Mega Man X is widely considered to be one of the greatest 2D action platformers of all-time. Capcom’s edgier spin-off of the Blue Bomber’s main series has extremely tight controls, excellent level design, fantastic powers, well-balanced boss fights, and a rocking soundtrack. There’s nothing quite like that on Switch just yet, at least not until Mega Man 11 and the Mega Man X Legacy Collection release later this year, which means 20XX has a nice big gap to fill.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then you can consider the teams at Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games to be blowing Capcom a big, fat kiss with 20XX. Rather than copy-pasting the formula exactly across to their own game, they’ve made some major changes to the structure and flow while keeping the core gameplay mostly intact. Everything from dashing to wall sliding and jumping is here and feels just as great as you remember from the SNES days.
For starters, there are no predefined levels in 20XX at all - everything is procedurally generated. So instead of picking from a list of levels like you would in classic Mega Man games or even just progressing through a series of levels in order, every time you play 20XX it’s going to be something a bit different. There are four total themes: ice, sky, flame, and jungle. Within each theme, there’s a high degree of variation on display from the types of enemies, platforms, puzzles, hazards, and more. In addition to the levels being randomised, bosses aren’t set in stone either. At the end of each level, you get to pick from three options for your next level based on different boss plus theme combos.
The good thing about this system is that it keeps things fresh. When you start up a new 'run' of 20XX (that’s what the game calls playthroughs) you’re immediately faced with something new and challenging. However, after a few hours, we start to notice some of the procedural chunks the game uses to craft levels sticking out, such as small segments of platforming that look like a template or an enemy placement starting to get predictable. This is amplified by there only being four themes in total. Thankfully, having eight different bosses helps alleviate the repetition. But you’re also robbed of the satisfaction that comes with memorising a level and running through it perfectly at breakneck speed after mastering it - but playing something new each time has a charm all its own anyway.
Those blemishes aside, it’s a great system that works really, really well when you layer on all of the other mechanics on top of it. For example, items and upgrades (augs) are split into two categories: permanent and per-run. The permanent items and upgrades are persistent across your time with 20XX, so even if you die and restart, it’s still there. A great example of a permanent upgrade is investing in a robot companion that visits you midway through level two with a randomised loot chest. Depending on how things are going, it can literally be a lifesaver.
During a level, you’ll find boxes full of bolts, energy (which you spend to use new weapons,) and health, as well as loot chests that contain upgrade items. Everything from extending your health, amplifying your dash speed, granting double jump, enhancing damage and more. Sprinkled across stages are also Glory doors that task you with wiping out a series of enemies as fast as possible to get a prize, which is usually a really good upgrade or even a weapon. Upon death, all temporary items such as new weapons and per-run upgrades are erased and you start over. However, one currency is persistent which you can then use to unlock new items that start appearing in runs or even to unlock permanent upgrades.
There are two characters featured in 20XX that you can select before starting a run: Nina, the buster-shooting Mega Man clone, and Ace, the sword-slashing Zero clone. We typically play aggressively in 20XX, so Ace’s up-close sword attack is really rewarding. It can still be charged like Nina’s buster for increased damage and its base damage output is actually higher per slash than the individual pellets. It just lacks range, so going after a boss with a good ranged weapon drop early on is basically required. Gameplay is solid for both, but it’s a bit unfortunate it’s really just a Mega Man X clone on that front.
Playing 20XX in co-op is great and makes us wish it was a standard feature in actual Mega Man games. Nina and Ace’s main weapons are different enough that you’ll actually be able to develop strategies in how you approach enemies so it becomes more than just pure co-op for the fun of it. At the main hub area for the game, you’ll also find Daily and Weekly challenges at different difficulty levels with leaderboard rankings. You can also opt to play the game itself on a harder difficulty with modifiers to increase difficulty, or even on an Easy mode that grants you three lives instead of just a single try.
Playing 20XX has an addictive rhythm to everything. You dive into the level, find loot like upgrades and currency bolts, kill bosses to take their weapons, and keep pushing until you die. After dying we’d often suffer from that 'just one more run' itch that’s so common in roguelikes and the formula fits an action platformer like 20XX perfectly. The procedural engine does a good job of mixing things up, but after a while you can start to see a little repetition, but that’s easily overshadowed by the sheer variety and amount of upgrades and customisation.