Growing up in the early ‘90s Mega Man was one of my very favorite franchises, with incredible titles on the NES and SNES. In the new millennium, the market was flooded with average Mega Man games on the Game Boy Advance and DS. Capcom seemed to have abandoned the series, and we haven’t seen a new installment since Mega Man 10 released 8 years ago. Mighty No. 9 promised to be a spiritual successor to the franchise, but that turned out to be an outright disaster. As fans wait for the release of Mega Man 11, this new game from a completely different developer, 20XX, is something worth checking out.
20XX, created by BatteryStaple Games, is heavily inspired by the Mega Man X series. It was funded through Kickstarter, released on PC last year, and is now available for the Nintendo Switch. You can play as Ace, who wields a sword or Nina who uses an arm-cannon weapon. The characters are well rounded and you can switch between them after completing a stage. The basic gameplay is familiar enough – you’ll battle through a stage filled with enemies, hazards, and platforms and fight a boss at the end. The only thing missing is a stage select. Instead the levels are procedural generated and the design, items, enemies, and even the boss characters change each time you play. Your goal is to complete a run, successfully conquering all 8 levels, and boss stages without dying. The game features permadeath, unless you choose the easy mode, in which you get 3 lives. Much like other rogue-likes, when you die, you retain some of the items and upgrades you earned during the failed run.
After the quick tutorial, you begin in the hub world, and I was immediately overwhelmed by all of the choices. In addition to the 4 shops filled with all sorts of mysterious items, there are daily, weekly, and hardcore challenges, as well as a boss-rush mode, co-op mode, and leaderboards. This all came together pretty quickly after a few attempted runs, but can be confusing at the onset. In the levels themselves there are all sorts of items to collect. Bolts are used to buy health and soul chips are used to purchase temporary power-ups, as well as permanent upgrades. Glory Zones offer challenges that reward you with a special item. When you defeat a boss, you can choose to get his special weapon, or instead opt for health or soul chips. It took awhile to learn which items stay with you after death and how to strategize spending. After a few defeats, I understood the objective better. During each run you are getting stronger by upgrading yourself, or you can choose to buy items that are only good for that individual run. Overall the game offers a healthy challenge and won’t be mastered easily.
The levels designs, enemies, and bosses are where the game really falls short. Most of the boss-battles were rather dull, unimaginative, and often defeated way too easily. Perhaps it’s because of the procedurally generated levels and bosses – the randomness means the developers have no way of knowing what skills or weapons you’ve obtained. The game features a limited amount of common enemies – none that stood out to me. As far as the levels themselves – one of the many reasons people love the classic Mega Man titles is the theme and environment of each stage. I remember most of the iconic designs, backgrounds, challenges, and level-themed enemies in stages like Bubble Man, Quick Man, Shadow Man, and Chill Penguin. There’s very little of that in 20XX, with the ever-changing stages. The levels all offer a healthy challenge with good action, fun platforming, and item discovery, but I just expected and hoped for more than this.
Many fans of video game music can hum the tunes from the classic Mega Man stages like Air Man, Magnet Man, or Storm Eagle. While 20XX uses chip-tune music, designed to sound like a 16-bit OST, it doesn’t match the classic sound of Mega Man. However, that’s an impossible standard to live up to. I enjoyed the music in the game, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to its OST in my free time, as I do so many other games from the Super Nintendo era. The visuals are in the same boat as the music. The art style is simply above-average, and a lot of that goes hand in hand with the lack of variety in enemies, and less than inspiring level design. One extremely positive thing I can say is the controls are perfect. It feels like you are playing a classic 16-bit game, and they are easy to learn and master.
The game offers an online or local co-op mode. From what I played locally, it was very smooth and quite fun. The game is full of daily and weekly challenges, as well as a Boss Rush mode. I like that they have extra options for those who get really into the game. I’d have to successfully complete a run first before I dive into these more. The game also does a terrific job keeping a record of all of your statistics between your runs.
While playing this game, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the recently released Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. This game was inspired by and designed like Castlevania III, one of the greatest games ever made. They did a near perfect job, replicating the gameplay, but introducing new characters, levels, music, story and enemies. 20XX was obviously inspired by Mega Man X, but instead of creating iconic new bosses, stages, and music – the focus was put in other places. The game is entertaining, but it’s nowhere near as enjoyable. The game offers a lot of creativity and some unique ideas, and may be worth considering to fans of classic gaming – especially if you are looking for a great co-op game to play.
20XX was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.