Retro hard: a moniker given to a class of games that have you screaming in frustration at their deprecated design philosophies. You know, those games that had you crying all the way back to the video rental store when you realized you couldn’t even get past the first level. Or those games that made you restart all the way from the beginning when you died at the second to last boss. Games with no continues, no saves, perpetually respawning enemies, and unfair deaths. Games that make you wanna… save state.
Well, Jankenteam thought it would be a great idea to let you relive those traumas in a gorgeous rendition of the classic controller breaker, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX! However, will it’s pretty exterior hypnotize me long enough to work my way through to the end, or will it ro-sham-bo me into admitting I’m not as good at these games as I used to be?
I’ve always been fascinated by Sega’s answer to the NES. In a lot of ways it seemed to outmatch Nintendo’s juggernaut, especially graphically. It may falter in other areas, like it’s horrible d-pad, but nevertheless whenever I see one it piques my interest. However, due to its relative unpopularity in my region, its limited selection of games, and Sega’s strange choice of box art design, it never really stuck for me.
We did have the Sega Master System and a few games growing up however, and I have fond memories of playing them, but my experience with the console pretty much ended there. Which means I missed out on playing many of the games that fans of the console would consider to be core SMS experiences. Games that anyone who’s anyone who wants to play on the SMS, should probably play. Including one of THE quintessential Sega Master System experiences – Alex Kidd in Miracle World.
So, when I had the opportunity to play Jankenteam’s prettified version of it, I dove in without hesitation! I was also hopeful that playing Alex Kidd would inspire me to brush up on everything I’ve missed when it comes to the Sega Master System.
Having seen the original game in motion in the past, the moment I started Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, I was immediately floored by how stunning it was! Unexpectedly so! I mean, I’ve seen remakes and remasters in the past, but Jankenteam truly did an amazing job of taking every single visual detail of the original game, and elevating them. The enemy and character sprites were made larger, more detailed, and exquisitely animated. The environments were given tons of atmosphere with colorful and elaborate backgrounds, as well as a variety of particle and lighting effects! There are even short, hand drawn cutscenes to flesh out some of the story. The remixed soundtrack is no slouch either. Honestly, just looking at it, you wouldn’t even know it was the same game.
Until you play it that is. Because everything you might remember as being frustrating, difficult, perplexing, or unfair about the original, is still 100% true in this remake. That’s thanks to Jankenteams dedication to making the DX version as faithful as possible, minus a few improvements like checkpointing, additional levels, and streamlined item selection. Which I absolutely appreciate and respect, but it also means you’re pulled back into reality and out of the honeymoon period pretty dang quick! I mean, pretty graphics can only do so much to stop you from crying out loud as you fight slippery controls, awkward hitboxes, cheap deaths, and unforgiving rock-paper-scissor matches.
That’s not to say Alex Kidd isn’t fun though. In fact, as soon as my expectations were tempered by a few dozen deaths and I realigned my playstyle into retro-mode, I really started to enjoy myself. I mean, I can still do without the bosses that require you to play rock-paper-scissors, since it seems like a cheap way to randomly end a run, but I really dig the vibe of what Alex Kidd was trying to do. It tried to do something different than the other action platformers of the time, like giving you power-ups to play around with, puzzles to solve, and vehicles to ride. That makes it unique and I think it would have been a game I would have come back to time and time again as a kid, despite its challenge.
Aside from many of its gameplay flaws, which I’ll forgive due to its legacy, the one thing that kind of irked me the most about Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX was that those gameplay improvements weren’t made! I know that it was supposed to be a faithful remake, but it seemed like such a good opportunity to completely overhaul it and make it its own game. You know, give the Alex Kidd games another chance, make them more palatable, and more fun to play. Especially for those, who like me, don’t really have the nostalgia for the franchise, and aside from the visual overhaul, are blind to the minor tweaks and improvements made to the original. But I get it, I know it’s the point and that’s why I’m torn.
So, if Jankenteam ever does another remake of another Alex Kidd game, I’d want them to do the same. Flaws and all. And hopefully it will eventually lead to the brand new Alex Kidd game I’m hoping for.
Trying to determine how I feel about Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX has been a rollercoaster, but I do think you should give it a try. Regardless of its challenge, and its flaws, there’s definitely a lot of charm there and Jankenteam did a brilliant job of bringing that to light, and I think if you’re a long time fan of the series you’ll definitely appreciate that. As for those coming in blind, don’t be fooled by its cute exterior, this game means business!!