Developed by Battery Staple and Firehose Games Published by Battery Staple Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (Also available on Xbox One, Switch, and Steam)
Mega Man X was and is still a very important part of gaming history. Capcom at the time was struggling to take Mega Man to its next level. While still releasing games for the aging NES, Capcom took a gamble that would become one of my favorite parts of the Mega Man universe. Mega Man X not only transitioned the series to the SNES era, but it evolved it. The game was darker, more story focused, and upgraded the gameplay to something that was almost a completely new beast but still familiar enough that fans would have little trouble jumping in. Fans took to this new version and it became a classic. Many fans including myself still hearken back to the series that has been dormant for over 14 years. A team of ultra fans got together and crafted a rogue like platformer in the same vein as the X series and poured as much love as possible into it. Their passion shows through in every pore of 20XX.
Set in a fictional world where robots are running loose, we are introduced to a contractor duo Nina, who wears blue armor and fights with an arm cannon, and Ace, who wears read armor and wields a saber. The two set out to collect their paychecks and defeat the rampaging machines. Setting out as either character you must face eight berserk robots and face them in randomly generated levels. The game is super responsive, controls are very tight, and the consistent 60 FPS makes this game a real delight to play. Now the first few levels most likely won’t be a huge challenge for X series veterans, but the difficulty scales upward as you beat each level. Not only do the levels become longer with more obstacles and tougher enemies, but the bosses gain new tactics and hit harder, too. On top of which, since each level is randomly generated, you can’t memorize and practice the levels. There’s four types of stages, each with their own deadly variety of traps and gimmicks. One of my favorites is the lab because there are segments with upside down platforming. Enemy variety can be a little lacking overall but then there are ultra-strong versions of the enemies you encounter later.
Bosses are a bit more interesting. As I began to understand their inner workings, I realized there were certain bosses I like to defeat earlier in my run. Not just because their weapons are useful, but because they are a much bigger pain later on. Once you defeat a level, you can choose either to get the boss’ weapon, or you can choose an upgrade. You then also get to choose which boss you’ll pursue, but you only get a choice of three, again at random. On a lucky run, I was able to tackle the ones I disliked most and could deal with stronger versions of the ones I knew well.
The balanced difficulty is the X series’ biggest boon, as are the upgrades and boss weapons. Progression yields a cornucopia of upgrades for health, armor, weapon energy, and do-dads that have various effects. The armor and main weapon upgrades are some of my favorites because they can change so many variables and really let you find a niche. My favorite armor pieces gave me the ability to temporarily fly for a couple of seconds which made certain platforming segments easier and for Ace a main weapon that thrusts like a spear but can’t combo as well. I also found most of the boss weapons to be useful all around which is a feat for a Mega Man X styled game. You can perform challenge segments known as “glory runs” to earn an additional piece of armor. These range from killing enemies quickly to freezing platforms and getting to the goal without taking damage. Each weapon has a use not only as a boss weakness but can help with solidifying disappearing platforms, freezing fire spouts, and hitting enemies in weird places with a mortar. Defeating bosses and glowing enemies allows you to earn Soul Chips, a currency that can be spent outside of your current run to buy permanent upgrades and one time use boons.
And what’s even better is that 20XX is armed with a really nice presentation package. The hand-drawn artwork moves fluidly with personality. The levels can be considered generic locations, but have some nice backdrops and good color variety. Each stage has a unique song for it. The soundtrack got me grooving while I got into the rhythm of the game. It’s ok by itself. As a whole it makes 20XX more enjoyable. If you don’t fear a challenge and think you can brave randomly generated levels then you owe it to yourself to pick up 20XX. It’s a discounted title that is far more than a budget game.