Do you remember when getting a new Mega Man game was a yearly occurrence? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Actually, Pepperidge Farm remembers wrong. We used to get several Mega Man games a year. But Capcom milked the franchise until people got sick of it, and now we’re lucky to get one per console generation. As a fan of all things Mega Man, this displeases me greatly. In this case, it’s up to the fans to deliver what they truly want unto themselves. And in this case, that is more Mega Man. Better yet, a Mega Man game you can play forever. Combining classic Mega Man platforming action with roguelite sensibilities, the result is known as 30XX, courtesy of developer Batterystaple Games.
30XX is the sequel to 2016’s 20XX, a continuation to the theoretically neverending adventures of Nina and Ace, as they do what Mega Men do best. Battling evil scientists to save the world, all with awesome music and neverending theft of superpowers. Is this newer, upgraded roguelite a worthy pretender to the throne? Or is it destined to become a twisted, malformed, maverick of a game?
Story: A PHD In Despair
30XX is, as the name would imply, set a millennium after the events of 20XX. An evil scientist named Eleanor is trying to use multiversal time shenanigans to destroy the universe, forcing rival scientist Alexia Sharp to awaken Nina and Ace from stasis, such that they may defeat Eleanor.
The story is kind of irrelevant and hard to follow, but to the game’s credit, it does make a much better attempt than it’s predecessor. 20XX was the stock “Defeat the mad scientist” story that Mega Man is intimately familiar with. 30XX is also that on the surface, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s a lot of lore entries you’ll unlock throughout your playthroughs that hint at a much grander narrative. And in a move reminiscent of Hades, completing the game once is just the start of your adventure, as you’ll have a whole litany of objectives to clear across multiple playthroughs to unlock the true ending.
The lore entries vary wildly in tone, and do a nice job at fleshing out the game’s world. There are manufacturing reports, scientific experiments, and personal lore entries, including some from the various bosses themselves.
Mega Man has never really needed a good story, so 30XX doesn’t really need one either. All it needs is solid, platforming action, and 30XX excels in that regard. The tutorial immediately makes clear what to expect, an authentic, unfiltered Mega Man experience. The game boasts two playable characters, Nina and Ace, who resemble but are legally distinct from X and Zero. Nina attacks at range, via a buster with multiple unlockable firing modes. It can fire spread shots, wall-penetrating wave projectiles, rapid machine-gun pellets, and more. Ace is your Zero equivalent, boasting incredible attack strength and agility, though only being able to attack at short range, with a variety of melee weapons, ranging from swords, to whips, to hammers, all of which with their own special techniques.
As is the Mega Man way, Nina and Ace both possess the ability to steal special weapons from defeated bosses, though both characters are far from equal in this regard. When defeating a boss, you can choose to take either it’s weapon or an upgrade to one of your currently equipped weapons. Nina, however, possessed an ability Ace does not, the ability to combine weapons, ala Gunstar Heroes. Any two weapons can be fused together to create new, incredibly powerful combinations. Say you have the black hole weapon. By mixing and matching it with various other weapons, you can make it shoot extra projectiles, make it a damaging aura hovering around Nina, or transform it into a massive screen nuke, destroying everything on screen but eating through your weapon energy like crazy.
Less Than Mega
In what may be a first for a roguelike, it includes a mode that is not a roguelike. This is the game’s so-called Mega Mode. Mega Mode is structured more like a traditional Mega Man game, where you can tackle the initial eight stages in any order, with fixed layouts, and the ability to replay levels endlessly to farm upgrades.
Mega Mode sounds like a good idea on paper, but doesn’t really turn out well in implementation. When I played 30XX, I played Mega Mode first, and thought that was a bad idea. While it was a nice opportunity to learn boss patterns, it didn’t really prepare me well for the main game. The levels, while fixed, are still randomly generated, and randomly generated levels aren’t really as interesting when you’re playing the same one over and over again. 30XX is more interesting when you’re forced to adapt on the fly and have the specter of permadeath looming over you.
There’s a number of quirks with how Mega Mode is implemented that I find questionable. The main one is that meta progression is not shared between modes. Upon defeating bosses, you get a special currency called Memoria that you can spend back in the hub for permanent upgrades. Part of the reason I played Mega Mode first is that I thought it would be a nice way to get Memoria and prepare for the main game. I thought it would be a nice way to farm Memoria, but upon beating Mega Mode and starting the standard game, my upgrades didn’t come over. The main menu in Mega Mode feels incredibly dry and uninteresting. And the third weird quirk is that there’s no story in this mode for some reason.
Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own
One of the main new features this game has over its predecessor is a level editor. You can either make whole levels or provide level chunks that the random level generator can use. Playing with community-made made chunks does not impede progression one bit. I find that community-made levels are often more interesting than the base game’s levels. They are a bit more difficult, so be prepared for slightly more difficult platforming. Or you could just hope you find a Leg core that lets you cheese all the platforming. That will work too.
There is one massive asterisk with this mode though. While community-made levels are on both the Switch and Steam versions, the level editor itself is Steam only. To be fair, you’d probably want to make levels with a keyboard and mouse anyway. But if Mario Maker could get it to work on Switch, then so can this.
As an added bonus, the game is fully playable in co-op, of the online and local variety. Co-op is incredibly fun, with a lot of smart design choices to ensure that your partner doesn’t get lost. Your partner can teleport to you, and most powerups are shared between characters. Revival stations are a bit rare for my liking though. The game also tends to get the occasional framerate drop in co-op, while it runs perfectly in single player. The framerate drops aren’t too disruptive, but they’re something to keep in mind. I’ve also had various minor bugs, the worst of which was a Gauntlet in Stage 9 that didn’t spawn correctly, and just teleported me above a bottomless pit to my demise.
Graphics and Sound: The World of Tomorrow
I replayed 20XX in anticipation of it’s sequel coming out, and one of the first things I was reminded of was how butt-ugly it looked. It looked like a Newgrounds flash game, if you’re old enough to remember those. Not exactly the most flattering comparison for a professionally released game from 2016. 30XX, thankfully looks much better. The game has received a comprehensive pixel-art makeover, and everything looks beautiful. I particularly like the backgrounds, they’re imaginative and ethereal, and there’s multiple ones per stage. The characters and enemies all look clean and animate well. Once you’re fully upgraded, watching the screen get blanketedin later blasts and explosions is very satisfying.
Sound is another aspect where 30XX does well. The music is extremely energetic chiptune melodies, and I thought they sounded great. They’re not the sort of thing I’d listen to outside of the game, but in-game, they’re excellent. One song I’d particularly like to highlight is the one for the stage 9, it being appropriately epic and ominous for a final level song.
Character designs are on-point as well, they’re all awesome looking and very appealing. They’re immediately reminiscent of Mega Man, but while still doing it’s own thing. Except for Delta though. You could mix him in with a bunch of generic reploids from the X series and nobody would be able to tell the difference. Not that that matters. He’s still the best.
30XX was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch, using a key provided by StridePR.