20XX is a roguelike 2D sidescroller and platformer that was released for PC in August 2017 and for Nintendo Switch now. It bears a very strong resemblance to Mega Man X, both in its aesthetics and gameplay. But can it live up to the near-perfect action platformer with the impeccable soundtrack from our childhood?
Let’s talk similarities. In 20XX, you play as a young girl named Nina clad in armour and brandishing a power blaster; not unlike our old hero, X. You also have the option of playing as a male character, Ace, who wields an electric sword instead. I opted for Nina, partially out of nostalgia, as she has the closest move set to X, but also because, hey, badass female lead in an action platformer? I’ll take it.
[As a side-note – growing up, I always thought Zero was a girl (it was hard to tell under all those pixels, and how on earth did he manage the upkeep of all that luscious blonde hair?). So even though I found out years later that Zero is not a girl, it was cool to have this super-awesome powerful girl to look up to at the time.]
The move set of Nina/Ace is very similar to X, from wall jumps to dashes. You can gain power-ups in each level, similar to Dr. Light’s cylindrical dispensary of goodies. The variety of power-ups is astounding in 20XX if a little overwhelming. You can improve how much damage you dole out, your blaster, your jumping abilities, and more, and in a multitude of ways. These abilities can be picked up in levels or in the interactive menu screen (more on that later).
Boss battles are similar to Mega Man X as well, with both the double boss door entry and the boss battle room being nearly identical to Mega Man X. Where the two differ however is in the bosses’ battle approach. Gone are the days of Chill Penguin and Boomer Kwanger, with their well-timed, random attacks that one had to calculate to avoid after careful observation. In their place is a coordinated bullet hell attack that seems to be identical across each boss. So while each boss may have different names, looks, and levels in which they reside, the boss battles become stale fairly quickly, with limited originality, apart from how each boss looks and what they shoot at you.
From there, the two games begin to veer off, with 20XX showing how much they’ve attempted to improve upon the fun challenges of Mega Man X. We’ll start with the interactive menu first. A little gimmicky, but it’s definitely a unique way to handle browsing through upgrades and levels. You start your journey here, and when you die, you return here to choose your next path and gather upgrades for your next run. You can also change characters here (Nina or Ace), and trade your loot in for various power-ups. Yes, the baddies drop loot in this game, which is similar to Mega Man X. But rather than 1ups and health, baddies in 20XX drop robot parts, which can be used as a form of currency to purchase upgrades. It sounds a bit like an iPhone app, but it’s not so bad once you start to figure it all out.
Let’s face it, The music in 20XX is good, but it can’t compare to the timeless beats of Mega Man X (Armored Armadillo, anyone?). It still has that 16-bit synth sound, but I’ll admit that none of the levels’ tunes really grabbed me for any length of time. Where the game does succeed Mega Man X is in graphics. For a 2D side-scroller, 20XX really has some gorgeous moments, especially any time you’re faced with an explosion.
20XX has made some improvements on the old franchise, for sure. You can play online co-op with a friend, you can take a break from a level and opt-in to a challenge, which could reward you with some excellent loot. Where the game noticeably lacks is in its story. Mega Man X expertly handled the dilemma of the conflicted hero. X does not see himself as a saviour, but rather as a sort of monster who has slain so many foes along his journey toward a resolution that he doesn’t even fully comprehend. 20XX has taken the depth and story out of Mega Man X and kept only the base mechanics of the game. There is no deeper story than: Robots Here Are Bad, Blast them. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. But it all depends on what drew us to Mega Man X in the first place, and whether those same draws will connect you to 20XX.
For a game funded by a Kickstarter though, it is impressive what has been accomplished, and the team at Batterystaple Games has certainly made a game that will satisfy those sweet pangs of nostalgia for us old Mega Man vets.
20XX is now available on the Nintendo Switch for €14.49 in the eShop. It’s also available on Steam, PS4, and Xbox.