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Developed and published by Sega in 1987
In a time before Sonic the Hedgehog existed, Sega had something of an identity problem. Nintendo, their biggest rival, already had a mascot in the form of Mario, who was a massively bankable character even back then.
By comparison, Sega didn’t really have any kind of character who was synonymous with the brand, at least not one that had any kind of universal appeal. Technically, Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone was their mascot at the time, but a spaceship with wings and feet didn’t seem like such hot property when faced with the might of the Mario juggernaut!
Alex Kidd in Miracle World is the first game that I remember featuring the character, largely because it came bundled with the Master System II console (built into ROM) released in the UK and other parts of the world.
The game features a highly convoluted and, frankly, weird plot, especially for a platform game. In essence, Alex Kidd is searching for his long lost brother, now hostage of Janken the Great, tyrant and ruler of the world of Radaxian. Just to make things worse, the normal, peace-loving citizens of Radaxian have all been turned to stone by Janken. It’s up to Alex to locate his brother and defeat Janken to free the land from his evil grip.
If that wasn’t strange enough for you, Alex has dedicated his life to studying the ancient technique of ShellCore, a martial arts skill that enables him to increase the size and power of his fist (sounds a bit like Marvel’s Iron Fist to me).
The game is a side-scrolling platform game/collect-em-up that looks and feels similar to Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers in a number of ways.
Many of the levels feature numerous blocks and boulders that block Alex’s path and must be removed to progress. Fortunately, Alex is in possession of both the necessary martial arts skills, as well as a massively over-sized fist, to get the job done. Certain blocks will reveal bags of cash that can be collected (to be spent in one of the game’s shops), whilst others might reveal special items, or even enemies.
At the start of certain stages, Alex will find a shop where he can exchange his money for extra items and power-ups. Sometimes, these include a mode of transport, such as a car or helicopter that allows him to traverse a level much more quickly than on foot. Levels featuring the vehicles often have obstacles that will cause Alex to forfeit the vehicle when hit, so you should always be careful how fast you try to travel when using one.
Later levels in the game, such as the castle, tend to be less linear than earlier stages and feature items that progress the game’s story and certain points. It’s very easy to miss these items if you’re not careful and certain characters won’t reveal parts of the plot without them.
Of course, the other memorable thing about the game are the fight sequences when Alex must defeat opponents in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s easier to embrace the weirdness than to keep questioning what’s happening.
Visually, Alex Kidd in Miracle world is an attractive game that boasts some great graphics, smooth scrolling and an extremely vibrant colour palette; it’s certainly a lot more striking than many contemporary games on the NES.
Audio is also very good, boasting many a cheery tune from the console’s TI sound chip, helping to keep things interesting throughout.
Whilst Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a fine game, it doesn’t quite have the same appeal as Super Mario Brothers. I know they’re different styles of games, but I find it easier to relate to a slightly chubby, Italian plumber than the weird, human-chimp hybrid with over-sized ears that Alex Kidd appears to be.
Weirdness aside, if you’re looking for a solid platformer with plenty of content that will keep you entertained for a few hours then Alex Kidd in Miracle world is certainly worth a look.