whether it’s playing solo, co-op with a buddy on the couch or even online, just blazing through should be a blast. Anyone wanting that blue bomber experience without having the urge to replay the classics will find a new experience here. In some ways, 20XX falls short of greatness, but it provides worthwhile incentives that you won’t find in any mainline Mega Man game.
There’s no mistaking it; 20XX was designed with Mega Man X in mind down to everything from levels, UI, playable characters, controls and music. In a time, and certainly a long time, of fans clamoring for the next entry in the Mega Man X series, 20XX replicates the series nearly perfect – and the game doesn’t dare to hide it. Mega Man X is one of the most beloved platformers in all of gaming’s history and 20XX captures the essence that’s been lost to fans for years. Shoot, even the opening sequence is a straight callback to one of the classic Mega Man games. 20XX gives longtime fans a taste of what they’ve been missing. Still, it’s important that it very much does its own thing such as giving a true roguelike, procedurally-generated take on Mega Man X and even having online cooperative play; the dream. Due to this direction, it also has its shortcomings.
Kicking off, players will go through a tutorial stage in order to get familiar with the controls. And they are spot on. Movement feels tight and precise. Shooting and slashing work like they should. Dashing, jumping and wall-jumping respond just how you want them to. Just based on the controls alone platformer fans in general will love it, but Mega Man X fans more-so as they’ll feel right at home. Varied by game and especially platformers, sometimes the content can be an afterthought since just character movement in general is enough reason to want to play; 20XX is no exception. For this, the procedurally-generated levels can offer limitless play sessions for anyone wanting to go through different layouts constantly putting their skills to test.
Upon obliterating the tutorial stage like the badass that you are, you immediately enter the main hub and will begin here all other times you boot up the game. The hub is a 3-story improvement center full of non-action where you must take action in your own hands of steel. Advancement of any kind is done here. Players can choose to upgrade their robot hero, do daily and weekly challenges, hop online for some co-op action doing a particular kind of run or boss rush mode, check the leaderboards, or if they’re truly brave enough… replay the tutorial. Gone is choosing your own robot master on a select screen for whose stage you will be playing; as well as which boss. You start the game on any of the 4 themes in the game with a randomly generated layout. This ensures a fresh beginning every time. It may be a stage with lava givin’ you the heat in dangerous corners or an ice stage with slippery platforms. Watch out for the thorns in the jungle stages and other variety in the sky stages.
There’s not much of an engaging story, but players are able to choose any of the two robot heroes. For starters, Nina is this game’s X with a blaster cannon. X is Mega Man, thus the face of the series so Nina can be seen as the same. The one major difference is that Nina suits up as a female lead. Players may also choose Ace, the game’s Zero, equipped with a slash sword and all. Following the same tradition, these two characters feel exactly like fans should expect them to. Nina can shoot pellets and charge her shots in the same fashion as Mega Man, a “ranger” if you will. Ace is all about getting up-close and personal with the blade which can be charged as well, providing an even stronger attack. Attacks from both characters feel great and landing kills is just as satisfying as before. There is an easy difficulty which gives the player 3 lives. There’s also plenty of options to customize your playthrough on a harder difficulty as well. When your run ends, you will be given a score taking into account of all the things that’s been going on such as the amount of shots, damage given, etc.
One major aspect of 20XX that sets it apart is when playing on Standard difficulty, certain progress ends and resets the moment you die. Carried over to the next level from completing the previous level are not only the powerups you’ve gained on your current playthrough but also you total health and special weapon energy. For example, health does not replenish to maximum when beginning the next level. However, you are given multiple methods of getting what you need all throughout levels. 20XX offers players pickups and powerups smartly while allowing them to have choice in the matter. Scattered throughout levels are crates with goodies inside. Often in areas harder to reach, players will be rewarding with health points or a specific upgrade. More often than not, some of these pickups are the game’s two types of currency: Nuts and Soul Chips. And it’s these two currencies that are 20XX’s food, or fuel, for continuous play.
You do collect more Nuts than Soul Chips and there’s a reason for this. Nuts are spent on upgrades on your current playthrough, such as buying health or energy when you need it. These drop from enemies or you can find them in crates. They are good your current run only. The game may generously provide a vending machine before boss fights for players to spend Nuts on health should they choose to do so. Soul Chips are for permanent upgrades purchased in the main hub and these are extensive powerups that carry over to your next playthrough. The catch is Soul Chips don’t carry over. The Soul Chips collected on your current playthrough must be spent before starting your next playthrough or they’re gone for good. Usually you can buy a couple of upgrades after a session and after your next run or the next time you start the game new upgrades will appear. The upgrades are can be unique, too, like a random helper to give you something on particular levels. Some upgrades that don’t require Soul Chips but which may be obtained in your current run can come in bonus rooms found within levels known as Glory Rooms. Here, a timer will count down and players must eliminate all the enemy waves (3) before time runs out. Players will be gifted a chest which they must destroy and a powerup can be obtained, such as double charge shots, double jump, random health gains when killing enemies, 4-way dashing and more. These generally show as particular head gear or limb pieces.
Players will need to get through 8 different stages. The different enemy types vary from theme to theme. Some are basic ground and air enemies, but others are quicker threats and have particular patterns. Their designs are okay overall and they fit the style this game is going for, but are also not too memorable in visual identity and movement patterns. The bosses are much better, however. In fact, bosses are chosen at random for any of the random levels. They can put up a decent fight and have patterns worth mastering. Best of all, they offer the player their boss powerup after they’ve been defeated which can be mapped to a button of your choosing on the fly, be it L, ZL, ZR, or X. Of course, it’s still all by choice. Although many elements are random, players can choose how they make progress. After each level is completed, players are offered both powerup and stage choices. If a player doesn’t particularly favor a boss powerup, they can choose to ignore it and choose any of the passive upgrades instead, such as boost in speed, power, health, etc. Sometimes getting that attribute boost is worth skipping that boss powerup. Finally, players can choose out of the 3 next offered stages even showing who the bosses are for them. It’s good to know what you’re going up against and being able to choose particular upgrades during your run.
With all that, 20XX still feels kind of flat in certain areas. An endless Mega Man is a wonderful idea and is one I welcome and do enjoy. However, the procedurally-generated levels, while remaining fresh, feel uninspired. You don’t know how a stage plays until you’re in it, but after a few sessions you begin to notice set pieces either feeling generic and you get the sense of platforms being placed randomly. There are no errors to worry about, but it doesn’t mask the randomness factor very well, despite being very random. Much to that extent, forget about learning levels and getting the satisfaction of speed runs. Ultimately, carefully designed levels by hand win the day. I also wish I could customize my button layout. The only option was to change dash from R to A. I would’ve preferred dash being on ZR since it’s much easier to perform than making a slight finger adjustment to press R. It’s a minor complaint, but worth noting. Finally, the art direction is clean for both good and bad. The clean look makes everything sharp and stand out. Being able to differentiate the colors of platforms should be necessary. The backgrounds on the other hands are entirely too clean to the point they’re bland. Cutouts with different shades overlapping each other looks too simple for what is happening in the foreground. It feels very cheap and flash game-like. The soundtrack isn’t outstanding, but it definitely gets the job done and retains that Mega Man vibe for sure.