The Mega Man X series was a big step forward for the entirety of the Mega Man franchise when it first came out back in 1993, with the earlier Mega Man X games—namely X, X2 and X3—being rightfully praised for their gameplay, as well as the level of polish it brought to side-scrolling action games. While Capcom itself has been quiet with regards to the Mega Man X series outside of releasing the Legacy Collections, indie studios have definitely stepped up to pick up the slack. Batterystaple Games is one such studio, hoping to keep the legacy of Mega Man X alive with its upcoming title, 30XX.
From it being the studio’s first stab at the genre, 30XX is a sequel to 20XX, and as such, comes off like a much more polished version of the 2017 release. Everything about 30XX is bigger than 20XX, from the swathe of different tilesets for its randomly generated levels, to the variety in weapons and power-ups, 30XX is an out and out upgrade over 20XX. This review, however, treats 30XX as its own entity, and I won’t be comparing the two titles.
30XX isn’t a particularly complicated game. You’re thrown into a level and have to make your way to the end—typically by side scrolling from one direction to another with each level concluding with a face-to-face boss fight. Along the way you get health pickups, temporary currency (called Bolts), and a currency for meta upgrades (called Memoria). Beating certain encounters, like mini-bosses, level bosses, or even challenge rooms, can get you an upgrade for the duration of your current run or a new weapon.
"30XX isn’t a particularly complicated game."
The core game mode in 30XX is essentially a rogue-lite game where, if you die, you’ll lose all progress and end up back at your home base. Trying for a new run will randomly generate all the levels again, including any progress you might have made along the way. There is a form of permanent progression, however. Players can make use of the memoria they collect throughout the levels to buy permanent upgrades to health, power, and a host of other options.
Make no mistake, however. 30XX is an incredibly difficult game, much in the way that the classic Mega Man X games were incredibly difficult. 30XX doesn’t really show you any mercy in how it lays out its levels, and while it makes sure that the level can be finished by only using your core abilities without any upgrades, you’ll have to be ready to learn how the game really works in order to make any progress. This means that mastering the game’s fast-paced movement is an absolute must.
Thankfully, the movement in 30XX follows the maxim of easy to learn but hard to master. You have 3 primary movement options aside from just moving forwards or backwards: a dash, a jump, and a wall-jump. These three movement options come together quite well to let you get through a level in blazing-fast speed, especially once you get used to using the three options in tandem and start understanding how they can come together. For example, pairing up the dash and the jump together won’t let you dash through the air. Rather, it lets you jump much further than you otherwise could have. Similarly, the fact that you can wall-jump on the same wall at high speeds to get quite a bit of elevation is a core idea that the game’s levels are generated around.
"Mastering the game’s fast-paced movement is an absolute must."
The action doesn’t get too complicated, however. Most enemies you come across in a level will die in anywhere between 1 and 3 hits, especially if your weapon is fully charged up. Mini-bosses and level bosses, on the other hand, are where things start getting much more interesting. Depending on the level you’re in, you might find yourself facing one of the game’s several mini bosses. For example, you might face a strange clockwork enemy that spits gears at you in the Clockzone. On the other hand, the Burning Temple level might pit you against a Big Rolly on your way through. The mini bosses, while not as difficult as the bosses you face at the end of a level, still end up being quite challenging and a test of how well you can handle the levels’ different mechanics. The Big Rolly, for example, is a small chase sequence culminating in an arena where you get to take it down for good, all while trying to use wall-jumps and dashing-jumps to dodge over its attacks.
The end-of-level bosses themselves act as the game’s gatekeepers, testing all of your abilities to the fullest. Each boss features unique designs depending on the level, and you’ll be well aware of what to expect at the start of each level. The Burning Temple, for example, often plays host to Zen Primus, who can use his massive jumping attacks and fireballs to make its fight a test of evasion. Lethal Tempo from the Clockzone level, on the other hand, has you juggle four different sources of attacks as you take out its four weak points.
While the core game might offer quite a bit of challenge, that isn’t the only way to play 30XX. The game also offers what it calls Mega Mode—a much more forgiving way to play through its randomly-generated campaign, allowing you to hang on to all the upgrades you might find in a run even after you die. Mega Mode is essentially a soft introduction to the core game loop in 30XX that, while more forgiving, doesn’t really turn down the difficulty. You’ll still have to get good at the game’s movement and combat if you want to make any real progress. The only difference is that you won’t have to repeatedly fight the same enemies if you happen to die and restart.
"Mega Mode is essentially a soft introduction to the core game loop in 30XX"
One of the highlights of 30XX, however, is the fact that it comes with its own level creator, along with a host of options to play custom levels created by the game’s community. Players can download custom levels they like and try them out. The game offers several ways to sort community levels as well, from popularity to quality to even difficulty. There’s also an option to run through a gauntlet of randomly selected community-created levels with a limited number of lives.
The plot in 30XX is as simple as it can get—there’s an evil scientist who might want to destroy the world, and our protagonists, Ace and Nina, are tasked with stopping the scientist’s plans. There isn’t really much more to the game’s story than that, and it’s simply present as an excuse to let you plough through its randomly generated levels and epic boss fights. The game still has quite a bit of character, however, and each NPC has their own unique quirks, making the short conversations you might occasionally find yourself in short, sweet, and often funny.
30XX is one of those games where it really depends on how much you enjoy a particular classic gaming franchise. Fans of the Mega Man X games will find a lot to love here, while those who don’t enjoy side-scrolling action games won’t really find anything in 30XX that will change their mind. If you’re unsure, however, 30XX will offer quite a few hours of fun, assuming you have the patience to master its simple gameplay that allows skilled players the ability to pull of some absolutely incredible feats.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Excellent fast-paced action; Simple to understand but difficult to master; Fun boss fights; Community levels can be great.
Challenging learning curve for beginners; Community levels can be bad.