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Written by Russell Archey on 8/10/2023 for PC  
More On: 30XX

I’ve said on at least one occasion that I’m a fan of retro-style games done in an 8 or 16-bit style. I’ve also been a huge fan of Mega Man since first playing Mega Man 2 over 30 years ago. Since then I try to check out any game I see that’s done in a similar style to Mega Man. Back in 2017 Batterystaple Games released 20XX, a game that plays a lot like the Mega Man and Mega Man X series. Now they’ve created a sequel; 30XX.  If 30XX is anything like its predecessor, Batterystaple Games will have another hit on their hands.

When you fire up the game you’ll be given three main options: Standard, Mega Mode, and Community. Standard is the classic die-and-retry that you remember from 20XX. You have a single life to make it through the game, and dying will take you back to HQ where you can purchase upgrades that stick with you throughout your future runs. Mega Mode takes out the permadeath for a more traditional Mega Man-esque playstyle. If you like Mega Man but don’t want to keep restarting the game every time you die, this is for you. Then there’s Community mode, where you can check out levels made by the 30XX community - similar to Super Mario Maker or Mega Man Maker.  You can play levels individually or back-to-back via Ellie’s Gauntlet, and you can create your own levels through the 30XX Maker button on the main menu.

After running around HQ a bit and deciding to play as Nina or Ace, the first thing I did was check out Standard Mode, as I already had some experience with 20XX. If you’re returning from 20XX you’ll find more of the same here: a roguelike mode where you’re given a random stage from the initial eight that’s also has randomly generated segments. As you progress you’ll take out enemies and collect bolts, memoria, armor pieces, and more to keep you alive while periodically coming across upgrades and augments. 

Bolts are used to purchase upgrades for that run and can typically be purchased prior to a boss room, while memoria can be used back at HQ to purchase permanent upgrades such as more health or weapon energy. If you make it to the boss and survive against them, you’ll have the chance to pick up a special weapon you can equip, and then either save your progress for now or proceed to the next level. This will continue until you end up dying, after which you’ll go back to HQ.

Occasionally you’ll run across a character named Delta who’ll offer a challenge; if you succeed you’ll get a pretty good reward. You’ll also come across at least one teleporter that takes you to a Glory Challenge where you can choose from new abilities depending on how much damage you take. The more you take, the less options you have.

Nina and Ace play differently and if you’re not able to tell based on their color schemes and attacks, Nina uses a Mega Buster-like weapon that you can charge up while Ace uses a sword attack and can deal a bit more damage to enemies, but it also means you have to get in close. It’s also worth noting that even though you’ll play through the stages in a random order, the earlier stages you get will be easier and then get more difficult as you get to the later stages. The bosses can be challenging but if you’re able to learn their patterns they’re not too bad. There are a few bosses who either give you little time to learn their attacks or they come so fast you’re too busy dodging them to get in any attacks of your own.

After playing a bit on Standard Mode I checked out Mega Mode. This starts out in a room that gives you the option of the eight stages and their bosses similar to Mega Man. You enter a stage, go through it, defeat the boss, and repeat. Similar to Standard Mode, you’ll gain upgrades along the way that you can choose to either keep or scrap, and special attacks that you can equip to the LT, Y, and B buttons. 

The difference besides choosing your stages and boss is that it’s not permadeath, so any progress you make will be saved…but you still only have one life and make no mistake, some of these stages and enemies are no joke. Thankfully, any special weapons and augmentations (called Augs) you’ve acquired will remain with you when exiting out of the game, but I still wouldn’t have minded seeing at least one checkpoint and a lives system for this mode (I’d even be okay with not having the ability to gain more lives beyond an initial three or so).

Finally there’s the level creation. After registering for an account to create and upload levels you can choose to create either an entire level or a chunk of a level. I mentioned chunks briefly, but basically a few chunks will make up an entire level, so this is basically like creating a small part of a level that can come up during a run of Ellie’s Gauntlet. The tutorial goes over basically everything you need to know about building levels and if you’re familiar with Super Mario Maker or Mega Man Maker, you’ll have the basic concepts down. 

The editor itself is somewhat robust with a good amount of enemies and items you can put into a level. My only real issue with it is that when you choose to go into the editor from the main menu, it opens up a new window that’s basically its own app. If you’re playing the game in full screen mode that means you might have to Alt+Tab to go between the main game and the editor, especially after testing a level. You can also apply up to three tags to your level and there are several options you can use such as traditional and kaizo so players can find stages suited to their playstyle and not come across a random kaizo stage that they have no chance of completing.

As mentioned earlier, Nina and Ace have their own playstyles since Nina uses a buster-like weapon while Ace has a sword. I played for a while using Nina before switching to Ace and I found that I actually enjoyed using Ace more than Nina. While Nina can charge up her buster, some enemies do take multiple hits to destroy (as in more than a few). Ace’s sword does more damage than Nina’s buster, but since you have to get in close it’s a bit more risky, but since Ace can swing his sword faster than Nina can fire her buster, the reward is being able to dispatch enemies more quickly and progress through the stages faster. This is a plus because while you have a few different paths through each chunk of a level, they can sometimes drag on when playing as Nina due to how many buster shots it takes to eliminate an enemy. Then there are the mini-bosses and if you thought some of the basic enemies were tanks, mini-bosses can be even worse and since they have no health bar, you have no idea how close you are to taking down some of them. I think there have been a couple of mini-bosses that have taken me longer to defeat than that stage’s actual boss.

On top of that, 30XX can be pretty difficult at times. Aside from some of the enemies being bullet sponges, some of them will follow you around until you deal with them and when there’s multiple on screen they can be a bit tedious to take care of. That being said though, if you’re familiar with the Mega Man franchise you should feel right at home with 30XX. 

The game looks great with a nice graphical improvement from 20XX, and the controls feel nice and tight. While I didn’t get a chance to play around with it much you can play co-op as one person plays as Nina and the other as Ace, and the screen will zoom out a bit to keep both players on screen. The community stages are what you come to expect from a game that lets you make your own but I feel that over time as more people create stages and chunks, you’ll see a nice variety of levels from traditional to kaizo, easy to difficult, and everything in between. If you’re a fan of Mega Man or similar-style games I’d definitely recommend checking out 30XX but fair warning, it can get rather difficult with only a single life.

30XX is a marked improvement over its predecessor.  Beyond the permadeath Standard Mode, you can check out Mega Mode if you’d rather choose your level order and can also create and upload your own levels or chunks of levels.  The ability to play as either Nina or Ace and can switch between runs in Standard mode, or play co-op, means you can choose whoever better suits your playstyle.  Make no mistake though - even if you’re a fan of Mega Man (specifically Mega Man X) you’ll still find plenty of challenges as you make your way through, but for it’s a challenge I definitely recommend checking out.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I began my lifelong love of gaming at an early age with my parent's Atari 2600.  Living in the small town that I did, arcades were pretty much non-existent so I had to settle for the less than stellar ports on the Atari 2600.  For a young kid my age it was the perfect past time and gave me something to do before Boy Scout meetings, after school, whenever I had the time and my parents weren't watching anything on TV.  I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. played on the NES at that young age and it was something I really wanted.  Come Christmas of 1988 (if I recall) Santa brought the family an NES with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I've been hooked ever since.

Over 35 years from the first time I picked up an Atari joystick and I'm more hooked on gaming than I ever have been.  If you name a system, classics to moderns, there's a good chance I've not only played it, but own it.  My collection of systems spans multiple decades, from the Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, and Colecovision, to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Panasonic 3DO, to more modern systems such as the Xbox One and PS4, and multiple systems in between as well as multiple handhelds.  As much as I consider myself a gamer I'm also a game collector.  I love collecting the older systems not only to collect but to play (I even own and still play a Virtual Boy from time to time).  I hope to bring those multiple decades of gaming experience to my time here at Gaming Nexus in some fashion.
These days when I'm not working my day job in the fun filled world of retail, I'm typically working on my backlog of games collecting dust on my bookshelf or trying to teach myself C# programming, as well as working on some projects over on YouTube and streaming on Twitch.  I've been playing games from multiple generations for over 35 years and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.
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