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Back in 1993, Mega Man X was introduced to players of the unforgettable bulky grey platform we all know as the Super Nintendo. For those who aren’t familiar with Mega Man X, allow me to convey a brief summary: in a nutshell, your protagonist is Mega Man X, an android in a futuristic world, who is eager to stop his rival’s evil tactics concerning human extinction. Now if you’ve ever played any of the classic console games, you’ll recall the fast-paced and, at times, ridiculously challenging gameplay that made you want to chuck your controller at the television screen. Ah, the memories.

As a gamer (and I’m sure many would agree with me), I’ve noticed that a good chunk of video games nowadays are just too dang easy. I’ll admit I was a little worried I wouldn’t be challenged enough when I picked up my controller to play 20XX; I honestly was expecting a laidback experience. But whew, let me begin by assuring you that I was terribly mistaken.

20XX, set to be released on Steam on November 25, is built to mirror the basic features of Mega Man X, but more so introduces timed and randomized levels, power ups, multiplayer mode, and permanent death. The traditional 8-bit soundtrack and colorful art schematics creates an environment that had me believing I was five years old again, sitting in front of my box television and blowing into cartridges in hopes they’d be revived. Eventually, you know, I had to snap back into reality, but it was a pleasant recollection.

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After finishing up the tutorial, I was brought to the main player screen referred to as the “Ark”. This can essentially be described as the area where the player is able to participate in daily challenges, showcase their unlockable passives (which are nifty features collected throughout runs that can be used in gameplay), choose a difficulty, and partner up with others in multiplayer mode. I also discovered that I had the option as to who I preferred to play as in order to beast through the frenzied combat. Nina was already my player by default, equipped with a blaster that was useful when shooting long distances. My player of choice, though, was Ace, who is swift and armed with a groovy sword.

Deciding I should probably begin my journey through 20XX by giving Normal Mode a stab, I readily pressed the B button on my controller, wondering what I was about to endure.

The level generated as some sort of arctic facility where robotic penguins dove at me in an angry manner and moving targets practically stalked my every move. Curious as to what these targets threatened to do, I allowed one to lock onto me. As one would expect, it didn’t grant me with power ups or offer me support on my journey to survive, but rather blasted me with a missile, causing an inevitable drop in health points. Weird, right? Truly, though, I enjoyed this little addition to the level because it kept me on my toes, creating that fast-based atmosphere I was hoping to encounter.

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Throughout this wintery stage, enemies would randomly drop health points, energy points, armor capsules, nuts, and soul nuts when defeated. As I would later come to discover, nuts were the game’s money used to purchase in-game items, such as health or energy points. Personally, I crossed my fingers in hopes I’d pick up the “Soul Nuts”–they held the power to unlock passives, amongst other power ups, after each death. Unfortunately, I either had to spend what I had or they would reset back to zero once another run was initiated. Ugh. It sure made things tough when you struggled to get past the second level. Not saying I struggled or anything…

After conquering an even angrier (and larger) robotic penguin in the two minute time frame I was given, I reached the finish line. With hands sweaty and eyes dry due to minimal blinking, I felt pumped up, undefeatable.

Okay, so maybe “undefeatable” sounds a tad too over-confident, considering it was only my first playthrough, but you get the gist.

At the end of each level, the game rewards the player with the option to choose between three effectual power ups–I typically acquired the next best weapon because I had a hunch it would just get more challenging from here. And let’s be real, I probably needed all the help I could get. In addition to that, two boxes were placed for me to slice open, revealing added passives that would (hopefully) benefit me in stages that followed.

Alright, so I’m going to be upfront here. I didn’t exactly make it through the second level in one piece, but in my defense, your health does not replenish after each stage. But it was really okay, my ego wasn’t too hurt. Well, that is until the screen that pops up once I faced my inevitable death told me that my cause of death was gravity. Whatever, I got over it. With that stated, it was fairly fulfilling to see how many points I earned and how many enemies I slayed. It gave me, as the player, a future goal to work toward, such as completing a run in a quicker time or maybe even making it to the third level.

Also, let’s say the level you’re playing just isn’t really working out for you. Just like any other game, you have the choice of opting out by returning to the main menu. A little fun modern humor that I noticed in this game is the generated messages that appear when you’re about to quit. My personal favorite was this one:

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Sure, make me feel bad about myself because this level is too difficult. This is the kind of comedic sarcasm I’ve been seeing more and more in video games, and it works.

Following my first normal playthrough, I checked out Casual Mode. After screaming curse words at my computer and nearly slamming my controller on the ground, I decided that more of a laidback playthrough might be beneficial to my soul.

Casual Mode allows you to choose three passives from your collection that you’ve unlocked on previous runs to more easily power you through each level. It’s really a nice feature, but I noticed that when I go to choose my passives, the picture is the only thing displayed. Being a fairly new player, I haven’t the slightest clue what these passives are going to do for me. There’s a potato with what appears to be wires wrapped around it, for example. I mean yeah, potatoes are great, but what is this wired-up potato going to do for me? A brief description wouldn’t hurt.

As I was jumping around aimlessly in the Ark after encountering yet another foreseeable death, I noticed this feature titled “Skulls”, which was only compatible with Normal Mode. Intrigued, I looked into what it meant. In case Normal Mode is too easy for the average Joe, “Skulls” gives players the option to choose how they want their levels set up. To start out, there are already eleven unlocked features that will either add or subtract something from your run. Regardless, they’re all designed to produce a more challenging experience. For example, “Famine” is an option where no health items are dropped. My personal favorite was “Lightning”, which caused the game to run at 150 percent speed.

Just for fun, I attempted to play Normal Mode with all eleven skulls selected. Needless to say, I probably survived for a good thirty seconds, but it was entertaining to give it a try.

After multiple action-packed runs through various levels, 20XX did not disappoint. It reminded me of a time where cheat codes didn’t exist and memory cards weren’t yet thought of. I wanted to be challenged and boy, was I ever. With the randomly generated levels, each playthrough is unique and you never know what to expect. And hey, not knowing what you’re up against can truly be exhilarating.

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Amanda has been obsessed with the video game industry since she mustered through an array of nearly impossible Sega Genesis games. When she's not writing, you will typically find her with her gaming computer, eating pizza, or watching Dragon Ball Z.