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Alex Kidd in Miracle World Review Rewind

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On 09/02/2020 at 08:00 AM by Jamie Alston

Sega's Little Miracle

A platformer that does many things well except the actual platforming.

Let's take a minute to go back in time to 1986. Nintendo was basking in the success of their NES console with hits like Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda. Meanwhile, Sega wanted to prove that the Master System was the better entertainment medium of choice. Attempting to go toe to toe with Mario, they created Alex Kidd in Miracle World. For Master System fans, the release of this game was a day to remember. According to them, it was the dawn of a new era. According to some, Mario had met his match, and Nintendo would soon crumble under Sega's mighty fist. But reality had other plans.

The game takes place on the planet Aeris, home to Alex Kidd- the royal prince of Radaxian. His twin brother has been kidnapped by Janken the Great- an evil emperor who wants to usurp Alex and rule his kingdom. Armed with his rock-smashing fighting techniques, Alex journeys off to rescue his brother and put an end to Jaken's plans.

From the start of the game, it's quite clear that Alex Kidd in Miracle World was intended to be the antithesis to Super Mario Bros. First off, it begins with Alex moving vertically downward instead of from left to right. As you make your way down, you end up taking a dip in the water below to make your way to the next section. That in itself was vastly opposite of the way Nintendo's Italian mascot went about doing things in his first outing.

While Alex does run and jump on various platforms, he doesn't jump to hit bricks and coin boxes from below; neither does he hop on enemies for a quick victory. No, the answer to the majority of his problems is the almighty fist of fury. That's right-- instead of getting vertical on his foes, Alex can punch them in the face and be done with it. Star bricks are the primary source of coinage in-game, which can be used later in the shops to buy accessories and power-ups.

The "?" boxes can be a little tricky. You might be awarded a bracelet that fires shock waves, or perhaps it might yield an extra life. It can also release a ghost that will chase you down if you aren't careful. You never quite know what you'll be getting. I guess that's what makes it fun for some folks. I could have done without the ghost booby trap. It contributed to the game feeling cheap in some sections. The fact that Alex is a "one-hit wonder" doesn't help the situation either. It only takes one hit from any enemy or hazard, and it's lights out for the hero.

Running, jumping, punching, and swimming your way through the opposition is only half the action. Every so often, you will have to do battle with one of Janken's underlings-- Parplin, Chokkinna, and Gooseka. In a fun twist, the only way to get past them is by winning various rounds of rock, paper, scissors. I love that their character models are literal interpretations of the rock hand, paper hand, or scissors hand. It was a unique take on boss battles that helped give the game its own identity.

Alex also has several unique items and vehicles at his disposal by either finding them as you travel along in each area or by visiting the shops at the beginning of particular locations. The shops usually have most of what you'll need for that specific section. If you've got the cash, you can buy useful items like a motorcycle, a helicopter equipped with missiles, or an extra life. Of all the things available, I enjoyed the helicopter the most. It's fun to use once you learn to fly it without bumping into overhead boulders. One of the most valuable items in the game is the telepathy ball. It makes the rock, paper, scissors battles a cinch.

As a concept, Miracle World was abundant with variety. However, where it falters for me is with the feel of controls weren't quite up to par. Jumping from one platform to another can be an exercise in frustration thanks to the floaty nature of Alex's leap. Such mechanics often worked against me when many parts of the game required me to hop to a narrow ledge. It usually resulted in accidentally landing in chasms, on spikes, or other hazards. I also resented scenarios where I had to take a running jump and smash a block to get to the other side. Successfully pulling off a simple move like that feels trickier than it should be.

The graphics in this game are gorgeous. Each scene is bursting with beautiful, sharp colors that complement the action very well. There's always something new to see whether you're strolling through the woods, swimming in lakes, or traveling through a mountainside. There is also a decent cast of enemy and friendly characters to round out your adventure.

In addition to the many birds, scorpions, and frogs you'll be fighting, you also get to do battle with some truly oddball rouges. I didn't expect to fight a rampaging ox or a sword-wielding grizzly bear. Even so, odd or not, the enemy lineup is quite diverse and does an admirable job of making the game come alive with its quirks that weren't often seen in many platforming games at the time.

The musical score in the game is very upbeat and fits the cutesy nature of Miracle World. The tunes are reasonably memorable once you listen to it enough. The most enjoyable songs in this game for me were the underwater and helicopter themes. It makes me envision being on a Caribbean beach relaxing somewhere.

The Sega Master System wasn't known for having the best platformers around, but Alex Kidd in Miracle World represented Sega's best effort at the time. The game was a foregleam into the competition that Nintendo would be up against once Sega gained ground with the 16-bit Genesis system. While the game never reached the same level of name recognition as Mario and other Nintendo mascots, one could argue that he did pave the way for a certain blue hedgehog to steal the show years later. And for that, we salute you, Kidd.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




09/02/2020 at 03:39 PM

I thought Alex had a very monkey-like appearancd and read up on the game. He looks like a monkey because he was originally supposed to be Son Goku. The game started out as a Dragon Ball game, but Sega lost the license. King Janken likely started out as Emperor Pilaf.

I read somewhere that the NES's side scrolling capabilities were something of a technological feat at the time and were one of Nintendo's closely guarded industrial secrets. Other machines had varying degrees of difficulty in handling side scrolling graphics compared to the smooth way Mario did it. Nintendo even took Atari to court one time for copying some of Nintendo's side scrolling code. Maybe that's why this game was a vertical scrolling game, since that was more inherent to computers at the time. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

09/03/2020 at 07:58 PM

Yeah, He definitely looks like Son Goku, despite the US box art making him look like a normal blond kid.

Also, I believe that story about Nintendo being the only console that could side scrolling well back then is true. That's why Commander Keen on the PC was a big deal in 1990 becuase John Carmack of id Software figured out a way to implement smooth side scrolling on the PC platform. They actually made a PC version of the first area in Super Mario 3 and showed it to Nintendo in hopes that they would allow the game to be ported to personal computers.

Of course, Nintendo said "no" and id Soft decided to take the concept and turn it into Commander Keen, which also gave birith to other side-scrollers from the publishers Apogee Software.

Cary Woodham

09/02/2020 at 11:24 PM

I never really liked this game, but it sure had some catchy music.  But the one hit deaths and luck based boss battles ruined it for me.  The sequels I played weren't much better, but I never did play Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, which many say is the best.  I will give the Alex Kidd remake a try when it comes out next year, though.  Everyone deserves a second chance.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

09/03/2020 at 08:00 PM

Yeah, I felt bad writing this review because other players and reviewers really love this game. But it just didn't connect with me that way I had hoped.

However, I would love to try Shinobi World. I also heard that was the best one.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/03/2020 at 10:01 AM

I don't know, man... I think 3 stars is pretty generous. I had a Sega Master System, and my brothers and I played this game a lot. This was before we knew how to tell the difference between good and bad games. Never beat it. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

09/03/2020 at 08:02 PM

I wnet back and forth a while before scoring it. The truth is that it does things well enough to be playable and I understadn why so many enjoy this game. I saw merit in giving it 3 stars. I tried not to be too mean with my thoughts on the game. I really don't think it's that great.

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