The future is often seen in the media as a mysterious and barren thing. Rather than settling on exact years, liberal use of the letter X has become commonplace. 20XX took gamers by storm a few years back and the only way to really show this is a sequel would be to jump forward to 30XX cos’ let’s face it, 21XX sounds weird.
The Year Was 30XX.
20XX was released a few years back and felt like it was a direct jab at Capcom stubbornly not releasing new Megaman titles. Then they did and MegaFans have been living their best lives ever since. 20XX took the run and gun platforming the Blue Bomber was known for and fused it with the ever-popular roguelike genre.
30XX has just been released into Steam Early Access and is the developer’s second chance at cracking the formula. Will they be bringing the best Androids to the battle?
Now usually we would wax lyrical about the story here and give an opinion/analysis of it but being 30XX is currently in “Alpha” state all you really have to go on is an opening stage with about 3 lines of dialogue. Render this section ‘Under Construction’ and just come along for the ride that is the gameplay.
Yeah, but how does it ride?
As mentioned before, 30XX is a run and gun platformer fused with those ever-so-popular roguelike elements. If you wanted to really boil it down to basics, much like 20XX this is a MegaMan X Roguelike. But let’s dive a little further and see what has been served up.
Currently, 30XX consists of a small introduction level, an expansive but empty hub, and six levels with different themes. There are also different robot bosses to fight at the end of them.
To tackle these stages and foes you get to pick between Nina or Ace. Nina is your traditional “Mega” character with a ranged blaster whereas Ace fulfills the “Zero” role and comes equipped with his handy laser sword.
Where 30XX starts to break away from its predecessor is that it gives you the option to play a cheekily named “Mega Mode” or the traditional 30XX runs. The Mega Mode cuts down on the permadeath of the standard mode and allows players to play the stages in any order they choose. Players can even keep boss weapons upon death which is…..Mega.
Say you’re like me and love the Chaos, then the 30XX run is for you. It’s all platforming and shooting of a run and gun nature. There’s that random and chaotic nature of a roguelike too. In both modes, the levels are randomly generated but 30XX runs really lean into that Permadeath, slow progression with multiple currencies cliche. The same one that has been consuming games more and more, especially since a certain Greek game did so well!
Equipment and Abilities
Your abilities are jump, shoot, special attack which is earned after beating a boss, and dash. The only issue I actually found with the controls was the momentum of the dash while on the ground didn’t actually feel like I was going any faster. Wall jump dashing displayed the desired effect but on the ground, I felt like I was just dashing for fun.
You can unlock equipment and upgrades which are found in chests strewn throughout the stages. The better stuff lies at the end of “Glory Zone” where you’re dealing with a challenge room for better swag.
Equipment requires power cores to equip and initially you can only have 10 Power Nodes. Fortunately, you can recycle gear you find in the field for more power nodes to help you become the machine of war you always knew you were.
Equipment and Augmentations work hand in hand yet the Augmentations don’t require any Power Nodes. These tend to increase things like your strength, health, speed, or give other benefits such as new types of shot/attack. For example one of my first runs saw me dominating with a spread shot which I doubled up with equipment to turn it into the 30XX equivalent of a double-barrelled shotgun.
Nina can fuse special attacks to create new ones. You’ll get these attacks from the end of stage bosses and it’s always interesting to see what kind of shot you can come up with. Ace can create new attack combos to really push out the power of his laser sword. Coupled with his ranged attack, this makes him a different but completely viable playable choice.
The range of equipment and upgrades on offer are not only varied but often had an impact on my 30XX runs. I didn’t find Nina’s fusion ability quite as essential as Ace’s but it was fun to see the fusions, something I can only assume will be expanded with further updates.
..Is that a Rogue?
The 6 stages available in this Early Access version follow different themes such as Cyberspace or my personal favorite of Clockwork. While segments of the stages are randomly generated, these feel more like blocks. You’ll find the more runs you do, the more you recognize these “blocks”.
Each stage has a gimmick. While the game never stops to teach you this, it does the old-school technique of gradually introducing them. By the mid-boss, you have a decent grasp on what it’ll have you doing. One example of this is the rooftop stage which has special background tiles which allow you to jump from them or just fall through. This is exclusive to this stage.
There are mini-bosses and main bosses in each stage. One brilliant touch is that in some stages the bosses tie into the gimmick. One stage has you running from a wheel of death which eventually becomes the mini-boss, while another rains down bolts of electricity until you dispose of them.
While the bosses within 30XX are pattern learning affairs, there are also helpful little warning markers too which aid you. The bosses were a good mix and despite not being quite as iconic as others we could mention, the fights did all play quite differently. The Clockwork one particularly caught me off guard.
Throughout stages, you’ll find bolts that can be exchanged for health or energy at vending machines. If you’re lucky enough, you may even find Equipment or Augmentations.
Tokens can also be found in levels and are useable on a slot machine before bosses. The rate that health and currency is dropped feels inconsistent. This may be due to the roguelike nature of the game.
A 30XX run takes upwards of 40 minutes. That’s in the current state, through the game’s six stages. There is an option to make the game tougher by tweaking stuff like damage output and the like. You can also make runs easier like many other roguelikes, by spending a currency that permanently unlocks abilities and health/energy extenders.
On the control side of things if you have played Mega Man X at all you’ll be right at home. The controls all felt very responsive and I picked it up instinctively from the second the game gave me control. It is just as fun and addictive as the inspiration. Each enemy has a specific pattern and it’s just as fun as ever figuring them out and reacting in the best way. Unfortunately, a few of my runs were cut short with my character just refusing to move, I had one crash mid run and a few audio/graphic options which weren’t run breaking but still annoying. Still it is in Alpha, so it’s early days.
30XX also has multiplayer in the form of a fully functional co-op mode. The screen zooms in and out so both players have ample screen space and it’s generally a good ol’ time if you pair up with a friend and knock out some 30XX runs.
The only other real thing that stood out to me that made 30XX more of its own experience was the hitbox. It felt more like a bullet hell with Ace and Nina having much smaller hitboxes. I’m hoping this is an actual feature rather than an Early Access quirk because the bullet-dodging really sold the game to me from its first run.
Does it look Super or Mega?
Visually 30XX couldn’t be further up my street if it tried. It leans heavily on the Sega Saturn/PSX sprite era, much like the later MegaMan X titles which have so clearly been an influence here.
The visuals give 30XX that much more appeal in my opinion and helps it complete that feeling of being as close to the influence as it can be. Perhaps it’s psychological, but the way the sprites animate just makes the game feel like it’s a much smoother and more fun experience to me.
Another aspect I loved about the visual style is that some levels such as one set in a Japanese forest estate reminded me more of Mega Drive titles than SNES, intentional or not. I loved the art style. It gave me a wave of nostalgia.
If I am perfectly honest, it seems like the developers really wanted to nail the weakest point of 20XX with this title and they did. The art style is so strong that it really just makes this feel like a more complete title than the previous installment.
On the audio side of things 30XX manages to one-up the music on offer in 20XX and offers some fairly infectious earworms. It’s too hard to tell at the moment if they are going to reach the heights of Chiptune greatness, but I paid much more attention to the music here than I did in 20XX, and for good reason.
All in all 30XX is shaping up to be everything the original title was and more. While a little thin on content and glitch/bug heavy, this can be reasonably forgiven due to it being in Alpha state.
I have no doubt that this title is going to great places and would suggest any Megaman or Roguelike fan take advantage of the Early Access program and get in early. Even though there isn’t a whole lot here right now, it’s constantly updating and is certainly my current MegAddiction.
30XX IS RECOMMENDED!
Many thanks go to Batterystaple Games who provided a PC review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk