Why is Alex Kidd DX Like This?

I love the Sega Master System. I really do, and Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a game so utterly synonymous with the console that it’s even built into the original batch of mark II models… before that wretched Blue hedgehog took over. Just look how small and perfectly formed they are.

For this reason, every kid who owned a Master System in the early 90s, played Alex Kidd in Miracle World. I even heard of some kids who didn’t realise it was built in, but got to play it anyway when a cartridge wasn’t read properly, and Alex Kidd was booted by default.

Nostalgia Nerd with a Sega Master System, looking happy about it
I LOVE The Master System.

Originally, it’s said that the game began development based around the Dragon Ball Manga series, but Sega lost the IP and so it was rehashed into this Alex Kidd world. Kotaro Hayashida, the character’s creator confirmed this in 2018 saying that “it was only after we came up with the plan to restart the project as Alex Kidd in Miracle World that we starting thinking about Mario, and looking for ways in which to differentiate the title from it”. You can see similarities to Dragon Ball and Son Goku lingering though, such as Alex’s insatiable appetite, similar fighting moves, vehicles and even in game characters.

and I haven’t even mentioned the the similar landscapes of cliffs and water, the orbs, the fact they can both projectile fire, it’s never ending.

Son Goku eating an apple upside-down
Son Goku chomping just like a Kidd

Plus of course, Son Goku is a money like boy. He’s got a monkey tail and other features, that explains Alex Kidd’s similar look. With with this character came the new name of course, Alex Kidd Osaru, which is a pun on a Japanese phrase roughly meaning, mythical giant monkey beast, house prince. Fitting it all together.

Still, with the sights now on Mario, it’s clear why it became a built in title. It’s just such a clean and straight forward title, and if you’re trying to get a console to compete with the NES, you want a title that’s as compelling as that little dungo wearing plumber. It’s fast, varied, well programmed and entertaining. Plus I can almost hear that iconic theme tune in my sleep. It’s just ingrained into my brain. With these rose tinted spectacles, the nostalgia is pure and strong.

But there’s a problem, which those spectacles have been hiding for so many years. Because I’ve only recently realised that Alex Kidd in Miracle World is frustrating as hell, and for that reason I hate it… and it’s often hard to see through the nostalgia and realise that.

Nostalgia Nerd with Rose Tinted Spectacles
Take off the Rose Tinted Specs!

Don’t get me wrong. I love the character. I love the world. I love the nostalgia. I love that you start off falling down a huge pit. Look, my friends at 16bitsofglass even made me this incredible stained glass window of Alex THE Kidd, and I get a beautiful kick of the past every time I look at it. But the difficulty is stupidly high from the go. Actually, it’s more precision, you have to be so damn precise. One false move and you’re dead. Unleash one of these evil flying things and you’re dead. FAIL a bloody Janken match and you DIE, and then you have to start all over again.

What the hell.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX

So when I heard that new version of Miracle World was out, I bought it, because, well, warming nostalgia. But I am not looking forward to the gameplay ahead.

It’s come a long way from a game that started out as a fan remake. I remember first seeing it mentioned in 2018 on Josyan’s twitter feed, and by then it had already been in development for a while. But you could see the love that was going into it, hence why Sega did their wonderfully Sega thing of licensing it as an official remake. It’s about time! 30 years have passed since any official Alex Kidd game. They’re like Dell Boy, no real direction, pouring money into unsuccessful schemes, but then leaping on opportunities when they crop up.

Josyan's Tweet from 2018
Josyan on Twitter

Speaking to Nintendo Life in 2020, Jose confirmed his nostalgic love for the game, being one the first games he played, and so under the label of JankenTeam, along with Merge games, we find ourselves in June 2021, with both digital and physical editions at our fingertips.

Signature Edition Games Version

I’ve bought both the Steam version, which is £14.99, and this Switch box set for £54.99 from Signature Edition Games, which I’ve gotta say, looks phenomenal.

This is the first product I’ve bought from Signature Edition, and it looks pretty nice. The card feels pretty weighty and the printing looks good.

Signature Edition of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
Signature Edition

Inside we get a nice arrangement, some good padding and the usual array of contextually specific trinkets. An art book, a signed certificate of authenticity, a CD soundtrack (ooo CD, nice and retro), some nice enamel pins featuring Alex’s array of vehicles, the rich sod, and this exquisite cash bag; Perfect for when you need to buy a motorcycle from a dodgy tradesman in a hut. Inside is his signature medallion, which I will definitely never wear, but it looks good. Right at the bottom, you also get a pack of Jankenpon playing cards, which essentially coverts rock, paper, scissors into a card game, so you don’t have to use those clunky, old cumbersome hand appendages… well except for holding the cards.

Alex Kidd's emerald
Nice necklace!

Here’s the game. Rated 7, when in reality, it needs to be rated 18 for the difficulty alone… and inside the physical game box, there’s also a manual, ahhh, memories, and a keyring. Plus you can reverse the case design. Not sure if this is the same for all physical releases, or just this edition.

Unfortunately, due to Brexit, and all the other great things that has brought us, we don’t get the pre-order coin. Ahhhh, the sweet taste of xenophobia.

The Review

As you can see. It loads up on my Switch Lite, looking beautiful. But most of the footage from here on out will be from the Steam version, mainly because I downloaded that version before this version arrived.

Right, so title screen looks nice. But do you know what looks nicer? The options screen, because it has THIS option… Infinite Lives. Let me tell you now, this review would end this second if it wasn’t for this option, because as you’ll see, this release has all the exact same frustrations of the original.

Alex Kidd DX Options Screen
That “Infinite Lives” checkbox looks MIGHTY appealing.

This option is quite cool as well though. You can specify what you want Kidd to chomp on. Western releases originally got a burger, whilst Japan got an Onigiri. But you can also have a Spanish omelette or Fish and Chips. Look at him, just slamming fish and chips into his glutenous face. Absolute animal.

The story also seems a bit different. I don’t remember everyone turning to stone before, and yes, the levels are now strewn with stone guys like this, who you can chat to, somehow.

But look at this. I’m playing with an Xbox pad, so press the right trigger and WOAAAH. We are back in Alex Kidd glory folks. Except this time, it now takes up the entire width of 16:9… Nice. Now, this doesn’t plonk you in the original game. It’s just a retro reskin of this new Unity based engine.

New Alex Kidd with incredible, feeling graphics and colour
New Alex Kidd
Retro Alex Kidd graphics, looking simple and clean
Retro Alex Kidd graphics

But this version of Alex Kidd is very, very similar to the original, and so switching the visuals is really a preference. Do you like old, or the absolutely eye popping, beautiful pixel creations of the new. Because these new visuals really are a sight to behold. So much love has been poured in here, and honestly, it’s a delight to play through like this.

Just look at the differences between the bosses, the structures, the shop, even the map, everything is beautifully illustrated. Well apart from this placeholder sprite that remains in the code.

But, I actually found playing with the old, distraction free graphics easier. I also feel that collision detection is a bit better on the old graphics. Everything is better defined, and the hit boxes feel sculpted around these designs, rather than the new.

But that’s likely because the old graphics are better defined, rather than the new, blended, bouncing elements. It’s interesting, if you look at the unity assets, you find that various fixes have been applied to the old graphical style, to make it match the hit boxes and scenery of new. There’s all these scenery and part fixes, which have been added to the original world layout. So this definitely isn’t a 1 to 1 recreation of old.

New, colourful, fiery Alex Kidd graphics
Just look at those beautiful pixels.

Beside that, Alex Kidd is his usual slippery self. Floating through the air, and hardly ever landing where you want him to. Although the physics are a little different from the original. Less moon like is the way I’d describe it, but then when you’ve spent most of your life playing on a PAL system, less moon like is a standard part of the territory, along with music that sounds less zoned out. As normal, the longer you hold down jump, the further Alex Kidd will go, and this mechanic, although a familiar one, somehow feels a bit out of place in this landscape, and actually sometimes doesn’t register as well as you’d hope. I think it all comes down to the game needing so much precision, but then failing to give you the controls to conduct that precision.

But this is the life of the Alex Kidd fan. We’ve become accustomed to it. Just like some of these bosses, who are just utter, utter bastards. DIE. WHY WON’T YOU DIE. Oh, you died quite easily that time. Ok, fine…. or this level design which has so many many blocks, but which can also be clever, cunning even, but OH GOD… JUST LET ME PROGRESS.

So, as you storm from level to level. Dying, many, many times, you become ever more thankful for that infinite lives mode. Especially on the vehicle levels, where I tend to lose my vehicle in approximately half a second. Sure achievements aren’t unlocked or anything, but who cares. I don’t care…. that is, until I realise that actually, now this is far too easy. I blasted through the game in about 2 hours.

Punching a Janken boss.

Despite the game saying achievements won’t be unlocked on this mode. Completing the game on infinite mode still opens up a Boss Rush mode. Which just lets you battle all the bosses one after the other, in a theatre like context.

You also get a Classic mode, which is a recreation of the original Master System game. Aspect ratio, lack of statues and all… and although this isn’t the original ROM, it’s another recreation, it’s pretty accurate…. and playing through that mode lets you appreciate the subtle changes to the main game. The wider view angle is welcoming, and Alex Kidd feels weighted a little different. He’s still a floaty, cumbersome nut stain, but it feels a little more acceptable.

Alex Kidd's fist igniting as he punches through some beautifully crafted blocks
Just look at those beautiful visuals!

and the game is fun. It was enjoyable. It was nice seeing new takes on things. For example, the old floating power up that used to just flash your body, is now a ridable stick.. and this power up has little Alex Kidd’s running about kicking villain ass. So that’s nice. The new backgrounds look incredible. The changing weather, the recomposed music. I mean, just look at the difference between these castle scenes. It’s all bloody delightful.

But I wish there was some middle ground. Some half way house between the easy infinite life and 3 life frustration hell.

It’s even easier if you get the power up to reveal the bosses janken moves… or if you’ve memorised the moves from the Master System days. Plus, all the money you’ve collected, you get to keep, even when you die. So then the money bags respawn, and then you can get more money, and before you know it, you’ve just won the caravan on Bullseye and you’ve got more cash than you could ever spend in any of these little shops.

But even so, I was still having a lot more fun with this version, than I did with the original. The frustration was eased to a point where if this was a longer game, then it would be incredible. There would be no stopping it.

and if you did want a longer game, the ending hints that you didn’t quite sort everything out, because you didn’t kill every enemy.

So, I guess I could go back through the game and kill every enemy. But I’m not doing that.

Or I could play without infinite lives. But I’m not doing that.

It depends very much on who you are, as to what you’ll get from this game. If you found the original Alex Kidd a effortless joy, then you’ll have no issue on normal game mode, and I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy it. But it’s not for me. I’m too crap at it for that to be me.

Master System playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Ahhhh, good memories (or are they?)

It’s worth mentioning that I think the game will need a couple of patches, as even though I kept selecting infinite lives mode in the options screen. It kept resetting it to normal mode whenever I started a game. In the end, I had to pause the game, and enable it on the fly. But it’s a nice feature that you can turn that on and off as you go. Anyway, I’ve mentioned that at the end, as I’m sure it will get fixed. Imagine doing that with the original cartridges.

So I guess this is the end of my Alex Kidd DX run. I might play it again in the future. But then, I’ve got so many other games to play, I probably won’t.

Still, it was a fun 2 hours. It brought back old memories. I had highs. I had lows, and I can always play Rock, paper, scissors with my new set of cards, and while the evenings away.

Until next time, I’ve been Nostalgia Nerd. Toodleoo.

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