Memento Mega

HIGH Pixel art perfection

LOW Trips to bullet hell

WTF Capcom, get on it

Whatever happened to the Blue Bomber?

It’s been five years since there was a new Mega Man game (I don’t include mobile cash-ins), a sleight made worse by the fact that 2023 is the series’ 35th anniversary. This was once a property that had a new entry nearly every year between a slew of spin-off series — X, Zero, Legends, Battle Network and more.

While Capcom seems content with repackaging old titles into collections, the developers at Batterystaple Games have replicated that mega magic with 30XX, taking the 2D dash-and-wall-jumping platforming mechanics of the X series and bringing it to the roguelike genre.

It’s the same premise as its predecessor, 20XX (a reference to the dating convention from the original NES Mega Man games). Players choose Nina or Ace — differentiated by their attack type, shoot or slash — and rampage across eight main levels (plus the finale) with algorithmically-designed layouts, picking up whatever gifts RNG will award them along the way.

Whereas the previous entry looked like Newgrounds flash animation, 30XX offers a gorgeous palette of 32-bit pixel art. It does wonders to enhance every aspect of the experience, even making the platforming feel tighter and more responsive.

30XX also features a more expansive library of power-ups and weapons. It’s got the typical attribute progressors — more health, stronger attacks, new special techniques — but also more mechanically-focused tweaks integral to core gameplay like boosting weapon charging or adding buffs to hits that happen after a wall jump. Most are positive or offer trade-offs, but there’s also some truly bizarre ones typically labelled as “prototypes.”

Between runs, players will spend “memoria” dropped by bosses on permanent boons, some directly tied to stats but most just adding choice or frequency to shops and other room types.

Unlike many roguelikes that add an element of the unknown, all effects are clearly spelled out and there’s nothing here that will really ruin a playthrough — 30XX is a relatively pleasant and accessible experience. However, like many of its genre brethren, later stages of a run offer diminishing returns on basic skills as the accrued power-ups of the current build either pop off or fizzle out. There’s no need to worry about dodging the final boss’ projectiles when accompanied by six shield-buddies that block just about all incoming damage, for example.

On top of that, as the algorithm tweaks difficulty in later stages, players will encounter more difficult variants of enemies but also many, many more of them — it can become a truly eye-bleeding number of targets to eliminate and shots to dodge, sometimes feeling more like a bullet hell than a platformer.

Beyond the basic roguelike attributes, 30XX is highly customizable via optional difficulty modifiers — 15 at the moment — that also reward special materials for post-campaign blessings.

For those looking for a more traditional experience, or simply those who don’t jibe with the roguelike genre, there’s also a “Mega Mode” that mimics the level selection of classic Mega Man X titles. Here progress is saved between deaths so if a player fails a stage they can just try again with all their gear intact. That still means by the time a player reaches the end of the campaign, they’ll have a giant, powered-up deathball of a character and a lot less frustration while getting there.

There are also daily challenges, leaderboards and user-made levels (30XX also comes with its own level-maker) plus couch or online co-op that all enhance replayability — despite being an indie, this is a chunky package with all sorts of options.

The blue bomber may have all but disappeared into gaming history, but 30XX keeps his legacy alive and energized. It offers tight platforming paired with roguelike chaos and a bevy of customizability that should keep players jumping and shooting for a long time to come.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Batterystaple Games. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 25 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Multiplayer modes were not tested.

Parents: This game has not been rated by the ESRB but features science fiction violence against robots, some of which appear human. There is no blood, gore, nudity or cursing. This game is appropriate for children.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game uses text-only for character interactions and item descriptions. The text cannot be altered and/or resized.  This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Stephen Cook
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