Welcome to Save State, where we like indie 2D platformers, especially those that were heavily inspired by Mega Man. 20XX, a game mentioned on this column some three years ago, had a sequel released just a couple weeks ago. The launch discount for 30XX, the newest iteration of the procedurally generated Mega Man action roguelite, was too alluring to ignore. With its phenomenal system requirements of, “Toaster processor or better” (that’s what the Steam page says, seriously, look it up), I figured this would be the perfect title to play on my Steam Deck while I play looping videos of birds and squirrels on the living room’s TV to keep my cats from killing each other.
20XX was one of the better 2D action roguelite experiences because while its levels were procedurally generated, all of the “chunks” that made up the levels were carefully designed by the developers; the procedural generation simply shuffles these set pieces. Later stages would also use harder versions of each of the designed chunks, so a set piece you saw early in a previous run may have additional enemies, spikes, or lasers in later runs. 30XX, as any good sequel should, retains all of this and adds much, much more.
There are two characters to play as in 30XX, Nina and Ace, and they both retain their specialties from 20XX. Nina is your Mega Man X- she’s blue, can jump and shoot with the best of them, and almost all of her new powers give her added maneuverability, utility, or powerful projectiles. Ace, on the other hand, is your Mega Man Zero: He gets up close and personal, and regenerates special weapon energy by slashing through swaths of foes. Both characters are fantastic and completely change up how you engage with enemies and stage hazards as they both have a wide gamut of unique abilities.
You also have more options of how to engage with 30XX and its level design. You can still do randomized runs of stages just like its predecessor, but the new Mega Mode foregoes the permadeath rule of a roguelite and lets you select from stages that are pre-generated. Instead of dying forcing your run to end, losing a life simply sends you back to the level select. You can still power up your character with currencies you’ve collected along the way, as well, so 30XX expands the ways in which you can enjoy the action, giving players a more classic Mega Man experience if they so choose.
The stages and chunks that comprise them each have their own gimmicks and enemies that can obstruct your progress, and the bosses of each stage are both challenging and rewarding to defeat. Each boss is designed to test your skills in pattern recognition and reflex speed, and when you’ve managed to surmount the challenge, you’re rewarded with a fancy new weapon that you can use to slaughter that boss robot’s friends. The starts of your runs, when you basically only have the basic buster or beam sword, is pretty much when your kit is at its most limited- that quickly changes as you progress, and the additional powers always feel liberating since they’ll typically provide damage or utility (like attacking above/below) you wouldn’t have otherwise.
30XX looks better than its predecessor, plus it maintains a lot of the challenge that made 20XX so fun and interesting. The spritework of 30XX looks incredible, especially when compared to the Flash-style animation of 20XX just a few years ago. The soundtrack has some detractors when compared to its prior iteration but on the whole, I found it to outperform its predecessor during many stages of 30XX. This game still maintains the bright, high-energy chiptune tracks you would have enjoyed in 20XX.
As with any roguelite, your starting runs start off difficult, but the more you play and the more you unlock, you’ll reach an equilibrium where it not only pushes you, but thoroughly rewards you for persevering. As you play, you’ll collect Memoria, which is a currency you can use for permanent upgrades that persist between runs, giving you additional health, or even the equivalent of an E-Tank from Mega Man games to restore your health. These persistent upgrades give the player ways to shift things more and more in your favor, as the first runs of a roguelite are always the most difficult.
Some of the upgrades you unlock have powerful uses in lessening the impact of RNG in your runs of 30XX. For example, the Salvager Circuit upgrade lets you take scrap in place of Augs you don’t want (maybe they don’t mesh with your build, maybe they make the game harder for your play style), which you can then take that scrap and use it at vendors to get other things like armor parts. The upgrades all have varying levels you can unlock with additional Memoria, like the Rite of Rebeginning providing you with more health per rank. You can even overclock Memoria upgrades beyond their maximum rank with Titan Shards, which you receive from beating 30XX with difficulty modifiers enabled.
Once you become experienced with 30XX, you can start enabling Entropy Conditions, which are modifiers that increase the game’s difficulty. You can make the levels longer, increase shop costs, make healing less effective, or give enemies bonus movement speed, damage, or health. Your rewards for clearing a run with these difficulty modifiers are Titan Shards, which you can then use to unlock even better permanent upgrades to make future runs even easier.
You have multiple ways to play 30XX, tons of upgrades to unlock via Memoria and Titan Shards which dramatically increases replayability, and to add on top of it, 30XX has full online and split screen cooperative play for you and a friend, which also means great support for Steam’s Remote Play Together. Online co-op works like a dream, even better than 20XX, as effectively no lag was noticeable between myself and a friend from Malaysia (which, funnily enough, we met via 20XX, and I helped him get his first successful run through that title). 30XX also runs superbly on the Steam Deck, achieving a rock solid 60fps even when the action gets rough.
30XX is basically everything a sequel should be. It takes everything that made 20XX entertaining and challenging, improves the level design for its set pieces, gives the player new armors, weapons, and power ups, and even gives them new ways to enjoy the title if you enjoy a more traditional Mega Man stage select experience. It’s just an amazing upgrade in almost every way, from visuals to design, and gives you the ability to experiment with power fusion, too. If you’re a fan of 2D action roguelites, Mega Man, or just challenging titles in general, 30XX may be a great way to spend a few dozen hours.
With that said, we can now ctrl+S this edition of Save State. Remember to keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Enemies need love too – maybe they wouldn’t be enemies then.