A few years ago, platformer fans were yearning for new Mega Man-inspired games, as Capcom was ignoring the franchise at that time. This is what caused Mighty No. 9’s Kickstarter and other titles like the great Azure Striker Gunvolt to rise to prominence. Following an extended stint in Early Access, developer Batterystaple Games has brought 20XX, a Mega Man X inspired roguelike to PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
The game does control well, looks nice, and is fun in short bursts, especially on the Nintendo Switch, I ultimately came out feeling underwhelmed. Lackluster procedural generation and a few technical problems hindered the experience for me, though this game should have no problem tiding the hardcore Mega Man fanbase over until they get their hands on the Mega Man X Legacy Collection and Mega Man 11 later this year.
20XX wears its inspiration proudly on its sleeve in pretty much every aspect of the game. Its story is relatively standard – evil robots have taken over! This causes Nina, inspired by X, and Ace, the sword-wielding Zero-esque character, to go on a quest to stop them with the help of two Dr. Light and Dr. Wily inspired scientist. Like with most roguelikes and retro-styled platformers, the plot takes a back seat, though this wasn’t a significant issue. Aesthetically, while simple, 20XX does look clean with actions flowing smoothly.
The game’s soundtrack is also excellent and helps give the high-octane rush usually instilled by the music in the Mega Man and Mega Man X series. The game’s presentation doesn’t come out spotless, unfortunately. Load times were unusually long, especially in handheld mode on Nintendo Switch, which interferes with the fast-paced nature of roguelikes. 20XX also managed to lag at some of the game’s crazy moments, whether the boss was exploding or the procedural generation just packed too much on screen at one time.
20XX plays quite similarly to Mega Man X, so fans of that series should have no trouble jumping in. Nina, like X, can jump and shoot either a regular or charged shot, while Ace swings his sword like the ever-popular Zero to chop his way through enemies. I wound up playing as Ace more, as the close quarters combat felt much more satisfying and intense, especially against the game’s bosses, which were all designed in exciting ways.
In classic Mega Man style, killing a boss grants players a weapon, though one can opt to pick up a smaller augmentation, like increased health or speed, instead. As 20XX is a roguelike, players will be doing this multiple times across five stages with procedurally generated enemies and layouts, finding Soul Chips along the way to buy permanent upgrades for their characters.
Just like with other roguelikes, the tried-and-true gameplay loop of going in again and again with different and improved builds is present and just as gratifying here. Combining these staples of roguelikes with the Mega Man formula works surprisingly well, and keep me coming back at first as 20XX initially felt rewarding to play. This means it should work surprisingly well as a handheld title for most, namely Mega Man fans. Unfortunately, 20XX is let down by one crucial element: its procedural generation.
The first couple hours of the game were engaging, but then things started to repeat themselves over and over again way too much. While some would level this argument against roguelikes in general, I usually am a fan of the genre, so my frustration here was uprising. 20XX didn’t seem to have enough variety in its generations. Some games opt to just randomly place pre-set room for players to tackle, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
After a few hours, I saw the same level layout repeat itself in back-to-back runs, and with only five levels and six bosses to set as a backdrop, this stood out like a sore thumb. Due to being procedurally generated, these level layout also didn’t have the tight and genius level design that usually makes the Mega Man titles enjoyable to play. Once I got enough Soul Chips, and all of the permanent upgrades were picked, the fun and player motivation in 20XX dried up.
On the other side of the spectrum, the procedural generation also occasionally created level layouts that were way too ridiculous, with horribly placed disappearing platforms, spikes, pits, and lasers to create stages that were nearly impossible to navigate and could potentially end a great run. These are extremes better roguelikes can fine tune, but that, unfortunately, isn’t the case here
Outside of the main runs, 20XX also features co-op and weekly leaderboard challenges in runs built from randomly generated level seeds. These should serve as a nice distraction for most, and playing a Mega Man style game in co-op feels unique. These will probably be the aspects of 20XX I return to the most, though even they may eventually wear out their welcome.
If the procedurally generated levels were better, I’d wholeheartedly recommend 20XX to anyone, but with how it currently functions, I can only recommend it to Mega Man fans who need that itch scratched. With that said, Mega Man X Legacy Collection releases later this month, and Mega Man 11 arrives in October, so that window is already dwindling. 20XX is a game that controls nicely and surely felt needed and relevant back when it hit Early Access in 2014, but winds up feeling underwhelming in 2018.