Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher/Developer: Batterystaple Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC
The Mega Man franchise worked extremely well at providing replay value back in the early days of video gaming due to a unique level select. By allowing you to choose which level to go to, and thereby which amazing boss power to get next, Capcom created conversations. There wasn't an internet to go to, so finding out the perfect strategy involved communication. The game would be talked about over lunch tables, at recess, during sleepovers...and by and large there wasn't one "final solution." Gamers would revel in delight when they found a weapon that helped take a Robot Master down easily, and instead of uploading a video to YouTube you'd be running to your friend's house to recreate it. And in that era's "viral," more cartridges were sold. Yet, in today's modern gaming world, information is there. Pirates and previewers have a written strategy guide for the "right" way to play before a game is even released, and that kills some of the magic. 20XX looks to return a bit of that in-the-moment magical strategy by mixing classic Mega Man with a procedural generation/roguelite scenario.
20XX gives a barebones story (bad robots need to be killed, you'll do it), but it's the gameplay that is the meat of this tale. You are thrust into a random level, itself randomly created via a very intelligent procedural generation. It feels as if there are tons of puzzle piece areas in each world type that are pieced together that never feel unfair. The generation often makes it feel as if there are multiple paths to the level's boss. Defeating them allows you to take their weapon or choose some of the in-game currency. You then get to choose one of three bosses to face next, each with their own procedurally generated level to battle through. Instead of having the internet at large decide the "right" way to do something, the limitations forced upon you give you the original thrill of trying to figure it out for yourself. Meanwhile, there is a seed entry/generator if you find a particular randomization you love.
While I've never been a fan of roguelikes, which start you over brand-new after a single death, 20XX's "rogue-lite" lets you feel as if there is progression each time you play. Through the game you earn nuts that count as in-world currency. You can buy extra health, armor, or power ups for that current trip. Defeating particular enemies or getting to the end of a level nets you chips, which must be used before the next play to give you permanent power ups, such as a health bar extension or a special character who shows up to give you goodies during a playthrough. This can all be turned off with the flip of a switch, back to a traditional roguelike at the basic stats. The game does have a "final boss" area to get to at the tenth level, another thing I appreciate. A lot of procedurally generated games just go on forever, but you are still working toward an end goal. The game does reward you for getting through a level quickly or finding secret areas, giving incentives for speedrunners and completionists alike. Others will appreciate the daily and weekly online challenges, as well as a boss rush mode.
My favorite addition to the play style is the cooperative mode. Either online or locally, two players can take on the levels simultaneously, leading to hijinks reminiscent of another fave Capcom game, Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers. My friend and I had a great time going through together. There are online quick emotes to share what needs to be done, and a particular button hold will teleport you to your teammate. There are two playable characters (reminiscent of X and Zero, while the PC version released last year ended up with a third character by the end of it), but you can play as clones if you both want a particular weapon. Each player gets the end-of-level choices of weaponry or cash as well. The game runs buttery smooth, be it single or multiplayer, and does a good job of positioning the camera for both players to see what's going on. The ability to drop in with single Joy-Con setups makes this another great drop-in game for the Switch, and for me the ideal place to play it, but it does stink that you lose one power button on the half-set (boss powers can be set to Y,X,L, or ZL. Honestly, three is enough though).
The game does a good job of feeling like a Mega Man game, with it's precision jumping, smart dashing, and enemy pattern memorization. Perhaps the only complaint from hardcore Mega Man fans will be the lack of complete level memorization. The randomness of the levels prevents you from blindly dashing through for a speedrun, but this game is more about the essence of Mega Man than anything else, and it does that very well. With Capcom spacing out on the Mega Man franchise for a while, a lot of people wanted to craft their own to show what a Mega Man game "should" be. 20XX adds enough to the formula to be an amazing game in it's own right, and the Switch is the perfect vehicle for it. If you are a classic Mega Man fan on the lookout for some new challenges, 20XX provides exactly what you need.
-New challenges every time for Mega Man fans
-Brings back the classic magic and discovery of a Mega Man game
-Multiplayer is a blast that doesn't hurt the core experience
-Powerups stack indefinitely, meaning you can "speed plus" yourself beyond your capability to maneuver efficiently
-Some may not like the lack of control over battle order
Special Thanks to Batterystaple games for providing a code for review.