Although I've always been a computer geek, first through home computers and then through our beloved PC, life has made it so that a part of my childhood memories includes Sega's erstwhile "answer" to Mario, the historic Alex Kidd platform game. You see my neighbour owned a Sega Master System and so several times I would go to his house to try my luck at the game, with very little success. So when the remake came along I jumped at the chance to present it so I could reminisce about my childhood and finally accomplish what seemed impossible at the time, its completion. I certainly didn't expect that all these years later Alex Kidd would crush my soul and being again.
My engagement started off innocently enough as the game lures you into a false sense of relaxation and security with its beautiful cartoonish graphics and cute music. Our friend Alex is called upon to save his brother, the princess and the king from the evil plans of the eviler Janken by traversing the game's levels and defeating both Janken's lieutenants and himself. Remarkably, the remake we're featuring today follows the choice 343 Industries made for the Halo Master Chief Collection and allows players to switch the visuals from the remake to the classic Master System graphics and sounds at any time, at the touch of a button! I really like this kind of option, both because of nostalgia and as a tribute to the work of the original developers.
On the surface there is no reason to think that Alex Kidd is particularly difficult. Enemies move slowly, Alex is agile and has his powerful fist as a weapon that can take out everyone in one hit, and there's no time limit pushing for quick completion of the level. The only limitation is the three lives the player has available to finish each level, if they don't make it they have to start the level all over again. Most levels are short and when you lose a life you come back to the same point, so I started playing with the confidence that, as a now experienced gamer, my progression through the game would be a healthy walk in the park. Two minutes later I was staring in shock at the Game Over screen. "Do you want to retry?" the game asked. Of course I want to retry. Three minutes. "Do you want to retry?". Oh. Six minutes. "Do you want to retry?". A drop of sweat began to roll down the side of my face as my confidence began to show cracks like a windshield that was hit by a rock on the highway. Can it be? So many years, so much experience, so many endless hours of gameplay and I'm still in the same spot? Alex Kidd will make me his bitch? Deep breaths to avoid panic and an identity crisis. Too late.
To make a long story short, there are two factors that make Alex Kidd seem like a cruel joke of Satan to the players. First, Alex's extreme agility that requires the player to be very precise in their movements and have constant control over momentum, and second, some of the advanced levels that will really test the skills of even veteran fans of platformers. The extra sadism of the creators though, the final nail in the coffin of my self-esteem, is that in the settings there is an option for infinite lives. The game itself tells you "it doesn't matter my friend, if you can't take it, if you don't have it in you, here's infinite lives. Throw in the towel, put your tail between your legs and press the button." But the damn ego won't let you accept defeat and you try again. And again, and again, and again, until you wake up at three in the morning all sweaty with the game over music haunting you.
I have to tell the truth because you are my people and you will understand. In the end I couldn't stand it. I broke. With the review's publication date approaching and my morale in the toilet, faced with a nightmare level that destroyed me, I hit the button. I finished the level, finished the game shortly after, tried the two extra modes that unlock after successful completion (Boss Rush and classic mode which is the original game without modifications), closed the game and started writing. Alex Kidd, the game that had humbled me decades ago, rubbed my face in the dirt again after so long. And now I must somehow, I wonder how, continue. Move on. Forget.
The big dilemma I have regarding Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is the criterion by which to rate it. It's obvious that the developers aimed to bring this historical game intact into the modern era, keeping the gameplay almost intact but bringing the presentation to today's standards. In this they have succeeded completely beyond any doubt. The thing is, and I know I'm now in danger of being lynched by Sega and Alex Kidd fans, the original game wasn't particularly good. Don't load the shotgun just yet, hear me out. The way the character moves, and in particular his momentum when jumping, often makes it difficult to correctly predict where he will land, at what speed and with how much momentum, which leads to loss of life in a way that feels unfair. But the levels are designed with this type of movement in mind so it couldn't be changed without requiring drastic redesign.
So I'll have to grade based on two factors: the quality of the restoration based on faithfulness to the original game, and Alex Kidd's current status in modern gaming. For the first factor I have only good things to say, unfortunately for the second I do not. I would therefore recommend a purchase to Alex Kidd nostalgics and those who would like to play a piece of gaming history, but the truth is that the market has a plethora of much better platformers. I'm sorry Alexander, but your time is past.