While there are plenty of Megaman collections around these days, new interpretations of this iconic series haven’t been all that great – I’m looking at you Might No. 9. Thankfully Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games loved the series enough to make a roguelike homage that tasks players with surviving an increasingly difficult string of levels that will push you up against your limits like a dog running into an incredibly clean glass door. In case you haven’t seen that particular sight, it hits you hard, it hits you fast, and you’ll never, ever expect it.
You get to play as either Nina or Ace, both of whom are highly skilled fighters who are tasked with cleaning out the immense amount of robots that are hanging around after a robotic uprising. The two characters control the same but play very differently; Nina has a blaster and is great for anyone who is used to the classic Megaman style of gameplay, which is to say lots of dodging and shooting. Ace on the other hand wields an energy sword and will require a significantly more personal style of play, although no dodging is still essential to survival.
Naturally you can pick up augments to these basic attacks, Nina can pick an item up that lets her shoot in the four cardinal directions of gaming, whereas Ace can trade his sword for a lance and as a result get a little more range as long as you don’t mind having to be more precise. As well as these weapon changes you can pick up body alterations as well, you can find legs that let you double jump, arms that give you an even higher charge level, and a head that makes half of your special attacks free. All of these make for a true roguelike experience that means you could have any kind of weird Frankenstein’s monster by the end of any one of your runs. Your runs will normally end in death, which is a common aspect of both Megaman and roguelikes, so it isn’t surprising, but seriously, expect death often.
While traversing the levels you will be tasked with fending off the various nasties that buzz around you trying to either knock you off of the platform sections, or just straight up murder your interfering self. If that isn’t too much to deal with there are also some incredibly demanding platforming sections that require nigh on perfect timing and, more often than not, clever use of the dash mechanic. The elation of making it through any particularly harsh section is often immediately removed by the next. As you progress through the levels they get harder and harder, the enemies will be stronger and even have some fun new attacks; fun for them of course, not for you. Along with this there will be more environmental hazards, more traps, and even more swarms of robots trying to take you out.
Each level culminates in a boss fight, each boss being one of eight unique bosses that you more or less get to choose the order of. The bosses are well designed, each requiring a different set of tactics to best, and each one more than capable of ending a run in an instant if you become complacent. As with the levels each boss gets harder depending on when you face them; at the beginning of the run the boss feels like a nice warm up, if you face the same boss at the end of a run then there will be platforms missing, new phases, and stronger attacks. The way this game balances difficulty throughout a run is genuinely incredible, the first level will feel like a nice entry point, the last will be plagued by so many death traps that it feels like it was hand made to be that way. The fact that this is all done with procedural generation is a genuine feat.
On top of all of this, you can play through the game co-op with a friend, which can make some parts far easier, and some parts far harder depending on your focus. There are also various daily and weekly challenge runs that will let you test yourself against others with a scoreboard system. In an interesting addition to the standard roguelike formula, you can actually change the difficulty here. The main difference apart from the general harshness of the challenge you face, is that on the easiest difficulty you actually have two extra lives. This really helps out if you aren’t familiar with the style of play required, or if you just want to unlock some upgrades before diving in to the harder end of the pool, you know, the laser firing shark infested bit.
Despite how hard this game is, that isn’t a mark against it – very much the opposite in fact. Megaman games have always been incredibly challenging and anything that tries to give the same feel as those needs to be just as difficult. 20XX does an incredible job of balancing this given its roguelike nature. It’s a worthy successor to any of the old games, it is the game that Megaman fans have been waiting for, and quite simply it does what it does spectacularly.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch – also available on PS4 and Xbox One