8.6

Alex Kidd in Miracle World review
The best of a dull and thankfully short-lived series

Summary:

If Nintendo has Mario, Sega has... Alex!?
Some time before Sonic was even a thought, Sega had a mascot planned to outdo Nintendo's Mario. The idea - the missing link between monkey and man, with it being Alex, who seems to be a half-monkey half-human being. Before they tried out anthropomorphic creatures trying to solve cases of mistaken identities, stop time from killing itself and bestiality, Sega wanted to try and prove the theory of evolution right. That's right, Sega; teach kids evolution. Please. It may only be a theory at this point in time, but it's still worth learning. All sarcasm aside, Alex Kidd's debut game, which is, in my honest opinion, the only good game he's ever been in, is a damn good one. The visuals look fantastic, soundtrack (while VERY limited) is one for the ages and the gameplay is very fun, if a bit cheap.

If you can't beat them, copy them!
For some time, Sega couldn't quite keep up with Nintendo, and even with the release of this game, they couldn't quite do it, even if they copied the storyline from Super Mario Brothers. In other words, the main villain named Janken has kidnapped the princess known as Lora, as well as the prince Egle, and it's up to Alex to save them. The story is a little more involving, though; the reason for the kidnapping is not just for attention or money or whatever Nintendo thought of while hopping shrooms; this was to usurp the throne after the disappearance of the land's ruler King Thunder.

I found the story to be well done for 1986, especially considering that you don't really get any story in the game, but rather, out of the instruction booklet (or nowadays, Wikipedia). The simplicity is what strikes as interesting, as it's simply a case of rescuing the princess, and what also rocks is that, again, you can't really find much plot in the game, making it focus much more on the gameplay. It rocks because the plot sounds like something that would be flaunted if this was released 14 years down the track for the Dreamcast or something.

Needs more tree swinging; he is a monkey boy, after all.
At it's core, Alex Kidd In Miracle World is a platformer. You jump, you punch enemies and you swim. It's a lot like Super Mario Brothers (so expect comparisons between the two every now and again). At times, they throw a couple of sticky wickets in your way via enemy placement and block placement - blocks that either give you money to buy items or some little reaper that kills you, and everything kills you in one hit. Essentially, the game is easy to learn, yet hard to master.

Controls work well for the most part. I feel that Alex's movement controls are a little too sensitive, as if you even slightly touch the d-pad, he moves like he has propellers hanging out his butt. It sucks when you're on a small platform, and you fall down to touch a bird or fall down a pit and die. Rather annoying, especially since the jump and punch controls respond when they need to.

A bit waterlogged.
At times, you'll be forced to do a bit of swimming. Now, this was good in Super Mario Brothers, but holy hell, the swimming in Miracle World is not that good. It's not bad, but not good either. Alex Kidd isn't that heavy, meaning he floats to the surface if you're not holding down. Sometimes, due to the Master System's rectangular d-pad, you may accidentally take your thumb off it and lead yourself into a watery grave. And since it takes a bit to respond, when navigating through a tricky situation that has you going through a sort of narrow tube made of blocks, enemies and enemy attacks, you're a bit up shit creek. Thankfully, swimming doesn't take up a whole lot of your time.

Vehicular manslaughter.
When you're not platforming or swimming, you're driving a vehicle. Whether it's a helicopter or a motorbike, you cruise through otherwise monotonous levels. Unless you hit a red circle, you could break through most things that stand in your way. You're impervious to damage pretty much. It's quite satisfying dominating enemies with vehicles you buy with your hard earned cash. Unfortunately, should you damage your vehicle, you're walking the rest of it, and you really begin to regret it, as it's basically the same repetition of flat land or water, killing enemies. The design for these levels were made exclusively for vehicles, as there's shit all platforms or anything really interesting, so if you crash your vehicle, do try to keep yourself from yawning.

Now, where have I seen this feature before...
A minor detail, but worth mentioning - this was made in 1986, you know. Knowing that it's a shameless Mario ripoff, we have ourselves some items to buy with currency. Each level that hosts a vehicle level has a shop where you can buy things. The items, ranging from something that will help you in the boss battles to something with more punch power, are hit and miss. The two I mentioned, plus the vehicles, are useful, but the others are just a waste of money - and wasting money is not a wise thing, as these items cost just a little too much.

Some of the items can be equipped from the pause menu... Oh wait, where have I seen all this? Zelda? No, really!? Funnily enough, this game's American release date predates Zelda's by a year, though Zelda's Japanese release date predates it by a few months, so odds are, Sega was influenced by Nintendo's idea - that's a good thing, hey? It works, so... wait, was I bitching!? I hope I wasn't...

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS!
And now for the main feature of this game; the one thing that seperates it from Super Mario Brothers (and just about every other game in existence) - the boss battles. Instead of just punching their heads in, you play a good old fashioned game of rock-paper-scissors. Win 2 out of 3 and you defeat the boss! Yay! Lose 2 out of 3, and you lose a life! Simple as that. For those who don't know the rules, what rock you been living under? As we all know, rock crushes scissors, but paper covers rock, and scissors cuts paper (oh boy, we're in for one hell of a conundrum). Get it? Awesome. Sega managed to apply it pretty well into this game, if a bit menacing at times, since sometimes, they screw with your brain and choose something they normally wouldn't for some strange reason... Oh well.

Difficulty; thy name is Alex Kidd.
While not exactly as high as Ghosts 'N Goblins or The Adventures Of Bayou Billy, Alex Kidd In Miracle World is still pretty challenging, and often frustrating. You have to traverse 16 stages, with only 3 lives (unless you get a super rare 1up) and no continues. Seems like Super Mario Brothers with half the work. Now, multiply the difficulty of the entire game 3 times, and you have yourself a pretty frustrating game. It's not controller-snapping, but keep a few pills just in case, because some parts are cheaper than home brand products, and you'll find yourself going through the same few levels, just to try that one part again, and die again, often rinsing, lathering and repeating.

Has the right cellophanes in place.
The graphics are excellent for 8-bit graphics. I do feel that the colors are a little too colorful and vibrant, though that's probably just my TV. Either way, the game is quite rich in color - as are a lot of Master System games, especially when compared to their NES cousins. The colors really give off a light hearted fantasy atmosphere, which makes sense as this game takes place in such a setting, even if the point of kidnapping the prince and princess is a bit on the dark side.

Like a broken record at times.
I like the soundtrack. I like all the songs that I hear. However, my main problem with the soundtrack is that one track is overplayed. If you do not like the song you hear for the first level, you'll want to turn the volume to something below mute, as that plays throughout most of the game. That's kind of a cocktease after listening to the rest of the soundtrack. Granted that the castle tune is played a fair bit too, that's only every four levels; the main tune is every other level, unless you're submerged or in a vehicle. All songs are suiting to their environments and sound good, I cannot deny that, but if you're not in favor of the main tune, mute unless in a castle.

Oh, and the rock-paper-scissors music is damn catchy. Best song in the game, period.

The new lord made a new law; go get this game.
Alex Kidd In Miracle World... to say it's the best game he's ever been in is an understatement. Every other game he's been in was either horrible (most of the other Master System titles) or was totally average (in the case of the Shinobi parody and the Genesis title). Even if there are moments and parts that could be better, this game is still a good one to own and play through a few times. Great graphics, great gameplay, nice soundtrack and good enough controls - everything that would reel in the average gamer.


Why the new lord loves it so:
Story: 10/10
Simple and barely existent; just the way I like my 8-bit platformers. Sounds intriguing, though, even if it's mostly copy and paste from Super Mario Brothers.
Gameplay: 8/10
Jump, punch enemies, swim, and a bit of rock-paper-scissors. Too bad r-p-s and a few sections during the game are a bit on the annoying side and require a little too much trial and error. Some levels are just boring and monotonous.
Controls: 8.5/10
I find that he runs a bit too fast and his swimming controls leave loads to be desired. The other controls are pretty good and simple.
Graphics: 9.5/10
Maybe a wee bit too colorful and vibrant for my tastes, but still looks good regardless.
Sound: 7/10
Sound effects are a bit questionable, and the soundtrack is very limited - I hope you like hearing 1 song dominate the rest of the soundtrack, even if it's a good song.

Overall: 8.5/10

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