Lukas' Alex Kidd in Miracle World Review
"Pick up and play" gameplay that provides a challenge
Easy to learn controls
Frustrating at parts
One song gets overplayed and will drive you nuts
Somewhat sensitive movement controls
When you think of Sega, you think Sonic and Golden Axe (now with the release of Golden Axe: Beast Rider on the 360 and PS3). You even think Splatterhouse and, for you older gamers, Phantasy Star! You know, back when it was an RPG and not an online game!? Well, what about some love for Alex, eh? He may have only starred in 2 good games (or 3 if you count some cameo in Sega Superstar Tennis), but that doesn’t mean he should be forgotten.
This game is the first game to feature good old Alex. He was basically Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario (until Sonic came in), as the games played a fair bit like one another. You jump across gaps onto some platforms, you sometimes swim and can find items to use against the enemies, which you kill. It contains the platforming basics that defined the genre, however, only little credit was given to this game while other 8-bit platformers (whether it’s on the NES or SMS - TRAITORS) cited Mario as a major influence (or Metroid, Contra, Mega Man, but mostly Mario). Alex must feel like a dick right now...
However, Alex is still cool! Even though the other Alex Kidd games on the SMS sucked (to be honest), this game makes up for them and more. For one, it actually resembles a game. Secondly, gameplay is actually fun. Third, controls are quite responsive (though a bit sensitive in movement) and finally, this actually looks good. For people going ‘oh a bloody one hit wonder’, he’s actually starred in two good games – this, and Enchanted Castle for the Genesis. But anyway, onto the actual review!
Alex Kidd in Miracle World, as I’ve mentioned, is an early platformer game (made in 1986, a year after Super Mario Brothers) which has the basic jumping and avoidable enemies, as well as easy (or hard) boss battles and some catchy tunes. But what makes Alex Kidd different from Mario (aside from his oversized fist and the tendency to play janken with the bosses) is that he can store the items he finds/buys for later use and he can actually collect money as money (and not points for extra lives). Sounds cool, right? Sure is!
There is a story, but it’s mostly just there to give the game a purpose, and even so, you’ll only find it in the instruction manual or on Wikipedia. Apparently, while he was training to break shit with his fists, the evil guy in the game known as Janken The Great has kidnapped the prince and princess (woah both of them now, not just Princess Toadstall, and better yet, the prince and Alex are brothers) and has sent his henchmen to kill Alex. Alex sets out to rescue his brother and the princess while overthrowing Janken The Great and killing his henchmen. There’s some wicked plot twist at the end, but I won’t spoil it for you. Just figure out for yourself.
Anyway, running and jumping is a simple yet cool concept, especially in 1986. It’s the main appeal of the game, after all! There are platforms you have to jump on, and there are also enemies, bricks and the like to jump over. Pressing button 1 will allow you to jump. Button 2 allows you to punch. You can break certain blocks and kill most enemies by punching them! Punch them! *grunt* Take that! You damn eagles! But yeah, the concept is to run, jump and punch.
At times, you have to perform precise jumps. If you bugger up, you have to start again, either with or without a life. Sometimes you get an extra chance but you have to walk back, whereas at other times, you die. Sometimes, the game likes to be a prick and chuck some enemies where you’re meant to jump to next, and sometimes in that situation, it’s going to be pretty hard to get to the next platform, unless you quickly punch as you land. Thankfully, the latter isn’t...all that often, but man is it annoying...
The enemies themselves are decent enough. Most just move from side to side, hoping to hit you, but some actually fight back. For example, the frog in some of the underwater parts blasts bubbles which just go in one direction, hoping to hit you. Some of the enemies (like the frog) don’t die from punches by the way. They serve as obstacles, nothing more and nothing less. That’s the beauty of this game – not everything dies, some are just obstacles.
Of course, it’s not just Mario with huge fists instead of huge butts. Alex can also find money in the game to get to a shop and buy something to help him progress through that level. One example is level 2, where the level is a hell of a lot easier if you get a motorbike. It costs 200 Yen (the currency of the game) for one, but if you break most blocks you saw in level 1, you should have more than enough for one. There are other transport items which make levels much easier, which is a very sweet concept especially for the time this game was made.
There are also equippable weapons like some ring which lets you fire blasts when you punch allowing more destruction to happen, and many more. This was first seen in Zelda on the NES, but Zelda was more of an Action/RPG (a very early one I might add), whereas Alex Kidd In Miracle World is more an action platformer, so I’d say this is the first platformer that utilizes the whole “equipping items” thing, though not the first ever game. Pretty innovative, though not totally (I mean Zelda did that already, plus I’m sure some Atari 2600 game did this sort of thing anyway).
Now, the level designs are good. They’re not your usual sidescrollers, going left to right, but rather, going from point A to point B, whether it’s from up to down or...left to right, or sometimes down to up. But what’s actually in the levels...makes them very challenging. The enemies are placed in strategic locations, and the same goes for the platforms. You have to think hard about your next move. Will it get you killed or will you make it? Be quick, because some enemies love to attack after a while.
Speaking of difficulty, this game is actually quite hard. Among strategic placing and quick thinking, there aren’t too many extra lives to speak of and you only have one continue. To add more insult to insult, it’s one hit kills and there are sixteen levels overall. Geez... Good luck.
One thing I should make mention of is janken...you know rock paper scissors? Well, this is how you fight the bosses in the game. I am not kidding around. ...yeah, this sounds fun for the first 10 seconds...until you realize it’s nothing short of trial and error. Oh, sure, go for what’s strong against the head they have (one has a fisthead, one has a scissorhead, and one has an open-handhead), but eventually, they catch on and ultimately kill you. Oh yeah, lose 2 out of 3, you lose a life and have to fight them again. Win 2 out of 3 and you defeat the boss...well, the first time. The second time you fight them, you have to win and punch their head before the head kills you. Let’s just say that the second time, their head comes clean off and tries to kill you. Freaky!
So in the midst of all this, how does the game hold up? Well, let’s see...
It’s easy to pick up and play, however, it’s hard to master, as the overall difficulty is tough and the lack of continues really gets to you. Add the fact that the boss battles are trial and error, and you got yourself a fairly tough game on your hands, but that’s not to say it sucks. It’s actually all good.
It’s simple and easy to learn them, though the one little problem is the running. It feels just a bit too sensitive, as it moves quite fast about a second after holding down the d-pad. But that’s the only problem, other than that, the controls are pretty damn tight.
A simple story that doesn’t detract from gameplay. Overall, it’s all good. Basically the evil guy takes Alex’s brother (the prince) and his brother’s fiancé (the princess) while Alex is training to break blocks with his FISTS OF FURY! Love it.
Colorful! Pretty detailed too. The game is quite pleasing to the eyes and nothing short of perfect for 8-bit. Simple yet flowing animations are a plus.
Ehh...there aren’t too many songs, though what’s there is not only suiting to the situation, but also very well done. My main complaint is the over usage of a particular song. Unless you actually buy transports or are in an underwater/castle level, you’ll hear a certain tune probably more than you want to. The sound effects are pretty weird sounding, but in a good way...
Oh trust me, you’ll be at this game for quite a while, trying to beat it and getting every little quirk right, while finding out what block contains what and what to avoid breaking, plus there’s no continues so you have to keep starting again if you lose all your lives. Only complaint – no secret passages to look for and find.
Aside from frustrations, this game is actually quite fun to play, especially the catchy tunes, now THEY’RE fun! But that’s not to say that the gameplay itself isn’t fun...far from that!
Alex Kidd In Miracle World was quite a good game to start off a series that ended up crap, but then left with a bang! It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. Either way, you owe it to yourself to play this game at least once.