The recent success of games like Hades, Dead Cells, and The Binding of Isaac serves to highlight how healthy the roguelike genre is today. Each title continues to see healthy player numbers and regular updates, with good reason. They represent a different flavor of the niche, yet all of them offer a compelling case for players to keep coming back.
2017’s 20XX filled a similar market gap, combining the action platform thrills of Mega Man with a compelling roguelike. While it wasn’t perfect, especially concerning its divisive modern artstyle, it offered enough thrills to keep the dedicated fanbase happy.
Based on my playtime so far, Mega Man can safely stay retired to Capcom’s retro library, because 20XX’s successor 30XX, out now in early access, is a blast.
For those unfamiliar with the playstyle of Capcom’s classic robot mascot, 30XX is a 2D run-and-gun platformer across large, tight levels. This sequel has switched to a more familiar pixel art style, which looks delightfully detailed and flows smoother with the action compared to its predecessor.
There are two playable characters that offer differing styles. As the blue hero Nina, you have a gun arm similar to its inspiration to shoot from a distance. Meanwhile, her partner in crime, Ace, is a melee bot, but with a boomerang projectile available. Facing a multitude of flying and explosive enemies with compact platforming sections, you must blast your way through a number of themed levels that each offer a distinct monster set.
Like a traditional roguelike, you can collect cash during your runs to buy items and weapons at the store and modules from mini- and end-level bosses to give you permanent upgrades. Abilities and mid-run upgrades in the form of augmentations can also boost your character, but exploring each level is essential to finding them.
Level structure and designs are also randomised into different layouts on every run, so while there will be some sections of familiarity, each time you play should feel different. This keeps it fresh enough to want more, at least until the next set of content is added. Co-op also extends longevity and levels accommodate two players excellently.
And the action will leave you wanting more. Like the Mega Man games of old, 30XX’s platforming feels both tight and responsive while carrying a significant challenge. Your weapons have weight, and you can see a marked difference in your abilities as you improve throughout a run. Ace is arguably stronger than Nina at base strength, but it’s balanced enough to accommodate fans of both playstyles, and new weapons you can find improve this further.
There’s even a mode if you prefer to take things slower, Mega Mode, that removes permadeath and saves level progression, just in case you don’t want to commit to a potentially long roguelike run.
And then there’s the soundtrack, a phenomenal collaboration of classic chiptune and contemporary synth that just about any fan of Capcom’s hero will adore and melds delightfully with the gameplay.
As a result, even at this early stage, 30XX is an immensely enjoyable experience. Aside from minor visual glitches, it runs rock solid and the love for the Mega Man franchise is as obvious as it was in 20XX. While the run-and-gun genre isn’t as popular as it once was, it’s clear that there are still fans of that genre out there.
The genre is unlikely to ever reach its peak again, but if this is an indication of the end product, 30XX will serve that niche perfectly, just like the games at the top do.