Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle review
NOTE: This review is based off of what I played on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, so if there are any differences between it and the original Genesis version and you're going "wait what that ain't true, well, now you know to watch for those instances.
Hey, I remember you!
Alex Kidd is a troubled little child. His first game, Miracle World, was a pretty good platformer with a unique twist on the usual boss battle formula that woudn't necessarily work in today's games, but then we get two more Master System games, High-Tech World and The Lost Stars, and they suck! Course, you could add Shinobi World, but that's a remake of Shinobi with Alex Kidd instead of Joe Musachi. So yeah, then we have this one lone Alex Kidd game on the Genesis, subtitled Enchanted Castle, which is a lot more like Miracle World, but for some reason, it just doesn't feel or seem as good... hmm... let's investigate.
Based on a rumor.
Once again, Alex Kidd's story is a bit more involving than Mario's. Alex Kidd travels to the planet Paperrock, which is where he reckons his father, King Thor, is – or at least, he thinks so based on some rumor he heard. That's about it. It's not as good as Miracle World's villain that plotted to usurp the throne, but it's at least something other than “oh my god the big bad beast kidnapped the princess, save her Mario!”. You'll only get it from the instruction booklet, so there's no need for it to interrupt gameplay.
Not as good as Miracle World, you say...
Enchanted Castle is a platformer at heart, so expect to be jumping around while killing enemies (including cars – seriously, Alex is so powerful, he can destroy cars with his fists! Beat that, Chuck Norris!). There actually isn't much else to this, maybe except for the fact that Alex's movement controls are pretty sensitive. This little bugger moves like he has propellers up his ass, and unlike Sonic, Alex does this straight away! Too bad that it can often lead to unnecessary death. The lack of friction makes me think that all levels should be ice levels, as he slides around quite a bit. Oh, and when he jumps, he lets out a little kick.
Here's the kicker (no pun intended) – the collision detection is very hit or miss when it comes to your punches and aerial kicks. Sometimes, you'll destroy enemies, and other times, they'll hit you, and since this game employs the old “one hit you're dead” rule, if you engage in close combat often enough, expect to be out of lives. You're only given one continue as well, so make it last! The worst part is that you can't activate your power bracelet when you do that kick, and you'll have a good chance of destroying fragile objects, meaning you'll be landing on that car... and unlike Mario, Alex's ass isn't strong enough to destroy anything with a ground pound of sorts!
Alex isn't alone here.
Throughout the game, Alex can use items to help him progress. Pogo sticks and power bracelets end up being pretty useful when clearing enemies or stages, but then you'll also have vehicles, like helicopters to fly above water, and motorcycles to speed through levels. Just a bit of a shame that, for all that you have to go through just to get it, one hit destroys them, and if you're not careful, it'll be like an anti-climatic ending to an otherwise epic movie.
You forget one thing – rock crushes scissors! But paper covers rock... and scissors cuts paper...
Remember rock-paper-scissors from Miracle World? Well, it's back, and boy howdy, did they manage to screw this one up! It's one thing to do it with bosses, who are now mostly random with their decisions, but they decided to extend it to the shops as well. Pay a few yen and play rock-paper-scissors with the shopkeeper for an item you absolutely have to have! The twist is that you have absolutely no idea as to what they're going to shoot (before anybody brings it up – games are an ESCAPE from real life, especially retro games), so you'll need to rely on good old lady luck for this one. But that raises a question – why do games actually do this? Games are supposed to be a test of skill, not that “hey kid, you feeling lucky?” crap! I'm sorry for rambling, but this just really pissed me off and almost stopped me from playing (just as I was about to finish, actually), especially since Miracle World did a good job of it! Man, it's GREAT that shopkeepers just nab your money instead of killing you!
Difficulty – Enchanted Castle has none of that. At least, not the real stuff, anyway.
That's alright, though, because the levels are pretty short and, cheapness aside, actually pretty easy. Whereas Miracle World has well placed enemies and obstacles, Enchanted Castle prefers wonky collision detection and luck based objectives to keep gamers down. 1Ups are still rare, and as I've mentioned, you only have one continue, but still – well, I don't know about everyone else who has played the game, but not one moment, have I ever felt challenged! It's like if they fixed the collision detection and had you just buy your items instead of playing rock-paper-scissors for them, then the game, as a whole, would be way too easy (except the last level, which is actually real difficulty – sadly, you have to go through ten levels of bad difficulty), and remember, this is the late 80s, when games couldn't be long due to memory issues or something, so they were meant to be hard – that way, you'll get your money's worth!
Hardly seems new.
The graphics don't seem much better than what you'd see on the Master System, though most objects have a bit more depth than anything you'd see off of an 8-bit game, with some shading here and there on objects like bushes, trees, and some of the characters. The backgrounds, on the other hand, are just a solid color with maybe a pattern for a couple of levels. Nothing ultimately special, but hey, the Genesis was just starting out at this point, so I'll cut it some slack.
Pulling a Castlevania.
The soundtrack isn't too bad. There are remixes of a couple of tracks from Miracle World – the main song for most of the levels, and the rock-paper-scissors song. Both of these are remixed quite well, even if they get tiring after a while as they're the only songs you hear for most of the game. As for the new songs, they sound like Master System tracks, like they didn't bother making them sound like the remixes! Not very good, guys, but I'll be nice – they sound good, too. Once again, it's a very small soundtrack... hope you like the first few tracks you hear, because that's practically all you're getting!
Miraculously enchanted, or just some dusty old crap?
Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle is a game with ambition, but it didn't quite live up to the standard set by Miracle World. It's not that it's bad, because there are certainly parts that are well designed, but it just has a few too many screws loose, which ultimately resulted in the series being scrapped in favor of Sonic The Hedgehog. Potential, thy name was Alex Kidd.
Once again, it's simple and barely existent, so it doesn't delay my progress.
It could've been simple yet effective, but half the time, the simplicity is overbearing. Rock-paper-scissors is fine for boss battles, but LAME AND INTRUSIVE for shops. Collision detection is a bit wonky, as well. Expect to be frustrated.
His running feels a bit too sensitive. The rest is good, thankfully.
The backgrounds are often boring to look at, but everything else has a decent amount of detail.
I don't get how two songs could sound good but the others sound like a Master System game? Not to mention, as good as the main song is, it's all you hear for most of the game – enjoy!