Battery Staple games were released 20XX back in 2014. This game took the historic gameplay of Capcom’s legendary Mega Man X franchise and infused it with the rogue-like genre’s essence. The result was an incredibly fun action platformer roguelike that you could play with a friend, and to Battery Staple’s credit, it felt just as good to play as the classic X series. Six years later, its successor, 30XX, is finally available for the masses to play in early access. So how does this new game compare?
I’m incredibly pleased to say that 30XX retains the same great retro feel as its predecessor and sports gorgeous new visuals, fixing my biggest critique of 20XX. In place of the more hand-drawn aesthetic in the previous game, 30XX boasts a refined and dynamic pixel art style that really elevates the sequel.
The new levels and enemies have largely benefited from the updated graphics. Your 30XX runs will see you contending with obstacles and foes in a wide range of different locals, each with their own distinct look and puzzles. Levels include sky cities peppered with wind fans that you will have to navigate around or take damage from, crystal mines with piercing stalactites that will come crashing down on you from the ceilings, and a dark, macabre mansion with disappearing platforms and giant dark holes, just for some examples.
While I found some of these stage-specific macguffins to be more annoying than others, they all work pretty much as intended when playing single-player. Things become a bit dicier when going online to play with a friend. I sat down with our own Jarrett Green for some runs, and we encountered some syncing issues where we would see each other’s characters floating and interacting with obstacles that were in different positions than in our own games. It was particularly noticeable when dealing with rotating objects and the colored, disappearing platforms and walls.
Making their return from 20XX, Nina and Ace continue to serve as the X and Zero representations here, now with brand new designs. This time around, both have unique upgrades that they get from beaten bosses, which serves as a giant leap forward and really makes both characters feel like more than just palette swaps of one another. The various armor upgrades and choices remain the same between the two, though, but as 30XX is still only in early access, I hope that there will be character-specific armors as well to further differentiate between Nina and Ace.
One bummer, though, at least of time of writing, when you equip a piece of new armor, neither Nina nor Ace’s sprite will change to reflect this. Minor as it may be, it was a nifty feature that I appreciated in 20XX, and I hope it will be added into 30XX down the road in a patch.
If the random nature and harsh death penalties of roguelike games aren’t your things and you want more of a pure Mega Man X-like experience, then 30XX’s “Mega Mode” will be right up your alley. This mode will still randomize the level layouts and present the game with a traditional level selection area and static levels that won’t change upon death. This is a wonderful option and will be great for speedrunning or race events, allowing players to share the generated seeds and experience the same levels and conditions the others are. This is also a great avenue to learn the various level mechanics and what items can do without risking having to start over every time you die.
Runs in 30XX can be augmented even further with special difficulty modifications and unlock that can make the game easier or more difficult. Perhaps you want some HP recovery options, so turn on energy tanks but also want the old-school approach to spikes and pits that will insta-kill you, go for it, the options are there! Many of the modifiers which increase difficulty will, in turn, net you more resources that can be spent on permanent upgrades for future runs, too.
As much as I am having fun with 30XX, the one aspect that I can point to as needing adjustment is the length of the levels. Each level feels way too long. With so much of 30XX being inspired by such an iconic series, having levels that seem to last 3-4 times longer feels…off. The pool of block and enemy types for each stage theme isn’t large enough to make such large levels work as well. I hope that either level shrinks a bit or more items are added, making the longer stages more fun to play.
All-in-all, I find myself loving 30XX just as much as I loved 20XX and still stand by my decision to give it my Pax East 2020 Game of the Show. The new art presentation is my favorite aspect of this sequel, but there is enough here in 30XX to warrant fans of 20XX, please 20XX fans. I’m anxious to see how this game will continue to evolve and grow on its way to the retail version 1.0 release.
You can snag 30XX right now on Steam for $19.99
This game was played on a PC with a preview code provided by the game’s publisher.