Review – 30XX (Switch)

20XX is one of my favorite roguelites to come back to time after time. As much as I love Mega Man and all things platformers, the lore of 20XX really keeps it warm in my heart. An Early Access game that seemed to be updated almost daily, I watched 20XX take form over literal years, getting improvements and drops as Batterystaple Games kept fine tuning the experience, implementing and removing features as fast as the community could pipe up. When it was finally at version 1.0 and received a Nintendo Switch release, I bought it again immediately. It’s a handheld masterpiece and I find myself circling back even amongst all the other titles I hold near and dear.

30XX is the sequel that seeks to improve upon everything built by the original. Keeping to a similar vein of Mega Man X meets roguelite inspiration, the idea is for players to work their way through eight different biomes, complete with a robot boss at the end. As you move forward, you’re able to absorb the abilities from said bosses to improve your offensive and defensive capabilities. Additionally, you’ll also be picking up various upgrades along the way that can either be purchased using dropped currency or won through trials and tribulations. With the right amount of skill and the role of the die, you’ll either become an all powerful cyborg warrior or die within the first three minutes: the luck of it all is up to you.

life extinguished

And the game taunts you when you die. That’s important to remember.

There are elements of 30XX that I sincerely appreciate seeing upgraded. First and foremost is the new Mega Mode, which seeks to change up the formula a bit. Instead of everything being permadeath and random chance, you now have a classic Mega Man inspired select screen, and death brings you back to this world teleporter to try again. The chips and bolts that you pick up accumulate, allowing you to gradually get stronger with upgrades in spite of your failure to succeed. This mode feels a lot more homage based on the creations of the NES and SNES era, and is a genuinely cool way to approach the game. For fans who’ve never picked up 20XX, the new Mega Mode is a perfect vector point to get into 30XX.

30XX boss battles

Though the boss battles are even more drastic than even the NES titles.

In the same vein, I like the versatility of the character select from the start. It’s clear that 30XX is leaning more heavily into the later games of the Mega Man X franchise, because you now have access to either Nina (the Rockman style character) or Ace (a Zero type) right from the beginning. These two different play styles also include totally different upgrades that affect weaponry and interactions differently. Whereas Nina is more likely to find add-ons to improve her blaster, Ace’s energy sword will be completely transformed, changing his approach at the drop of a hat. Both maintain similar jumping and moving styles, so the overhaul isn’t too drastic, but it will still keep you on your toes.

30XX Ace

I like Ace because button mashing has always been my thing.

The inclusion of Delta, the challenge robot, was also a very pleasant and welcome addition. While Delta didn’t appear every stage, the possibility of having an android throw down a gauntlet and challenge you to take additional damage or suffer some kind of hindrance for the remainder of the level in exchange for a boost, was too good to pass up. Delta also would sometimes crop up in the middle of the stage, trying to fight me a la Protoman in order to give me a reward. This was a level of acknowledgement that made me smile, and reminded me how much Batterystaple really loved the Mega Man titles.

30XX Delta

Dude’s intense. Let’s go grab a drink sometime!

The graphics are…different. The original 20XX had a very polished, almost bubbly look to it that emulated a sort of future-sheen, like the game had been checked frame by frame to give it a cartoon like quality. In comparison, 30XX relies more on a rougher, pixel-hewn presentation that is paradoxical. On the one hand, the graphics do look good, and manage to capture a Game Boy Advance style, very Mega Man & Bass evoking. It’s got the right kind of chunky feel for the 16 bit era. However, it also makes the game appear older, like this is somehow the predecessor, and that can be a bit confusing, mentally, to match the ideas of old and new and have everything properly sorted. As a personal preference, I preferred the cleaner approach, but to each their own.

The older visuals also stand in stark contrast to the very tight, very responsive controls. 30XX is drilled down to the nanosecond in terms of response and expectations for player reactions. There will be moments throughout where you’ll need to weave between bullets, hazards and enemy appearances that almost thrust this into a bullet hell category, far greater of an ask than the original. You’ll need to be able to react to fight patterns and sequences immediately or risk losing it all, and, for better or for worse, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do this, as the roguelite nature of 30XX is far less than the game that came before.

30XX jumping and dodging

Behold! Utter bullshit dodging!

This is probably my two handed, major criticism, is that this is a completely different experience. Perhaps this is better for some players, but there were a lot of level segments that felt too familiar and recognizable, to the point where I wasn’t surprised or caught off guard after just a couple times through. Players in Mega Mode can enjoy this approach, and that’s all fine and dandy, but it also felt true in the regular “permadeath” runs. While I understand that not everything can be completely randomized when the levels are spawned, more often than not I kept noticing the same segmental builds, the same sort of pathways from each biome, and it bored me. The entire point of the series is to craft a “roguelite” run, but here we are, memorizing twists, turns and dodge points to enact twitch like, unconscious responses.

I felt like I could move through these clockwork platforms with my eyes closed.

Additionally, 30XX is significantly more difficult, and I don’t mean that as a point of praise. There are times where difficulty helps to shape the journey and make the player a better gamer, and I feel rewarded and successful as a result. Here, it feels like someone throwing caltrops onto a track and field course, or hiring a sniper to try and pick off horses in the middle of a derby. It’s not an incremental thing, it’s just unfair. Enemies have smaller hitboxes and more erratic behavior. Stages are longer and the minibosses are fearsome contenders in very small arenas. Pickups generate health when you don’t need it and nothing when you do. And there’s constantly more “challenges” being offered – survival gauntlets for prizes, baseless exploration with no pot of gold – that don’t make me feel accomplished when finished, just exhausted.

Naturally, there does come a point where things get better, and, once you fall into a comfortable groove with 30XX, there’s a bit that opens up for you. The community levels are top notch, I have to applaud the creative efforts of the fan base at large in what they’ve made. The bosses are more charming and interesting than the previous iterations, especially wild swings like Experiment 9 and Legacy (Hoot Omega can go rot for all I care). And, to be fair, the customization of your upgrades are more robust: being able to swap out parts, combine them, and basically have a more fine tuned degree of control arguably makes this a better game in terms of mechanics. It really is a fantastic creation, but it simply isn’t for me.

30XX Lethal Tempo Doomsday Reckoner

Also, positively baller names. No notes.

I might be the outlier here, but I just don’t enjoy 30XX in the way that I liked 20XX. The first game had charm, excitement and felt like a real love letter not just to Mega Man X, but to the entire genre unto itself. Much like A Robot Named Fight, it brought something unique to the table that also was clearly rooted in inspiration. 30XX feels like a side step, where things change but don’t necessarily improve. There’s an attempt to double down on the elements that either weren’t included (pixel graphics, meandering stages) or were less enjoyed. Diehard fans will want to jump in and see all the new game brings, but for more casual players, we might as well stay locked in two thousand and late.


Graphics: 6.0

The choice to change to pixel art may appeal to core audience members, but I found it very off putting and almost purposely antagonistic compared to the original design. Good execution, but visually uninteresting.

Gameplay: 6.0

The bones are there, but the follow through is rough and questionable. Less randomized elements, higher levels of difficulty, and less feeling of progression: you don’t feel like you’re achieving anything even as you get better.

Sound: 8.0

Excellent craftsmanship for a true funky future feel, the music and soundscape of 30XX are far and away the strongest element that continued to improve from the previous title.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Wanting to love this game and having high expectations really hamstrung the overall reception. While I did eventually warm up to 30XX, I don’t think that you should need to let a roguelite settle in before you can enjoy it.

Final Verdict: 6.5

30XX is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of 30XX was provided by the publisher.