20XX is the kind of new Mega Man X game that we wish we received over the last few years. You can’t play 20XX and ignore all of the nods and references to Capcom’s iconic franchise, which makes up the entirety of its experience. But imitation is the best form of flattery, especially when it’s done rather well and tries to offer something new into what was already established beforehand. 20XX does this by mimicking the platforming and shooting of Mega Man X but throws in clever twists like roguelite stage progression, cooperative multiplayer, and various upgrades to gather throughout the game. While there are a few flaws here and there, 20XX takes a fun direction with an established gameplay formula that’s been dominated by Capcom over the years.
There’s a very light story in 20XX, but the central focus remains heavily on gameplay. You play as an armored girl named Nina, or her partner Ace, and visit different planets to destroy robots that have overrun the area. The entire plot is a literal copy & paste of just about any kind of Mega Man X plot, only with characters that look eerily familiar. Nina and Ace look like modified versions of Capcom’s Mega Man X and Zero, which may or may not rub some people the wrong way. It treads a thin line of being a blatant copy, but once you get over the similarities you’ll begin to see how 20XX tries to do things a little different and that’s when it starts to get fun.
Outside of the obvious visual inspirations, many of the enemies and bosses you encounter have interesting designs, as do the stages they inhabit. Levels are randomly generated and often get mixed up with different enemies and bosses each time you start a brand new run. One time a stage will have many flying enemies and spike hazards, but the next time you visit it may have new kinds of baddies and changes to the layout.
This gives 20XX a high level of replayability since you’re never really experiencing the same levels and enemies together each time you start a new run. However, it lacks the same kind of established strategies that one would find in the Mega Man X games it’s so inspired by. Things change up so much that you won’t have a clear layout of secrets or other key points in stages.
Gameplay is almost identical to any Mega Man X game, but the roguelite elements and co-op multiplayer make things feel fresh. You jump and shoot throughout each stage, collecting power-ups and currency to spend on more boosts and items. Upgrades can range from increased damage and ability boosts, or other interesting effects like double jump and better dashing. Bosses have weaknesses to other boss weapons that you can gather from defeating them (exactly like in Mega Man), but you’re not forced to use them.
When defeating a boss, you can instead gather a boost to your stats instead of the boss weapon you find at the end, which offers new strategies and ways to play through each run. When you’re defeated in a stage, you get transported to the main hub where you can purchase new upgrades for your next run, take on daily and weekly challenges, as well as open up your game to multiplayer.
Playing 20XX with another player either locally or online is very fun. If you’re a fan of these style of platformers, then you’ll really enjoy running through stages with another player. Connecting online to host or join a room is simple and works very well for all parties involved. Very rarely will you get matched up with a player and have a terrible connection that makes the game unplayable.
What’s very cool is that both players can pick whatever character they want (either Nina or Ace) and go through the run working together and getting their own power-ups and upgrades. Multiplayer does make the majority of boss fights a little bit easier, but playing through the full stages still ends up being incredibly fun since all of the platforming challenges are still intact, regardless if another player joins you. If someone has to drop out of a run for any reason, the remaining player isn’t booted back to the main hub and can finish the stage alone if desired.
20XX walks a very thin line of being heavily inspired or a blatant copy of the Mega Man X series. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to play alone or with a friend. The controls are incredibly solid and the core gameplay is a minor buildup of an already established formula. The roguelite elements with the stages help make things feel somewhat fresh each time you play and the upgrades give a sense of progression in later areas of the game. Online and local multiplayer is very fun and allows you to experience the genre in a new way that makes things interesting. Anyone that loves Mega Man X and still waiting for Capcom to do something more with that series, this is a great alternative to tide you over until then.
This review is based on a digital review code for 20XX for the PlayStation 4, provided by Fire Hose Games.