Ahhhhhhhhhh, Alex Kidd. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Alex Kidd. Nintendo still have and use Mario, but poor little Alex Kidd is often forgotten about, lost in time… And because Sega created Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 of course. But yeah, there was a time when Alex Kidd was Sega’s main mascot. He starred in a few games between 1986 and 1990, usually platformers, but he would make the odd genre change now and then. His first game, Alex Kidd in Miracle World was released in 1986 for the Sega Master System. Very much praised back then too and the game is still looked back on with a fondness by old-timey Sega fans. It was even built into later versions of the console too.
There actually hasn’t been an Alex Kidd game since Alex Kidd in Shinobi World from 1990, thirty-one years ago. Then developer Jankenteam and developer-publisher Merge Games thought it was a good idea to remake the original game with Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX. Now, I have to make a confession here… I’m really not much of an Alex Kidd fan, to be honest. I never had a Master System as a kid, but I did have a friend who had one and I did get to play a fair bit of the original game back then. I thought it was pretty good, not amazing or anything, but it was decent enough. Anyway, three decades later, just how does the game hold up now it has had a facelift?
First up, let’s take a quick look at what’s been added for this new version of a classic game. Right off the bat, the first thing you’ll notice is the graphics. The original had a very cartoony look, obviously slightly held back by the limitations of the hardware of the time. But hey, it still looked good with its bright and colourful graphics in 1986. This remake gives the art style a complete overhaul and pushes the cartoony style even further. It still does very much look and feel like Alex Kid, just in glorious HD quality, smoother animations and lots more colour. But, if you are feeling a tad sentimental for those 8-bit graphics, you can flick between both styles on the fly at the touch of a button. All of the original game’s levels have been rebuilt and recreated for this remake. There are even a few all-new levels made just for this remake. There are some new enemies and NPCs too. Even the boss fights have been updated and tweaked. But other than that, the game is pretty much identical to the original, especially in terms of gameplay.
Now, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX has its problems… Several of them. Alex himself feels very floaty to control. The jumping is imprecise and you will find yourself missing jumps and smaller platforms, often due to Alex sliding slightly when he lands. The hitboxes sure are questionable. Alex Kidd isn’t Mario, he can’t jump on his enemies to take them out. Instead, Alex has a punch as his main attack and it is very, very short range. You really need the numerous enemies to get in close before you can attack and quite a few times, even though you press the attack, they take you out first. Seriously, I have saved footage of being killed in this and replayed it in slow-motion. I definitely attacked first and you can see Alex’s fist connect too, yet I still died. This is even worse during the underwater levels where controlling Alex is even more difficult. Some deaths feel massively unfair too, especially when you hit a mystery block that can either reward or punish you. The rock, paper or scissors boss fight thing is back from the original too. Nobody liked it back in 1986 and it’s even more annoying now in 2021.
Let’s not forget that this is old school, one-hit deaths, three lives and game over style gameplay too. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is hard as nails and sometimes very unfairly so too. Yes, this can be frustrating to play and I almost didn’t even bother to play past the first couple of levels initially. Seriously, I must’ve died and seen the game over screen a dozen or so times in the first level alone. However, I stuck with it, I got used to Alex Kidd’s floaty controls. The dodgy hitboxes became second nature and I was able to take out the enemies with relative ease. Something just clicked after a while and the game became easier. Easier, but still not easy. I actually finished this one, something I never did with the original. You know what, I really enjoyed it too.
Yes, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX certainly has its problems, issues that modern gamers will detest. But if you are an old fart like me and can remember those old days of punishing one-hit deaths and questionable gameplay mechanics, you might just enjoy this too. What the devs have done here is recreate proper old school gaming. Yes, they could’ve tightened the controls, worked on those hitboxes and appealed to the masses but no. They’ve decided to cater to certain age groups who played the original back in the day, us late thirty-somethings to mid forty pushers who grew up with these games as kids. I’ve played several modern indie games that offer 8 and 16-bit graphics and ones that try to recreate classic gaming, most of them fail. They look the part sure, but they never feel quite right. What Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX does is, it nails that old school gameplay perfectly, just with a very nice looking 2021 lick of paint.
Just in terms of looks, this game is very pretty. I remember a while back when I first saw a handful of screens for the game, I really didn’t like the art style too much. But now I have seen it first hand, now I have played through the game and seen it on a nice big screen, I really like it. The game offers a very bright, colourful and vibrant art style that is beautifully animated. Of course, as previously mentioned, you can go back to the original 8-bit graphics at the touch of a button. Quite a few modern remakes offer this option and of the ones I have played, I always find myself going back to the older 8-bit style. With Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, I really didn’t want to. I tried it but soon found that I much preferred the new art style over the original one.
As hard and frustrating as the game is, it does offer some help. You can turn on infinite lives. This is a massive help for those not used to this much harder style of gameplay, especially as Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is very generous with its checkpoints. So dying with infinite lives makes the game much more accessible. However, using the infinite lives thing does mean you can’t unlock certain trophies/achievements. Still, even without the infinite lives thing (a far better way to play), you do get unlimited continues. When you do lose all your lives and use continue, you go back to the start of the level you were on. You lose any money you had, any items too and this does make finishing a level much harder. But hey, I really liked the challenge and do suggest that you play without the infinite lives on.
Finishing the game also unlocks two new gameplay options. There is Classic Mode, which is the original Alex Kidd in Miracle World with none of the extras of the remake. A nice little addition for purists, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not the exact game from the Master System and rather a remake built by the devs themselves. The other one is a Boss Rush mode where you can take on all of the bosses in the game, one after another… Yes, that does include all those rock, paper or scissor fights too.
As I said at the start of this review, I’m not a huge Alex Kidd fan. I thought the first game was decent enough and I remember having fun with it back in the day, but I’m certainly not a fan. Still, having said that, I really honestly quite enjoyed this remake far more than I thought I would. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a very pleasant surprise and one that, once I got used to the old school, 8-bit difficulty, I began to enjoy more and more as the game progressed. With a more than reasonable price tag of £14.99, you just have to get this game. If you were a fan of the original game, then this is a wonderful love letter to it and I highly recommend it. A remake made with respect and passion for the Master System classic that spawned a franchise. I’d certainly be more a tad more cautious if this is your introduction to the franchise and even proper old school gaming though, as I really have to reiterate just how bloody hard this game is.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is not for the faint of heart and going into it unprepared will most certainly test your patience as the frustration levels rise and rise with each passing level. It is a brilliant slice of history reborn and one that doesn’t forget its roots either. This is how you bring back old school gaming without pandering to the modern, uninitiated gamer, a game made for a specific audience of those who grew up playing these hard as nails games when we were kids. Buy it if you think you’re hard enough. Just have to wait for the Alex Kidd in Shinobi World remake now…