The game title the lead characters Nina and Ace are seen smiling

30XX Review

Game: 30XX
Genre: Arcade, Action, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows))
Developer|Publisher: Batterystaple Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $19.99 | UK £17.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: September 12th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to Stride PR.

The Year 30XX

30XX is a 2D action platformer that looks and feels similar to the Mega Man X series. This is the sequel to the developers’ previous entry, 20XX.  It essentially improves on every element of that original, both in terms of presentation and gameplay. The game has finally crossed its finish line out of Early Access on PC. I have followed much of this game’s progress through its development and have been impressed by the developer’s dedication to making this the most refined experience possible both for its fan base and newcomers. After a short delay, the game has now been released onto Nintendo Switch, and the wait has been worth it. 30XX is a fantastic game that you can enjoy alone or with a friend, both on or offline. 

Set 10XX years after the original game, our heroes, Nina and Ace, awaken to find a beautiful new graphical style in the world. Even after such a long length of time, some things don’t change. There are another eight robot baddies to beat, directed by this world’s bigger bad, known as the Architect. It’s up to Nina and Ace to once again step up and save the universe and possibly multi-verse while they are at it.

The plot is certainly a step up from the original game, where you can discover nodes to learn more about the lore of the world, as well as chat with a few NPCs back at the main hub world. It’s all kept simple and to the point and has minimal impact on gameplay. You do not need to play 20XX to understand the plot, but if you did invest time in it you may appreciate the odd nods to that game. 

Nina facing off against a dragon boss. The dragon appears to be waving
Nice to meet you, Mr. Mecha Dragon. I’m Nina

Graphical Upgrade

What is easily most striking is the upgrade in graphical design. Moving from simple sprite design to gorgeous animated pixel sprites. The game is just beautiful to look at. Levels feel unique and varied, but all have this futuristic feel to them, exploring neon aquariums to crystal caverns. The level layouts are randomly generated, but they all feel unique and special, with unique enemies and hazards in each area.

One of the touches I really liked is how robot fish out of water will flop on the floor struggling. Enemies will also be damaged by environmental hazards and even their own projectiles if you hit them back towards them. The soundtrack to accompany the experience is just sublime. Right from the first presenting track on the main menu, this is a score that drilled into my brain and instantly put me in a good mood. The score only gets more addictive and upbeat with each passing level. The game presents the future as a grim, mysterious place, but when it looks and sounds this good, I’m not sure I’d mind hanging there. 30XX looks and sounds like a title made with careful care and attention.

Get buff

If you played the original game or most Mega Man games, you may know the drill. Seek out eight bosses whilst accumulating upgrades with each defeat. Controls are easy to pick up, thanks to a brief tutorial at the start of the game. You can jump, dash, attack and leap off walls all with tight precision. It won’t take long into a level until you discover armour augmentations to buff your abilities and sometimes change the cosmetics of your armour as well as your abilities.

You can gain new moves like air dash or double jumps, little floating allies or simply buff your various stats. Levels are a nice mix of platforming and enemy encounters, all of which will conclude with an epic boss battle. Unlike the first game, each level’s platforming elements feel unique to its setting: on one level, you’re adjusting the levels of water and sometimes running on the floor or ceilings.

On some levels, your flicking switches to change platform placements. As mentioned, there is much more enemy variety tailored to each level. Boss fights are very entertaining. Depending on your stats and powers, they sometimes feel like meat shields, but they all feel quite distinct, with unique patterns to follow and master. The game’s general difficulty does increase as the levels pass, so buffing your character is ideal for success. Though failure is a certainty, I was often ready for another round, thanks to the game’s addictive gameplay design. 

Ace falling gracefully with wings
I believe I can fly

Pick a Mode

It’s worth mentioning this is another game with rogue-lite elements, but before some of you roll your eyes at the prospect of yet another game with this mechanic, 30XX may have an intriguing alternative for you. You can choose to play a game similar to the first, where each level is presented randomly, and on death, you head back to the hub world to upgrade your abilities with any crystals you accumulated. Or, if you want a more traditional experience, you can go for Mega Mode. Here, you can choose the order in which you tackle each boss. When defeated, you keep any upgrades and progress you have made.

The only random thing is the level presentation. This is a very appealing alternative to those sick of the roguelite formula. Of course, me being me, I was pretty content in standard mode. The difficulty may be steep, but the journey to get there sure is fun, thanks to tight controls and addictive gameplay. As a cherry on an already generous scoop of a game, you can also play community-made levels. I’m assuming these are the ones made by the PC players, but it’s nice this has transferred over to Switch. Here, you pick from a list of levels, attempt to play through and then give a thumbs up or down rating at the end, depending on your satisfaction. It adds more legs to an already generous package.

Ace or Nina

You have the familiar two characters to choose from: Nina and Ace. Nina favours ranged attacks, whilst Ace is more melee-focused. Each character can acquire new weapons, stat buffs and armour augmentations through the course of the game. What stands out from the first title is on defeating the boss. The unlocked power is tailored specifically to each character.

This is a rare example of a game where I didn’t favour one specific character, as both were enjoyable to experiment with, adding plenty of replay value. If you struggle to decide, maybe consider bringing a friend along for local or online co-op. This is a feature that returns from the first game and is easy to set up in the main hub world. The game is great in single-player, but you really can’t beat getting a good buddy in and sharing the experience together. I was fortunate to experience something with the first game and this one too.

Nina in the main hub world petting a robot cat
Take time out to pet the cat

Keep Coming Back For More

Wait, there’s more. As well as the main quest, a few other options are available to you between runs. As mentioned, you can increase your stats provided you have enough crystals between runs. These will permanently buff stats like health and unlock new features in the game, such as the ability to store excess health or have a cat give you a helping paw at the start of the game.

If the game is somehow not hard enough, you can add difficulty modifiers which will change gameplay features, such as enemy health and damage. You will reap additional rewards for taking the risk. Alternatively, if it’s too hard, you can add accessibility features to tone things down if needed; doing this won’t penalize your gameplay. Like the first game, you can also indulge in daily or weekly challenges and even try a shorter boss rush version of the game. If this hooks you, this experience will keep you coming back again and again.

Nina is on the floor whilst the frog boss is on the ceiling
We seem to be on different levels

Conclusion: Mega Good

30XX is everything a sequel should be. I actually really liked 20XX; some folk were deterred by its style and graphics. If you were one of those people, you may want to consider coming back to 30XX. It’s basically better than everything. It has better graphics, improved level design, tight controls, addictive gameplay and, most importantly, the ability to play it as a rogue-lite or a more standard action platformer.

There really is something here for everyone. If you do invest the time to get better the way it’s designed, you will hopefully find a fulfilling gaming experience like I did. The developers’ hard work has truly paid off. 30XX is well worth your time, and I see this being on my gaming rotation until 40XX. 

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up 

Two thumbs up

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