When Merge Games announced that it would be remaking the Sega Master System “classic” Alex Kidd In Miracle World, it left me a little hopeful. After all, when a team usually takes on an older game that had flaws, it manages to polish them over or, at the very least, improves the gameplay to the point that the flaws can be overlooked and we get a better idea of what the core experience could’ve been. I was hopeful that Alex Kidd would shine brighter than it had before, and it wouldn’t be such a maddening experience as I remember it.
Alas, the port didn’t quite work that way. That’s not to say the port of Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX doesn’t have merit – it does, particularly in its design and the neat option to switch between modern and classic visuals at any time. But its gameplay is fundamentally flawed, filled with interesting moments scattered across absolutely frustrating one-hit deaths (Kidd is a fragile creature) and awkward level design.
You control Kidd as he makes his way across a magical land, attempting to overthrow a tyrant that has frozen many of his people in stone. Along the way, frogs, crabs, and other creatures stand in your path as you punch your way through. You’ll collect money along the way, which grants you special power-ups that might help you out in a time of need. You’ll need them, because, man, the game throws a lot at you.
There are moments of innovation. When Alex hops into a Big Wheel-like tricycle and plows his way across a stage, it’s fleeting, destructive fun. And the boss battles are interesting, relying more on luck rather than skill as you take them on in a spirited game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, where the best out of three wins.
But Merge Games failed to really add anything to enhance the gameplay experience. Perhaps it was a deal made with Sega that it wouldn’t change the core design of Alex Kidd, or maybe they didn’t see a point. Without anything to help rookie players, it just seems like an exercise in frustration. The game is thankfully merciful with endless credits, so you can start a stage over again. But if it’s a fundamentally tough stage, you still might have a difficult time. Not to mention when you accidentally punch a death block or, worse, send the Grim Reaper inexplicably coming after your character. Alex Kidd has it rough.
Where the game succeeds is in its new design. The visuals look great, about on the level of the likes of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. The animations are charming, and the aesthetic looks like a modern 2D platformer should. I was also delighted by the new music, including a fun little tropical take on the theme song, which hits the spot.
But, again, the underlying problems can easily be seen in the game’s core design. Merge Games didn’t touch it, and, as a result, Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX didn’t see too many improvements. It’s good to see Classic Mode included, but there should’ve been a beginner mode or something where the game is more merciful. As it stands, very few will see it through to the end, which is a shame.
It’s a curious buy for those that loved the original game, or don’t mind a challenging platforming experience to beat the heat this summer. I still can’t wonder, though, how much more Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX could’ve been with a few better decisions. As it stands, it’s not an easy recommend for all, but I’m sure it’ll find its audience.
One good thing to come out of this, though – the door opens to try out other Alex Kidd games on the modern front. Not the dismal Enchanted Castle, mind you, but more creative efforts. I’m sure a port of Alex Kidd In Shinobi World, for instance, would slap.