Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX Review
Before there was Sonic the Hedgehog, SEGA’s first mascot was a knockoff of Goku, named Alex Kidd. This was in the pre-Genesis / Megadrive era, when there was no blast processing, and the graphics were only 8-bit and only 64 colors were available.
At the time, Alex Kidd in Miracle World stood out from Super Mario Bros., to have great cartoon sprites. The characters were very well defined and Alex was able to drive vehicles throughout his adventure. Even the story was more fleshed out, with more text that gave a better idea of the kind of magical Miracle World location than what the Mushroom Kingdom is supposed to be.
If Sonic can be saved by the fans with Sonic Mania, that maybe the boys of the Janken team can remind everyone of how Alex kidd used to be … Or maybe Alex kidd was a product of its time, and has remained irrelevant for a reason? East Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX more than just a facelift, or were its foundations so old that they rotted decades ago?
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
Developer: Merge Games, Janken team
Publisher: Merge Games
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch (review) PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Price: $ 19.99 USD
The story of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX descends pretty much as you would expect for an 8-bit cartoon 2D platformer from the 1980s. Alex is a prince of Radaxian, and his little brother is kidnapped by an invading army led by a fat guy Wario-esque called Janken the Great.
During his invasion, Janken and his handgun minions turn many citizens to stone and steal Radaxian’s relics. Alex is pretty much the last hope for all of Miracle World, and he embarks on an extremely difficult quest that is made more difficult due to his difficulty in controlling.
The core gameplay of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is primarily a linear 2D platform game, with an added emphasis on linearity. Most of the stages will be very basic with abstract platforms to jump on, festooned with traps, dangers, and different types of monsters placed in the most heinous places possible.
What’s frustrating is that Alex can’t go back as the levels progress. While it is very clear that most of the stages are designed to be one-way routes, it is common for money or useful bonuses to be lost as the hero advances. This design also makes the world less real and more artificial.
It was an old 80s game, so it can be understandable that there are some things that need to continue in a remake, but this DX The version also comes with an unlockable and scaled version of the original. It was the opportunity to do Miracle World the best possible version, and offers ways to play it that showcase its strengths and potential. Instead of, DX embraces all the worst aspects of the original.
The problems go beyond just being a constant movement forward; Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX has some of the crudest controls for a 2D platform game. Alex’s inertia makes him feel like he’s on ice, and his physique is meaningless.
Once he moves, Alex becomes really unwieldy and hard to stop. Constantly rocking the directional buttons back and forth during a tight platform will prove to be extremely unreliable. Most of the time, this results in overcompensating for a jump that you might think you passed, and Alex ends up jumping too short instead.
The general feeling of controlling Alex is still unpleasant. His fist attack is ridiculously short and quick, with a slightly longer cooldown than needed. He has to be extremely close to enemies to knock them out and the timing of a hit has to be perfect, otherwise it can be easy to kill and be killed at the same time.
Alex is a bit of a wimp. He’s a hitter-quit; a weakling that suddenly falls. He doesn’t get any bonus that gives him a bonus hit, and he can’t jump on any enemies. The closer it gets are the few steps that use a vehicle that explodes in one hit. For a guy who falls so easily, his punches can shatter tons of bricks… Slowly and painfully.
The other module at Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, is what we can laughingly call a “boss fight”. At the end of some stages, one of Janken’s henchmen shows up to kill Alex with a deadly game of rock-paper-scissors, or as the game references; Jan-Ken-Po.
These sequences are double redundant; it is not a game of chance, and when you know what the opponent is going to throw, the whole sequence becomes a waste of time. At first, players will have no choice but to shoot in the dark and guess, but no matter what, the henchmen always give the same results. Later, Alex finds an object that shows what they are thinking about, completely negating the interest of these battles.
Further into the game, a traditional boss battle ensues after beating these guys with their fingers in their superfluous ro-sham-bo. Why bother with the formality of having to do rock-paper-scissors? If Alex has the item that lets him see what they’re going to throw, all it takes is a wacky cutscene where they’re automatically defeated and the real boss fight can begin.
Boss fights are very straightforward and follow basic patterns. This is to be expected for a direct remake of a game from the 1980s. It’s a shame that the developers chose not to develop the battles or add new phases. The reason why Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX plays it so safe it is so that it can have the gadget of being able to switch to retro graphics on the fly, at any time.
The extensive visual overhaul is impressive, and the art direction goes a long way in adding a lot of personality and expression to barely readable characters. Some creative choices are smart, like making devious pop cultural references to media that would have been popular during the time of the original. Alex Kidd in Miracle World would have released.
Details like gang members dressing in costumes of famous people like Mad Max / Kenshiro, or Majinbuu from Dragon ball z are fun asides in a game that is otherwise a bit flat or one-note. Alex himself is very expressive and bouncy, and his cape gives him a sense of weight as it floats depending on the player’s inputs.
The visuals of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX are top notch when it comes to 2D pixel art. It does a great job of capturing how players might have imagined Radaxian and its inhabitants. The absurd madness of Japanese 2D platformer games has been faithfully preserved.
Great care has been taken with colors and lighting. Relying on pixel reflections was not enough; a generous bloom effect has been applied to specific actives to make Radaxian more supernatural and magical. The effect is wonderful, and makes this DX completely unrecognizable version of its original game, despite the fact that every enemy and every platform is one on one.
The new music is richer and superimposed on the patterns of the original. The soundtrack, while nothing spectacular, resembles a Sega game; and the simple melodies have so much more texture thanks to the various synth samples used. These tracks can loop quickly, but rarely seem repetitive.
What is surprising is how brutally difficult the game can be. The original was designed during the days when coin-operated arcade games were still a booming market, and back then game designers were less as we understand them today. They were more like crooks who built slot machines that never paid out.
A large majority of games created at the time were often designed to be difficult rather than enjoyable. This was mainly done to increase rentals and to give an artificial value to the game to make it seem long.
Fact of the matter is; Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX can be beaten in less than an hour if you activate the new endless lives feature. Players can keep retrying challenges instead of having to start all over from square one.
The difficulty is mainly due to the aforementioned controls, unfairly placed obstacles, and the fact that Alex dies in one hit. Bosses will need a few tries to figure out their schematics and what to throw in Jan-ken-po. Surprisingly, the final boss is pretty easy considering how difficult the rest of the game is.
By far the most difficult parts of the game are the dungeons. These are levels that ditch the one-way linearity and place Alex in a maze of platforms, traps, and tons of spikes. He can explore these areas freely, and it’s shocking when these levels appear because it takes a little while for Alex to explore one.
These dungeons will require finding switches and keys to progress. It’s a welcome shock to the system, as the standard levels are boring and Alex’s gameplay is too simple to have fun while still moving forward. His controls will still be a sloppy mess in these stages, but at least those parts will activate the brains to wake up and be careful, because there is no map.
If you’ve never played the original game, there would be no way to find out. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX actually contains new content. The problem is, the designers were stuck from the start thanks to the basic mechanics of the original. The additions are so minor that they have no impact and are so consistent with the existing material that no one will notice.
The sloppy hit detection of a game programmed in the 80s is still present. This should have been the first thing discussed, but it highlights the major flaw in Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, and why it’s so unpleasant. This remake only focused on the superficial aspects of what drew people to the game in the ’80s – the graphics, not the gameplay.
Why was Alex kidd redone? The developers did not improve the experience by correcting its flaws. Not making it another Metroidvania had to take a ton of hold back, and luckily the devs weren’t that creative in bankruptcy. The problem is, the original game never looked so great from the start.
It could have been like a Sonic Mania, but for Alex kidd; instead of a celebration of what made Alex so great, it feels like a eulogy for the reason for his death. The original game is bordering on a blank canvas for the potential, almost anything could have been done. But other than the beautiful pixel art, it’s the same.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review code provided by Merge Games. You can find additional information on Niche Gamer’s review / ethics policy here.