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In the early days of 8-bit home consoles, Sega tried to establish their own mascot to rival Nintendo’s Super Mario. What they came up with Alex Kidd; a franchise that had a few ups and downs over the years, but is often fondly remembered as the “built-in game” of most people’s Master Systems.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a great title, but after that there were some arguably poor decisions made in trying to put him into different games – something I may save for another video at a later date. For now, we’re going to look back at his first and only outing of the 16-bit era; Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle for the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
The game’s plot is nothing special – a common trait of many side-scrolling adventure titles from around that time. You play as Alex who lives on Aires; a planet which is controlled by his brother King Igul. After hearing a rumor that his long-lost father, King Thor, is still alive on Planet Paperock, he travels there to look for him.
The world stages are varied, offering a number of collectables and hidden areas. Whilst this game won’t blow anyone away with its graphics, the simplicity does carry a certain level of charm, which is enough to make it pleasing to look at.
Enemies can be defeated using Alex’s punches and kicks, as well as a range of power ups and vehicles. I used to love the motorcycle, pedicopter and pogo stick, as they offered a nice change of pace during each level.
One element that I feel does affect this title’s popularity is the use of Janken – which is essentially a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. For various items and boss battles, skill is pushed aside for a system that relies purely on chance, resulting in you succeeding… or dying and having to restart the entire level again.
The game can be challenging enough due to the fact that Alex Kidd dies in one hit and starts the game with fairly limited continues, but this frustrating and cheap tactic makes completing it either fairly straightforward or nearly impossible depending on your luck.
It’s a real shame as Janken didn’t frustrate me too much as a kid. Games generally were a lot less forgiving in the past as a way to increase longevity. The old me would just shrug his shoulders and start again, but nowadays I find it harder to overlook it – and I think other gamers would do too. Especially newcomers who aren’t armed with a good measure of nostalgia.
As far as controls go, it’s not quite perfect there either. They are responsive and the collision detection is fair, but the surfaces seem to act as if they are coated in a slippery surface, which can make some platforming action a little tricky.
Alex Kidd in Today’s World
Due to this game’s rather weak reception and the development of their much cooler mascot Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega haven’t released another Alex Kidd title since. He hasn’t been forgotten though, as there has been the odd reference and cameo appearance in games such as Shenmue and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
Whether or not you should pick up this game is a tough question to answer. For me personally, it holds quite a lot of nostalgic value. Me and my sister had a great deal of fun playing this when we were little. As a collector, Alex Kidd does have some importance in Sega’s history, so for that reason I would pick it up if you haven’t already. As a gamer experiencing this fresh though, it can be challenging and fun, but some of the key elements that rely purely on chance… well… they may grind a little bit. So I think the decision will depend on your patience and accepting the Janken gameplay flaw going into it.
Have you ever played this game? If so, please let me know what you think of the game and your experiences in the comments below.
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