As a child, I grew up not with an NES or SNES, but with a Genesis. We also didn’t have a whole lot of games for the system, so Megaman was a series of games I never really came to know or love. After sitting down and getting some time with 20XX, I think I have started to see the joy in the tight platforming action that it brings to the table. Add on top of that a roguelike element and I’ve become hooked by this game.
20XX is a roguelike love letter to the Megaman franchise. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve and without shame. The intro sequence even has a camera quickly scaling the side of a skyscraper with the heroine, clad in blue, on top of the building. The main characters Nina and Ace are blue and red-clad androids who bear a beyond striking resemblance to Megaman and Zero. Nina has an arm cannon, while Ace uses only melee sword swipes. From the outset, you will notice a lot of similarities to be found here. Digging deeper reveals another level of the game that has me sinking countless hours into it already.
Since 20XX is a roguelike game you play it in runs where permadeath exists and when you die you will be sent back to the main hub ready to start another run. Each level has a decent length and is capped off by a boss battle. Defeating the boss at the end of a level will reward you with the bosses weapon, which you can hold up to three abilities. More interestingly there is still a dynamic where certain boss weapons may be more strong against other bosses. On top of that, you will also find many passive bonuses throughout the levels that last until the end of the run. Destroying enemies will often also drop a per-run currency of nuts that you can spend at health or energy vending machines, or in shops that might appear randomly through the map. Defeating larger enemies or completing levels will also give you a currency called Soul Chips. Bringing back Soul Chips allows you to get permanent character upgrades, unlock new items to show up in future runs, or purchase a few select items to start your next run. Make sure to spend them when you get back, since starting a new run gets rid of any leftover Soul Chips.
The levels in 20XX are generated from blocks that are randomly organized together at the start. This means anytime you play a level it doesn’t play the same as before, but you will start to see sections that you may have traversed before. To mix things up a bit more enemy and item spawns within these blocks are also varied, so it’s not often you will come across the exact same challenge twice. There isn’t necessarily a feeling of mastering the entirety of a level, but you do get that feeling about mastering sections of the level. The more I play the game the more I’ve come to appreciate the level of their algorithm to build these levels. After reaching a boss room I can generally look back and feel like I just played a hand-crafted level. There aren’t often misleading dead-end paths and there are plenty of side branches that will lead to some hidden items and rewards. For a randomized game, it feels very well designed, and the boss fights at the end are intense and fun.
Each of the four worlds has one of two boss characters that will be at the end of it. To “beat” the game you need to defeat all 8 bosses, and then you reach the final 2 bosses. Each boss has very unique tactics and move sets. You need to keep mobile and start to learn patterns to be able to handle them more easily in future runs. Defeating a boss allows you to take their power, or instead take some extra nuts or an extra ability upgrade. Finishing the level under a certain time limit gives a small gift box with health and nuts in it at the end of the level. 20XX even allows you to save and quit after any boss battle so it can be played in short bursts of single-level clears if you don’t have time for a long play session. Since every level has two possible bosses, you will undoubtedly come back to the same world again, re-randomized, and fight the second boss to reach the end of the game. The order you will encounter them is semi-random. After defeating a boss you can choose one of three undefeated bosses to move to next. When you run into the second of the bosses in a world it will also have a slightly varied fight, being a little tougher than it would be if you ran into it first. This took me by surprise when upon destroying a boss I had previously figured out it suddenly split into two mini-bosses and kept fighting. These variations of boss patterns keep the game feeling fresh every run.
It is a lot of little touches that really make this game standout both as a Megaman-esque platformer, and a roguelike game. One of the permanent upgrades is a robot companion you can start to add after certain numbers of levels completed that will resupply you with new gear. There are challenge rooms that pop up as a chance to get more rewards for completing some unique task, usually on a tight time limit. Every run I feel like I’m getting better at the bosses, the platforming, and just as a character becoming stronger. Each run I seem to collect more and more soul chips and have started to understand enemy patterns. It creates a rewarding loop of mastering all the parts to a certain level that you could possibly run into instead of a set level. Abilities you find along the way also change up the game with each one and create new tactics for handling every situation.
Even if you find the difficulty of platforming games like 20XX a problem, they have an easier difficulty that grants you 3 lives instead of permadeath, and all progress and chips collected there work the same, unlike some games that may only offer certain bonuses to playing in harder difficulties. I found this mode to be great to start with as you can see more of the game and learn more boss routines. It also makes collecting Soul Chips for permanent upgrades a little easier.
Overall I would recommend picking this up if you are a fan of action-platformer games and roguelike games. It does both parts of this surprisingly well and is peppered with enough bonus challenges and difficulty levels to keep you coming back for more.
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Very tight platforming controls
Seamlessly randomized levels
Local and Online co-op
Unique Character play
Limited Level Pallets
Not much story