January 3, 2019 at 2:00 AM #654
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Calling in the reinforcements when the Blue Bomber is missing!
I’ll be upfront with you guys: I am a HUGE Mega Man fan, with the "X" series definitely being my favorite (even though Mega Man X7 is a thing…). Growing up with the classic series meant I was always pestering my parents to continuously rent Mega Man games (they seriously should have just bought them…) and by the time Mega Man X came around it blew my 8-year-old mind.
However, the X series has been stagnant since 2004 and with the exception of Mega Man 9 and 10, we really haven’t seen the Blue Bomber in awhile (which is a bit silly to write, since the "Mega Man X Legacy Collection" literally came out recently and we’ll see Mega Man 11 later this year).
So when I got a chance to review 20XX for the PS4, I had to jump at it. 20XX definitely wears its Mega Man inspiration on its sleeve, but does this game make its forefathers proud or do these robots belong in the junk?
The first thing you should know is that 20XX is a rouge-like action game that really does feel like you’re playing one of the older Mega Man X titles (the controls and precision you have are very tight). Before we get into the game play though, let me point out the fact that the story is… pretty bare. Two unknown scientists are forcing two robots named Nina (who attacks with a blaster) and Ace (who attacks with an energy sword) to travel to enemy-infested areas and clear them out. No real background story or plot to speak of here: you just exist to defeat enemies and be judged by these scientists after every level and exterminated if you fail.
But as you can see, Nina is basically Mega Man with Ace taking the role of a buster-less Zero here. After a short tutorial level, you will be thrown into the game. As I mentioned before: 20XX controls just like an old Mega Man X title, but at its heart 20XX is a rouge-like game. Every "run" you do will put you in a random level against a random boss (like Mega Man, the game has eight "robot masters" to fight against). After beating the boss at the end of the level, you’ll get to pick from one of three rewards (one reward is always the boss weapon) and will then get to choose one of three (random) bosses to take on next.
The biggest "rogue-like" elements are in the stages themselves however. The game only has a handful of "zones", such as the Sky Garden or Factory zones, but the enemies and obstacles you face are randomized every time which makes every run you do its own unique experience. The best part of this though is that as you defeat more bosses, the difficulty will steadily increase in upcoming stages, even altering the bosses themselves!
Personally, I wasn’t sure if I’d like these random levels or not. After all, one of the best parts of those early Mega Man X games was finding out-of-the-way areas that had heart upgrades and armor upgrades. Thankfully though, 20XX was able to include challenge rooms and shops in their level generator that fill that void nicely and reward Nina or Ace with powerful armor upgrades.
The cherry on top is that certain enemies throughout each level will give you "Soul Chips" that you can use once you die and return to the main hub area (where you can switch between Nina or Ace as you wish). These soul chips let you buy permanent upgrades that increase your health or special weapons bar, or even let you find a cat companion that can give you goodies in the middle of a level (just like Beat used to do). Along with the gradual difficulty curve, this is what makes 20XX so addicting to me: you can continuously get better and better just by playing and acquiring Soul Chips.
While there’s not much to say about the "story" in this game, if you came here looking for classic Mega Man X game play, you just hit the jackpot. 20XX delivers in spades on this front.
Unlike the game play, the graphics throughout the game aren’t directly pulled from their 16-bit inspiration. That’s perfectly fine though, as the graphics are quite solid nonetheless, with a more cartoon-ish look that works well (remember that this game initially started out on Kickstarter and definitely falls into the "Indie" category). The game does an excellent job with hit detection and effects as well (enemy boss explosions are particularly satisfying). However, with the exception of the opening scene (which is a fantastic homage to Mega Man 2), the "cut-scenes" throughout the game were fairly poor and came off as poor-quality flash work.
Like the rest of the game, the music here is also very inspired. The soundtrack is full of fast-paced synthetic beats that would have sounded right at home on the SNES and will most certainly keep you jamming as you fight onward. The tracks themselves are based on the areas you visit, but despite the limited stages, I still found the tracks to be quite good (I particularly liked "Firestorm", "Second Strike", "Permafrost" and the "20XX Theme"… give them a listen on YouTube!).. I should also note that there is no voice acting here, but all of the sound effects are solid.
Like most rogue-like games, 20XX has re-playability in spades due to the random level generator and the boss order always being mixed up. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though, as 20XX actually features online co-operative play (although I haven’t personally tried this yet, the fact that its a feature is pretty mind-blowing). The game also has challenge categories you can select from the main huh (daily, weekly, etc…) as well as leaderboards. Once you beat the game, you will also unlock a third character you can play as.
Due to the increasing difficulty curve in the game, chances are pretty good you’re going to die quite a few times before finally beating 20XX which will give you a good sense of how random the game is (and let you make several permanent upgrade purchases). Even with that though, experienced platform-gamers can likely play through this game in a good weekend if they tried (although online co-op, challenges and a full trophy list with several unique trophies can surely add dozens of hours on top of that if one wished).
In the end, 20XX may not spin a tale warning us humans of a robotic future (or feature a robot continuously wondering why he fights…), but the game play here can’t be denied: this is the spiritual Mega Man X sequel you’ve been waiting for. If that sounds like music to your ears, you owe it to yourself to give 20XX a try! Have fun and keep playing!
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