"It is the year 20XX..."
If you've played any number of Mega Man games in the past those words should sound familiar. They set the stage for the futuristic shooting and jumping action fans of those titles used to be able to enjoy. Sure, gamers can still blow off the dust of old carts and CDs, but anyone waiting for new sequels starring the Blue Bomber will have to wait a while because Capcom has put the kibosh on new installments for the foreseeable future.
Developer Batterystaple Games came up with a solution to that: make an indie game that plays and sort of looks like Mega Man X, and put it up on Steam Early Access where gamers can give it their blessing or tear it to shreds in the community forums. That game is 20XX, and so far it has received nothing but good vibes from players nostalgic for the 2D running and gunning Capcom used to deliver.
It's easy to see why. As a blue-tinted gunner or red-tinged melee fighter you can dash, jump over spikes and battle giant boss enemies just like in the Mega Man games of yore. The graphics look sharper thanks to high-res sprites and the music may not be as rockin', but it's umistakeably familiar. Don't call the characters in 20XX Mega Man and Zero, though. The blue gunner is a female bot named Nina and the red laser sword wielder is Ace. They control wonderfully – you dash with the right trigger button, charge and fire and jump with the face buttons, and slide and jump off walls. There's a weight and friction to each movement that feels authentic, as if 20XX became frozen in 1993 and only thawed recently.
But this is a modern game, so it needs modern modes. Co-op allows Nina and Ace to play on the same screen. It's a lot of fun thanks in large part to the camera that pulls way out if the bots are far apart or zooms in close on the action if they're together. Nina seems overpowered with her ranged bullets, but the experience could be well-suited to players of unequal ability; more experienced players can take the gunner role while novices swing the sword.
It's also a rogelike, which means the levels and enemies are randomly generated. This wasn't apparent in the PAX East demo, but you can check it yourself at 20XX's Steam Early Access page. Early Access means Batterystaple is still working on the game even though you can play it right now. The devs pledge updates every two weeks, with an in-game countdown timer to "keep [them] honest."
Mega Man seems to be enjoying life in death as spiritual successors have cropped up over the past couple of years. Shovel Knight, released last year from Yacht Club Games, combines the gameplay of Mega Man and Duck Tales, another Capcom classic, to create something fresh and original, while Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune has taken it upon himself to continue his legacy with Mighty No. 9.
Here is the Early Access trailer for 20XX:
Photo Credit: Batterystaple Games