Roguelikes and their ilk of varying degrees have always occupied a weird place in my life. On one hand, the skill required to keep at the “progress as far as possible and potentially ruining an entire run on a simple mistake” thing can turn a lot of more casual players off from the genre. On the other hand, some of the more hardcore among us relish in the challenge.
Developer/publisher Batterystaple Games’ aim for the sequel to their their Mega Man X-inspired roguelite 20XX seems to be to bridge the gap between those two crowds while also shifting some things around after feedback from the community. While it’ll drop on Steam Early Access (PC) on February 17th, it unsurprisingly bears the mark of a work in progress as a result.
So what does 30XX bring to the table that sets it apart from its predecessor? You’re still getting X and Zero-esque gameplay from Nina and Ace, it’s still a tightly controlled experience, and what was present in the prior game (powerups, “augs,” money, etc) unsurprisingly made its way here. The tried and true “don’t fix what isn’t broke” approach feels appropriate here, and fans of the first game can rest assured that boat wasn’t rocked. During the preview period, only a handful of stages (six, specifically) could be played. But that’s to be expected from Early Access titles.
The major addition to this title, aiming to bring in fans of the more traditional Mega Man X style of gameplay, is Mega Mode. This is basically the more “lite” approach to the roguelike formula, as you can choose what stage you want to tackle at will and blast through each stage as you would in what Standard mode would be. You’re still dealing with roguelike mechanics while you play, sure. But death isn’t the punishment it would be in the latter mode, as permadeath is not something you encounter here. You’re kicked back to the main hub and able to buff yourself accordingly so you can quickly get back to jumpin’ and shootin’.
Another addition to the core gameplay is couch co-op. I can see this being more of a console-specific addition if and when that happens, but seeing it playable this early in the development cycle is a nice thing. Right now it seems to only be two players, but I would love to see more if it’s feasible. Since online co-op is the more feasible option at the moment, making use of Steam’s Remote Play Together feature will be your best chance at co-op fun here.
Co-op gameplay at this stage is looking pretty solid at the moment. While communication is key in this sort of game, the engine and camera largely stays competent depending on placement and such. While we are dealing with 2D gameplay here and the mechanics might seem simplistic, having gameplay retain some level of solidarity is important. With the level of gameplay detail carrying over from 20XX, it’s nice to see that it translates well to the co-op end of things.
For those who want to flex their level design muscles, Batterystaple saw fit to include a pretty robust editor dubbed “Maker Mode.” While it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing editor seen in the likes of titles like Super Mario Maker, the interface itself is relatively easy to understand, which is nice for those who want to dip their toes into making their own stages. While it also allows for some serious depth, it’s nice to see that this feature is included at all. Don’t be surprised to see a mix of easygoing and brutally difficult stages coming out of this once this goes live.
Overall, the gameplay here is as solid as you would expect from a developer that reveres its inspirations as hard as it does. During gameplay, it wasn’t uncommon to run into glitches here and there. Again, that’s common for Early Access. But these bumps in the road can be easily ironed out as development rolls on.
Looking at the aesthetic side of things, the decision was made to further embrace the SNES-style influence and shift away from a hand drawn graphical style. Instead, we’re given a more sprite-based approach that lies somewhere in between the aforementioned 16-bit console and effects commonly seen in 32-bit consoles like the PlayStation. Personally, I find myself enjoying this art style more than its predecessor. While I’m not saying that 20XX‘s art style is bad, per se, it’s just that this style seems more pleasing to the eye than what was previously offered. I’m sure if some people try hard enough they can convince themselves that they’re playing Mega Man X4, as that’s the title that 30XX seems to be taking the most influence from.
I feel pretty good about the music and sound design here. The focus seemed to be on paying homage to different eras of Mega Man, as the catchy music has roots in more chiptune based tracks. Meanwhile the sound design falls more in line with more PlayStation-esque effects than anything else. Putting everything together meshes well enough, but the effort put forth here so far is pretty evident.
Overall, it feels safe to say that there’s pretty good reason the developers have confidence to release this game in its current state. While there are rough edges here and there consistent with any work in progress, the good thing about Early Access games is the amount of feedback developers are willing to receive from fans. People in the Mega Man community tend to have a pretty solid grasp on the mechanics of games like these, so here’s hoping that the eventual final product meets the expectations of these very same people.
Preview code provided by Batterystaple Games for PC. Featured image and screenshots courtesy of Batterystaple Games.