Mega Man fans have been clamoring for the Blue Bombers return for what feels like ages known while it seems that Capcom has all but buried his legacy, in recent years we have managed to snag a glimmer of hope in another title. Mighty No. 9 was to be the spiritual successor to Mega Man, led by none other than Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune. It was funded on Kickstarter back in 2013 in only two days and based on everything we were shown the game was looking like it was going to be a massive success. Finally, Mega Man fans could relive the fond memories of their past in the form of a new and exciting IP.
Well, flash-forward to 2016 and Mighty No. 9 was an unmitigated disaster on most fronts. This left Mega Man fans confused and saddened by the final product. However, while we were all dealing with the fallout from this disaster, another game was being developed by Batterystaple Games. This title seemed too good to be true, as it was a Mega Man X styled game with cooperative play and rogue-like elements called 20XX.
At first glance 20XX looks, sounds, and feels like a Mega Man X game so much that you would think it was developed by Capcom themselves. The controls were tight and responsive, the music was outstanding, there’s tons of power-ups and armors to collect, and even the characters are designed after X and 0. It’s everything Mega Man fans have wanted, and while it manages to succeed in almost every way Mighty No. 9 failed, it still has some minor shortcomings of its own that keep 20XX from being perfect.
When first starting 20XX, you are within the hub and instead of having a menu of eight or nine bosses to choose from like in classic Mega Man titles, you operate out of an in-game hub where you can do all kinds of activities. The amount of content in the central hub alone is a bit overwhelming and confusing at first, but you eventually get the hang of where you need to go. On the bottom level of the hub you can unlock items that will appear in future runs, permanent upgrades for your characters, or single use items used for the next run. You can also buy tokens that can be used throughout the levels on slot-like machines that give you a random reward. In the mid level of the hub you can choose which character you would like to play as, enable co-op, or start a new run. Lastly, the top level of the hub you can participate in daily challenges or you can try out the tutorial again.
What makes 20XX unique from a typical Mega Man game is its rogue-like elements and its use of procedural generation in the environments. Every time you start a new run the levels will be randomly generated so that the layout, enemy positioning, and items are all different. While it doesn’t capture that feeling of classic exploration and discovery found in Mega Man X, it does manage to make things feel more fresh every time you start a new run. Just like many other rogue-likes, every level becomes harder than the last. I only finished a full run once and it was by the skin of my teeth on the medium setting, of which there are three difficulties to choose from before starting a new run.
Once you hop into a level you will immediately feel like you’re playing the original Mega Man X with gameplay so spot-on to the original that it’s uncanny. You’ve got your regular shot, a charge shot, a dash and jump, plus having the ability to remap the controls makes charging while jumping easier than ever before. What I really love about 20XX though, is the level of customization. While in classic Mega Man X you had specific armors to choose from, 20XX allows you to mix-and-match different pieces from different sets in order to get a truly unique build. There are even certain upgrades that encourage you to mix-and-match armor sets for receiving more of a stat boost.
As far as the upgrades themselves you have powers that increase attack, special attack, and speed. The armor upgrades do all sorts of nifty actions, such as being able to air dash in all directions or fly around for a few seconds. Each character also has five unique variants to their basic weapons. Nina, who is the X character, gets the ability to shoot in a cone shape in front of her or in all four directions. Meanwhile Ace, who is the 0 character, can swap out his sword for a lance with longer reach or quicker blades that sacrifice increased damage for faster attack patterns.
Throughout each level you’ll stumble across areas called Glory Zones, that act as short little challenge rooms. Within these rooms you’ll be prompted to perform tasks, such as taking out an entire group of enemies as quickly as possible or running from a group of enemies without taking damage. If you succeed, then you’ll be rewards with an upgrade of some sort. They’re simple, but serve as a fun diversions that help you hone you combat skills.
As you defeat enemies you’ll accrue a currency known as Nuts that can only be used during your runs. Not only do these items allow you to purchase health and energy packs, but if you stockpile them can allow you to trade them in at scrapyards to get even better upgrades. You will need these power-ups to take on the bosses at the end of each level and if they’re defeated you can gain their power. However, unlike classic Mega Man you can actually choose not to take the boss’s power and instead take more currency or take another stat boost.
The music in 20XX is absolutely outstanding and probably one of my favorite parts of the experience. Just like the gameplay mechanics, it’s uncanny how much the music sounds like it was taken right out of a Mega Man X title. The soundtrack utilized a chip-tunes style that manages to capture that rock/metal feel from the originals with finesse. The same can be said for the sound effects with the dash sounding smooth, the shots conveying a meaningful impact, and the explosions are gratifying.
Graphically, 20XX succeeds in providing an authentic yet modern Mega Man X aesthetic and the characters and enemies all have smooth and very detailed animations. All of this combined creates a really fun and exciting experience that feels so close to Mega Man X. However, given the rogue-like nature of the title, there can be some design flaws with stage design and its focus. While many of the rogue-like elements work well, the procedural generation makes all the levels look familiar and can be repetitive. Most runs end up looking and feeling about the same as the last one, thus none of the levels are memorable.
Most Mega Man games are known for their difficulty and I found 20XX way more accessible with multiple difficulties to choose from and having an easier array of skills to use. Boss and enemy attack patterns are easy to get the hang of and there are only around eight different enemy types with different color schemes to differentiate between levels. While the difficulty can be modified by applying different modifiers like increased enemy attack or health points, most of these just make 20XX more frustrating than challenging and fun to play.
Overall, 20XX is, without a doubt, the best Mega Man styled game currently on the Switch eShop. While it has its downfalls, there is an astonishing understanding of classic Mega Man X mechanics that are missing from other comparable titles. It’s certainly a must play for any Mega Man fan, especially those still hurting from the disappointment of Mighty No. 9. Also, if you just like action/shooter games in general, this is one of the better ones on the market.